I will tell you in this article about one of the most expressive, elusive, and adorable wild cats, the Manul cats. We have seen them in countless memes and viral videos.
The Manul cat, also called Pallas’s, is a small wild cat with a wide but fragmented distribution in the grasslands and mountain steppes of Central Asia.
No trace, no footprints. Experts in the art of looking without being seen. That and the fact that their natural habitat is in difficult-to-access areas has meant that very few people have had the privilege of studying them in nature.
The history of Pallas’s cats
The Pallas cat, along with the Cat Martelli, is considered the grandfather of the current domestic cats. It is an ancient cat that did not have to evolve for the last 12 million years. It has been able to preserve its morphology unchanged thanks to its isolation from the world.
In 1776, a German zoologist named Peter Simon Pallas classified this cat as Manul for the first time.
But the story did not end here. The researchers then tried to place this carnivorous mammal within some species of the Felidae family. Our little friend was so strange that even they couldn’t clarify his species.
At first, they classified it as Felis, later changing to Otocolobus. It was Prionailurus for a few years and eventually someone named Brandt in 1841 again classified it as Otocolobus. Hunted for years for its fur, it reached the danger of extinction. In Russia and Mongolia, they used their organs and fats for medicine. Fortunately, this has changed and it is now considered a protected species since 2002.
There are three recognized Manul subspecies: Manul, Ferruginea, and Nigripecta. We can find them in some coastal areas of the Caspian Sea, north of Iran, India, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Pakistan.
Also in China and the Siberian steppes, Mongolia and Tibet, at altitudes of up to 5000 meters, as they tend to live in cold areas with little vegetation.
Characteristics of Manul cats
His characteristic feature would be his eyes. As expressive and spectacular as human eyes and as hypnotic and enigmatic as owls.
Their round pupil eyes, coupled with their round looks and incredible facial expressions, can elicit a laugh and paralyze us like prey caught in their claws.
The fur of these cats has black spots on the head and different black stripes on the back, tail, or both. The tip of the hair is white, producing a mystical and icy appearance.
Its head is round and broad with scattered black spots on the forehead and two distinct parallel black bars on each cheek. The large eyes are yellow, and the pupils contract in small circles. The ears are short, rounded and low on the sides of the head.
The legs are short and robust, and the tail has a thick coat with a broad terminal black band with five or six black rings along it. Due to its relatively flat face, the Pallas cat was believed to be the ancestor of the Persian cat, which is not true.
The weight ranges between 2-4.5 kg in the adult cat. The Manul cat is adapted to cold and arid environments and lives in rocky terrain and grasslands throughout central Asia.
They have fewer teeth than other cats, and these are almost three times the size of domestic cats.
Behavior of Manul cats
They are homeless cats that prefer to live in dark places that they also use to protect themselves from the cold. During the day, he uses caves, burrows, and rock crevices to sleep, and becomes more active toward dusk.
The Manul cat is a solitary, nocturnal hunter and feeds mainly on rodents, birds, hares and small mammals . They do not usually catch their prey by chasing them, but normally wait and ambush their prey because they are not great runners and prefer to duck behind vegetation or rocks to stun their victims.
Like most species of wild cats, the Pallas cat has been hunted for its fur. Before it became a legally protected species, tens of thousands of skins were collected annually from countries, including China, Mongolia, Afghanistan, and Russia. Today, the cat is considered to be beneficial to its environment as it feeds on agricultural pests.
They are very active animals, especially at dawn and dusk, the times when they go hunting. Their diet consists mainly of small mammals such as small hares, rodents, gerbils, and reeds. Ambushing is their main hunting method that they use to surprise their prey. The reason for this is that they are not great runners.
Reproduction of the Manul cat
It only mixes with other Pallas cats during the breeding season. Both males and females are territorial, and they tend to scare their enemies with a characteristic gesture – raising their upper lip and showing their long canine teeth.
Litters generally range from 3 to 6 kittens, but some have been found to reach eight. With a very short breeding season, between April and May, due to extreme weather conditions. The gestation period is 66-75 days.
Like many other felines, kittens are blind and defenseless when they are born. They are usually about 12cm long and weigh around 300g. at birth. Kittens molt around two months of age and have been observed hunting between three and four months.
Successful captive breeding of Pallas’s cat is difficult . Survival rates are low due to infections. This has been attributed to a weak and underdeveloped immune system, since in its isolated natural habitat it would not normally be exposed to them.
Other interesting facts
Their life expectancy in captivity is known to be between 13 and 15 years.
Captive specimens can be seen in zoos in Zurich (Germany) or Rotterdam (Holland). Manul cats were not born to be house cats
We understand that some are taken away for treatment and then returned to their habitat, but how many of them will never return home or be born in captivity?
Zoos and circuses are nothing more than schemes to make money at the expense of animals. Let’s be responsible and respect our wildlife.
And this is all we can do with our particular vision of Manul cats, funny cats that we have grown fond of and that have awakened some familiar memories in us.
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