Learn about Pallas the cat (handbook of otocolobus), a Central Asian steppe dweller who is known as the world’s grumpiest cat due to his slightly pinched appearance. Featured on BBC One’s icy planet II.
Its correct common name, Pallas’s cat, honors Peter Simon Pallas, the Prussian explorer and naturalist who first described the species to science in 1776. However, the term Pallas’s cat is more often used when looking for feline information online. Therefore, this article refers to the species in this way at all times.
Pallas’s cat is also known as the manul, steppe cat, or mountain cat of the rocks.
Where is a Pallas cat from?
Pallas’s cat has a wide but fragmented distribution in the grasslands and mountainous steppes of Central Asia, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northern India. Mongolia and Russia make up most of its range today, with Pallas cats living at altitudes up to almost 5,600m.
Where do Pallas cats live?
Pallas cats live in abandoned marmot burrows and rock cavities in steppes and grasslands. Their silver or orange coloration provides the perfect camouflage against the terrain of this inhospitable and sparsely populated grassland region.
Where can you see captive Pallas cats in the UK?
Tull and Penelope, the pair of Pallas cats from Cotswold’s Wildlife Park, had a litter of two kittens in August 2022, the first born at the zoo. There are also Pallas cats at Port Lympne Safari Park, The Big Cat Sanctuary in Kent, and at Banham Biological Gardens in Norfolk.
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How big is a Pallas cat?
A Pallas cat is between 65 and 95 cm long, from the nose to the tip of its thick, bushy tail. A Pallas cat’s tail is about half the length of its body.
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How big is a Pallas cat?
A Pallas cat is between 30 and 35 cm tall, its relatively short legs are better suited to ambushes and short stalks than to running. Its very thick fur, which keeps the animal warm in the frigid conditions of the Central Asian steppe, makes Pallas’s cat appear much larger than it really is.
How does a Pallas cat adapt to a cold environment?
The Pallas cat’s flattened ears are protected from the cold by the same thick fur that covers the rest of its body, while its wide paws provide protection from the cold and act almost like snowshoes. The Pallas cat may wrap its tail around its body for additional warmth.
The Pallas cat has a well-developed nictitating membrane, also known as the third eyelid, which can be used to protect the eyes from extreme cold and dust storms.
How many kittens do Pallas cats have?
Pallas cats have litters of between one and six kittens, with three or four being the most common number. Pallas cat kittens have a dark, woolly coat that they shed at around two months of age. Kittens are independent at four to five months of age.
Pallas cats only go into heat two to four days a year, with mating taking place between December and March, with kittens being born 66 to 75 days later, between the end of March and May. Pallas cats reach sexual maturity around 9-10 months.
What do Pallas cats eat?
Pallas’s cats hunt small prey, such as marmots, pikas, ground squirrels, voles, gerbils, and hamsters. The steppe is home to some of the densest populations of small mammals on the planet. Land birds are also part of their diet, mainly gangas, partridges and larks.
When a Pallas cat is hunting (and when trying to avoid predators), it engages in a behavior known as “periscoping,” which involves repeatedly raising its head above the ground behind which it is hiding to check on the status of its prey.
How long does a Pallas cat live?
Pallas cats can live to be around eight years old in the wild, although the oldest recorded captive individuals lived to be 12 years old. They have a high mortality rate, with 68% of Pallas cat pups not surviving to the point where they can establish their own territory.
What are the predators of the Pallas cat?
Eagles and other birds of prey, gray wolves, sheepdogs and red foxes. They are also hunted by humans for their fur, mainly in Mongolia where hunting is legal (they can also be hunted in China if a special license is obtained). Many Pallas cats are also accidentally shot when mistaken for marmots, which are hunted throughout most of the Pallas cat’s range. The fat and organs of Palas cats are used as medicine in Mongolia and Russia.
What are the threats facing the Pallas cat?
The main threats facing Pallas’s cat are habitat degradation and fragmentation. Most of these are consequences of increased livestock numbers, conversion of steppe grasslands to arable land, infrastructure development and resource extraction.
Hunting is also a serious threat, as Pallas’s cats are killed for their fur and medicine, as well as accidentally when mistaken for marmots.
How many Pallas cats are left in the wild?
It is difficult to establish figures on the number of Pallas cats in the wild because they are very widely distributed and live at very low population densities throughout their range. But the IUCN estimates a population of about 58,000 mature Pallas cats. The species is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, even though the population is in decline.
Featured image: Pallas’s cat lives in the cold, arid steppes of central Asia. © kjekol/Getty