Pallas’ cat Otocolobus manul
The Pallas’ cat was named after German naturalist Peter Pallas who in the XVIII century discovered this wild cat on the costal line of the Caspian Sea. The size of the Pallas’ cat is close to that of a domestic cat (it weighs from 2.5 to 4.5 kg), but it differs from domestic cats by its more stocky posture, short shaggy legs and very thick fur which, with the winter coat, makes the animal look very heavy and bulky (Photos 1-6). The Pallas’s cat has the thickest fur of all felids; there are 9,000 hairs per one squire centimeter of its skin, each having a length of up to 7 cm. The tail of this amazing cat is short and evenly thick along all its length, with a “cut off” tip. Especially unusual is the Pallas’ cat’s small, wide and flattened head, with little round ears which are hardly visible under the animal’s fluffy fur, short face, big forehead and very large yellow eyes. Due to the expression of the Pallas’ cat’s face, the animal always seems to be angry and unhappy (Photos 7-9).
The Pallas’ cat is found in steppes and semi-deserts of mountainous territories with stone placers and dense growth of shrubs. This small carnivore feeds almost exclusively on pikas and rodents, such as gerbils, voles, gophers, hamsters, sometimes killing partridges, tolai hares, young marmots, and also larks and other small birds. In the periods when rodents are scarce, Pallas’ cats eat a lot of grasshoppers and other insects. This cat catches rodents after stalking them or waiting for them near the stones and rodent nests. The Pallas’ cat can pull rodents out of their burrows by its paw. Feeling a danger, the Pallas’ cat usually keeps still, deftly disguising itself among stones and dry grass.
A female builds a birthing den in rocky crevices, small caves, and abandoned burrows of marmots, foxes or badgers. Gestation in Pallas’ cats lasts 60 days, after which the female gives birth to a litter of 2 to 8 kittens weighing 80-100 g and featuring dark spots on their fur. The kittens are able to see at the age of 10-12 days; they can hunt on their own after sixteen weeks, and become fully independent when they are six months old.
The Pallas’ cat is rare through its whole range, and its numbers continue to decrease. The Pallas’ cat is classified as near threatened in the Red Book of the Russian Federation and in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Hunting is banned in most of the range countries of the Pallas’ cat.