Leopard Cat

Prionailurus bengalensis

Body Length(mm) -450-950

Weight (kg) - 3-7

Litter Size - 2-3 average

Life Span - 10-15 years

Status - Least Concern

P.b.alleni - Hainan Is. off China

P.b.bengalensis - India, Indochina

P.b.borneoensis - Borneo

P.b.chinensis - China

P.b.euptilurus - Korea, East Siberia

P.b.horsfieldi - South Kashmir

P.b.javanensis - Java, Bali

P.b.sumatranus - Sumatra

P.b.trevelyni - North Kashmir

The Leopard Cat has one of the widest spread ranges of any of the Asian species of wild cat - its can be found from parts of Pakistan to the west of its range, all across South East Asia to the east and down through Java, Borneo to the central Philippine Islands. The extent of its range has led to fragmentation and as a result a large number of sub-species have been recognised. There is a marked difference in the size, coloration and markings across species and this has led many experts to question whether certain individual sub-species should not be re-classified as separate species in there own right. This is perfectly illustrated with the so called Iriomote Cat, which many believe should classified as a sub-species of leopard cat as Prionailurus bengalensis iriomotensis, whilst others place it as a separate species in the genus Prionailurus. Similar arguments are maintained regarding the sub-species found on the Tsushima Island of Japan (Tsushima Cat) and of the sub-species found in north eastern Asia, P.b.euptilurus (Amur Cat - see picture below)

Broadly speaking the leopard cat is a little larger than a big domestic cat and has a base fur colour that ranges from yellow/brown to grey/brown, found mostly in the north of its range. The underparts, chest and lower head are usually white as is a large spot which is commonly found on the back of the otherwise black ears. In varying intensity, depending on the sub-species the leopard cat is covered with medium to large dark brown to black spots which often coalesce into solid stripes on the top of the back and thin stripe markings on the top and side of the head.

Again, due to the extended range of the leopard cat, the types of habitat in which the cat is found are difficult to classify. Although generally found in forested or wooded areas these often spill out to cover adjoining scrub and grasslands. Throughout its range the main prey source is considered to be small rodents, whilst other prey types include small birds and mammals, amphibians, fish, insects and reptiles. In general the leopard cat is a solitary and nocturnal hunter although there are many reports of diurnal activity.

In recent years, mainly due to the high profile of conservation measures on ‘Big Cat’ fur trading, emphasis of trading has moved to the smaller wild cat species and the leopard cat is under continued threat from hunting in many parts of its range. The leopard cat P.b.bengalensis is listed in CITES Appendix 1, while all other species are listed in Appendix 2.

1997 Andrew Garman