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Rusty-spotted cat

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Title: Rusty-spotted cat  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Hurulu Forest Reserve, Fishing cat, Felidae, Prionailurus, Flood Plains National Park
Collection: Animals Described in 1831, Mammals of India, Mammals of Sri Lanka, Prionailurus
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Rusty-spotted cat

Rusty-spotted Cat[1]
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Prionailurus
Species: P. rubiginosus
Binomial name
Prionailurus rubiginosus
Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1831
Rusty-spotted cat range

The rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) is one of the cat family's smallest members, and is found only in India and Sri Lanka.[3] It has been listed as Vulnerable by IUCN in 2002 as the total effective population size is below 10,000 mature individuals, with a declining trend due to habitat loss, and no subpopulation containing more than 1,000 mature breeding individuals.[2]


  • Characteristics 1
  • Distribution and habitat 2
    • Distribution of subspecies 2.1
  • Ecology and behaviour 3
    • Reproduction 3.1
  • Threats 4
  • Conservation 5
    • In captivity 5.1
  • Local names 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Illustration of skull, in Pocock's The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma[3]

The rusty-spotted cat rivals the black-footed cat as the world's smallest wild cat. It is 35 to 48 cm (14 to 19 in) in length, with a 15 to 30 cm (5.9 to 11.8 in) tail, and weighs only 0.9 to 1.6 kg (2.0 to 3.5 lb). The short fur is grey over most of the body, with rusty spots over the back and flanks, while the underbelly is white with large dark spots. The darker colored tail is thick and about half the length of the body, and the spots are less distinct. There are six dark streaks on each side of the head, extending over the cheeks and forehead.[4]

Distribution and habitat

Rusty-spotted cat in its natural habitat in southern India.

Rusty-spotted cats have a relatively restricted distribution. They mainly occur in moist and dry deciduous forests as well as scrub and grassland, but are likely absent from evergreen forest.[5] They prefer dense vegetation and rocky areas.[6][7]

Distribution of subspecies

Two subspecies are recognized:[1]

  • Prionailurus rubiginosus rubiginosus — lives in India
  • Prionailurus rubiginosus phillipsi — lives Sri Lanka

In India, they were long thought to be confined to the south, but records have established that they are found over much of the country.[5] They were observed in the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park, in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra, on India's east coast, and in eastern Gujurat.[7][8][9][10] Camera trapping revealed their presence in the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve in the Indian Terai and in the Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharastra.[11][12] In western Maharashtra, there is a breeding population of rusty-spotted cats in a human dominated agricultural landscape, where rodent densities are high.[13] In July and August 2011, camera trap stations recorded the feline also in Corbett Tiger reserve in Uttarakhand.[14]

In Sri Lanka, there are a few records from montane and lowland rainforest. There are two distinct populations, one in the dry zone and the other in the wet zone.[15]

Ecology and behaviour

The rusty-spotted cat is nocturnal and partly arboreal, spending the day sleeping in dense cover or shelter such as hollow logs. It feeds mainly on rodents and birds, but may also take lizards, frogs, or insects. They hunt primarily on the ground, making rapid, darting movements to catch their prey; they apparently venture into the trees primarily to escape larger predators rather than for food. As with other cats, they mark their territory by spraying urine.[4]


Oestrus lasts five days, and mating is unusually brief. Since the cat is likely to be vulnerable during this period, its brevity may be an adaptation to help it avoid larger predators. The mother prepares a den in a secluded location, and gives birth to one or two kittens after a 65-70 day gestation. At birth, the kittens weigh just 60 to 77 g (2.1 to 2.7 oz), and are marked with rows of black spots. The cat reaches sexual maturity at around 68 weeks, by which time it has developed the distinctive adult coat pattern of rusty blotches. Rusty-spotted cats have lived for twelve years in captivity, but their lifespan in the wild is unknown.[4]


Habitat loss and the spread of cultivation are serious problems for wildlife in both India and Sri Lanka. Although there are several records of rusty-spotted cats from cultivated and settled areas, it is not known to what degree cat populations are able to persist in such areas. There have been occasional reports of rusty-spotted cat skins in trade.[5] In some areas, they are hunted for food or as livestock pests.[4]


The Indian population is listed on CITES Appendix I. The Sri Lankan population is included on CITES Appendix II. The species is fully protected over most of its range, with hunting and trade banned in India and Sri Lanka.[2]

In captivity

Rusty-spotted cat in Berlin Zoo, 2008.

As of 2010, the captive population of P. r. phillipsi comprised 56 individuals in eight institutions, of which 11 individuals were kept in the Colombo Zoo and 45 individuals in seven European zoos.[16]

When raised in captivity as a pet, the rusty spotted cat is affectionate, playful, and expressive, and forms strong bonds with its keeper. [17]

Local names

In Sri Lanka, the rusty-spotted cat is known as Handun Diviya (හඳුන් දිවියා) or Kola Diviya (කොල දිවියා).[5]

The terms 'Handun Diviya' and 'Kola Diviya' are also used by the local community to refer to the fishing cat. Both animals are nocturnal and elusive, and therefore it is difficult to determine which cat is specifically referred to as 'Handun Diviya'.


  1. ^ a b Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 543–544.  
  2. ^ a b c Khan, J., Mukherjee, S. (2008). "Prionailurus rubiginosus".  
  3. ^ a b Pocock, R.I. (1939). The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Mammalia. – Volume 1. Taylor and Francis, Ltd., London. Pp 276–280
  4. ^ a b c d Sunquist, M., Sunquist, F. (2002). Wild cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 237–240.  
  5. ^ a b c d Nowell, K., Jackson, P. (1996). Rusty-spotted Cat Prionailurus rubiginosus In: Wild Cats: status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland
  6. ^ Kittle, A., Watson, A. (2004). Rusty-spotted cat in Sri Lanka: observations of an arid zone population. Cat News 40: 17–19
  7. ^ a b Patel, K. (2006). Observations of rusty-spotted cat in eastern Gujurat. Cat News 45: 27–28
  8. ^ Pathak, B. J. (1990). Rusty spotted cat Felis rubiginosa Geoffroy: A new record for Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 87: 8
  9. ^ Dubey, Y. (1999). Sighting of rustyspotted Cat in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 96 (2): 310
  10. ^ Manakadan, R. and Sivakumar, S. (2006). Rusty-spotted cat on India's east coast. Cat News 45: 26
  11. ^ Anwar, M., Kumar, H., Vattakavan, J. (2010). Range extension of rusty-spotted cat to the Indian Terai. Cat News 53
  12. ^ Patel, K. (2010). New distribution record data for rusty-spotted cat from Central India. Cat News 53
  13. ^ Athreya, V. (2010). Rusty-spotted cat more common than we think? Cat News 53
  14. ^ Indo-Asian News Service (2011). "Highly endangered cat species spotted in Corbett". Zee News Limited, 12 August 2011. 
  15. ^ Deraniyagala, P. E. P. (1956). A new subspecies of rusty spotted cat from Ceylon. Spolia Zeylanica 28: 113
  16. ^ Bender, U. (2011). (Pocock, 1939) Prionailurus rubiginosus phillipsi International Register and Studbook for the Rusty-Spotted Cat. Frankfurt Zoo, Frankfurt.
  17. ^ Animal Diversity Web Prionailurus rubiginosus

External links

  • Rusty-spotted Cat Prionailurus rubiginosusIUCN Cat Specialist Group:
  • Rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus)ARKive:
  • . April 2013In a first, rusty-spotted cat sighted in KutchDNA India :
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