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Species Facts

The hummingbird of cats, this extremely agile and active species is about half the size of a domestic cat.

  • Scientific Designation: Prionailurus rubiginosus
  • Endangered Status: Near Threatened (NT)
  • Lifespan: Unknown; At least 16 years (captivity)
  • Weight: 0.8 to 1.6 kg
  • Body Length: 35-48 cm
  • Tail Length: 15-25 cm


This rare cat has short, brownish gray fur tinged with a rufous color. The face is marked with two dark streaks on each cheek and four dark stripes extending from above the eyes backward between the ears and to the shoulders. The back and flanks are marked with elongated blotches of rust-brown and spots that pattern the fur. The cat’s belly, chest, and throat are white and marked with large dark spots and bars. The ears are small and rounded.


Very active and agile, this cat is small, but extremely fierce. It is primarily nocturnal, resting in dense cover during the daytime. The cat feeds on birds, small mammals, and possibly on insects, lizards, and frogs. It most likely hunts on the ground, using its superb climbing abilities to escape predation.

Distribution map shows India and Sri Lanka; both regions are entirely shaded in as extant, or resident, for the rusty-spotted cat.

Species Distribution

The rusty-spotted cat is distributed in southern India and Sri Lanka. Within the cat’s range, it is found in moist and dry deciduous forests, tropical thorn forests, scrub forests, grasslands, arid shrublands, rocky areas, and hill slopes.

Distribution map courtesy of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), compiled in 2016 by Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Anaikatty, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India.

Threats to the Rusty-spotted Cat

The rusty-spotted cat is not an adaptable species. Relatively little information on its wild status is known. The cat is threatened by habitat loss and by humans who kill it after mistaking it for a baby leopard.

The rusty-spotted cat is currently classified as Near Threatened (NT) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and protected under appendices I and II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

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