In The Wild
The Pallas’s cat (Felis manul) was named after the German naturalist Peter Pallas, who discovered them in the 18th Century. They are found in Iran, China, Russia, Mongolia, Nepal and India, living in rocky deserts and barren mountainous regions.
They are about the size of a domestic cat but looks much bigger due to its stocky build and long, thick coat. Unlike other small cat species, the pupils in the large eyes of Pallas’s cat contract to small circles rather than slits; a feature common to the big cats like lions and tigers. Their thick grey fur helps to protect them from the cold in its frosty habitat, although the length and density varies seasonally. They have short, stocky legs which are marked with black bands and their bushy black-tipped tail has dark rings towards the end. Their small, rounded ears are positioned low on the sides of their short, broad head; this helps them to stalk prey in open country where there is little or no cover.
Pallas’s cats are most frequently encountered at dusk or in the early morning. They make their den in small caves and rock crevices but will take shelter in the burrows of marmots, foxes and badgers. They will sleep there during the day until dusk, when it is time to hunt. Their diet consists mainly of pikas, which are a small mammal in the rabbit family. They also feed on larks, sand grouse, voles and ground squirrels.
Pallas’s cats are seasonal breeders, with most litters being born in April-May. If their natural cycle is interrupted, they will not breed until the following year. After a gestation period of just over two months, the Pallas’s cat has a litter of normally four to six kittens. The lifespan of the Pallas’s cat is approximately twelve years.
Pallas’s cats have long been hunted for their fur although the demand for this has decreased. Sadly, they are now in danger from other factors. The numbers of their prey are being reduced; they are considered carriers of disease and poison is put down to kill them. As well as food shortages, the poison will also kill the Pallas’s cat.