Prionailurus rubiginosus

rusty-spotted cat

Prionailurus rubiginosus

rusty-spotted cat

The smallest member of the Felidae family, which weight does not exceed 2 kg. A very active kitty that eagerly climbs trees. What’s interesting, rusty-spotted cats from the zoo showed that this species also likes to eat something other than meat. They are happy to eat vegetables, fruit or boiled eggs and rice.


The rusty-spotted cat has red spots and stripes on its fawn-grey, soft fur. Even in places where the colour turns white (on the stomach, throat), there are also reddish markings.

It has a small round head and large eyes outlined with white fur. Each individual has four dark and two white stripes running from the eyes to the back of the head.

Its tail is quite fluffy, darker than the rest of the body and is as long as half the length of the torso.

Proportional ears are streamlined and dark red at the back with a bright spot in the middle.

Pillows of very short paws of this cat are in black colour. Irises have shades of brown, grey, green and yellow and vertical pupils.


The rusty-spotted cat is active at various times of the day and night in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. When it is too warm, it hides from the sun in empty logs, thick bushes and on branches, from which it can descend easily head down. When the temperature is right for it, it moves extremely agile and fast, pricking its ears and looking very cautiously with the rapid movements of its head.

When the rusty-spotted cat is scared, it jumps into the high parts of the trees, using its light weight. Using its size, it also hides in the gaps between the rocks.

Rusty-spotted cats are territorial animals. Territories belonging to individuals of the same sex never overlap, but one male has a few females in his area.

On the basis of the behaviour of one male of the rusty-spotted cat kept in the zoo, it is suspected that not only females are involved in bringing up the young. The observed male brought food to the young and defended them against the zoo employees. It is also possible that rusty-spotted cats merge into monogamous pairs, but this is not confirmed.

Rusty-spotted cats communicate with each other mainly by means of fragrances.

They are found in wet and dry forests, on grassy savannas and in stony areas.

They are also found on a dry piece of the coastal belt, and even on plantations and close to residential areas. It also happens that they look for shelter in the attics of the houses at the tea, palm or sugar cane plantations and rice fields.

They are found around villages, as well as within their borders. However, there is no confirmed information that these cats feel good near people and stay there for longer periods. This is questioned especially by the fact that it is difficult to breed rusty-spotted cats in captivity, which results in their small number in zoos.

You cannot forget that these small, cute animals are predators. Although on pictures they look harmless, if you are a rodent or a bird, you should definitely be scared. The rusty-spotted cat is an agile warrior that attacks its victims from the ground or leaps on them from branches. It will also gladly kill worms, frogs and lizards, or even captive poultry.

Rusty-spotted cats do not have a specific mating season. The young are born in hiding, without red spots and with light blue eyes. Such new born cats weigh less than a chicken egg.

At the beginning, the females grow faster, but they stop at a weight of about 1 kg (2 lb), while males grow to about 2 kg (4 lb).

After a month from birth, kitties begin to come out of hiding, with quite well-developed motor skills. At the beginning of their lives cats sleep with their mother, hugging her when she wants to rest.

The mother teaches kittens appropriate behaviours through play, and the young ones also play with each other. The little rusty-spotted cats start eating meat already in their fortieth day of life.

No aggression was observed between individuals of this species. Rusty-spotted cats do not trust people, and their wild instinct is very strong.


Rusty-spotted cats are found in large area, but their populations are small and unevenly spread over the whole territory. It is difficult to assess the population and it is not known exactly in which condition it is.

The biggest threat to the rusty-spotted cat is the disappearing of forests and changing of a landscape by man. Building cities, roads and even ecological solar farms limits available hunting grounds.

Rusty-spotted cats sometimes kill farm animals, therefore they are exposed to extermination by farmers. Sometimes people also kill them for meat and fur.

Rusty-spotted cats also have many natural enemies due to their small size. They are killed by jackals, foxes, domestic dogs and larger wild cats.

People also indirectly affect the condition of the rusty-spotted cat population through pests control and allowing unsterilized domestic cats to walk freely, which then mix with these wild ones, creating cross-species hybrids.

We know very little about the dangers that this little predator encounters in its life, so it’s hard to develop the right tactics for protection. The rusty-spotted cat is fully protected in the greater part of the occurrence area, yet it is near threatened with extinction and its population is decreasing.

Author: Małgorzata Banaszkiewicz

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