Category: Wild cats

Amazing Cats: The Rusty-Spotted Cat

Stalking the jungles, wetlands and forests of India and Sri Lanka are exceptionally skilled hunters, cats who are as swift as they are deadly.

They’re nocturnal, with large eyes that allow them to see motion and detail in almost complete darkness, and spectacularly sure-footed. Their agility, grace and natural climbing ability not only help them get to prey, but also aid them in avoiding predators.

But unless you’re a lizard, bird or small mammal, you have little to fear from the rusty-spotted cat — unless you get in its face.

The striped-and-spotted felines are as fierce as they are tiny, and they are truly diminutive — at two to three-and-a-half pounds fully grown, rusty-spotted cats are rivaled only by the black-footed cat of southern Africa as the world’s smallest felines.

Rusty-spotted cat
A rusty-spotted cat mother stands protectively in front of her kittens in Cornwall

Although the little guys are elusive, cat enthusiasts were treated to rare close-up images of rusty-spotted kittens when a litter was born at Porfell Wildlife Park and Sanctuary in Cornwall in 2020. It was an extremely rare occurrence, as there are only a few dozen rusty-spotted cats in captivity worldwide. Like most other wildlife, the species is threatened by habitat reduction.

For context, the tiny feline is only a third the size of a typical house cat, felis catus, and would be dwarfed by the gentle giant Maine Coon.

Little Buddy’s take: These guys are awesome and I’m seriously considering moving to their territory and living among them. Do you know why? At 10 pounds I would be a giant among them, striding meowscularly through the jungle with my own personal army of felines. They would make me their king, naturally, and sing songs about Buddy the Colossal Cat. I would have their most desirable females bathed and brought to my tent, where we would dine and I would regale them with stories of my adventures in America. Sadly, though, there are no turkeys in India or Sri Lanka. Could I live without turkey?

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Amazing Cats: The Puma
Amazing Cat Breeds: The Buddinese

Dear Buddy: Why Do Some Cats Have Flabby Stomachs?

Dear Buddy,

Why do some cats (like you) have flabby tummies? Why do those flabby stomachs jiggle when some cats (like you) run around? Like Anna Delvey famously asked Vivian: “Are you pregnant or are you so very, very fat?”

Horrified in Honolulu


Dear Horrified,

FAKE NEWS.

What you’re seeing is my primordial pouch, also known as the Warrior’s Pouch, the Paunch of Feline Heroes and the Champion’s Abdomen. When it’s prominent, as in my case, it indicates the cat in question comes from a line of feline warriors, and that the blood of fierce combatants courses through his veins.

Buddy vs The Dragon
A painting depicting the Battle of Felinar Caverns, when Buddy slew the dragon Ysunvaer in single combat. Original image credit: Johan Grenier

If your primordial pouch is not prominent, it means you’re descended from wimps who probably hid under the stairs when faced with threats, like the angry machine god Vakuum and the Elevator, the Mysterious Room That Eats People.

You see, according to scientists, the primordial pouch offers protection to our vital organs during battle, so an errant slash won’t open our guts.

The pouch serves another critical function, allowing us to fully stretch our bodies, thus making possible the incredibly acrobatic and awesome moves that distinguish us as the graceful combatants we are. The primordial pouch makes it possible for us to jump really high, cover incredible distance in a single bound, and tear up the dance floor.

As you can clearly see from the photos, I’m all rippling muscle aside from the primordial pouch, so I’m totally not chonky.

Your Champion,

Buddy

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All cats, including tigers, have primordial pouches. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Study: Cat Brains Have Gotten Smaller

Cats have gotten a good deal out of domestication: They’re safer, warmer and protected from almost all threats. They know where their next meal is coming from, and won’t hesitate to meow our ears off if dinner is late.

But one tradeoff doesn’t immediately appear beneficial: Domestic cats have smaller brains than the species they’ve evolved from, African and Eurasian wildcats.

“[D]omestic cats indeed, have smaller cranial volumes (implying smaller brains) relative to both European wildcats (Felis silvestris) and the wild ancestors of domestic cats, the African wildcats (Felis lybica),” the research team wrote.

Wild cats have the largest brains on average, followed by wild-domestic hybrids and domestic cats with the smallest brains of the three.

That’s another strong indicator that domestication is the determining factor in feline brain size, although the researchers point out that they are comparing domestic cats to current wildcats, and not the ancient population of wildcats from which domestic cats evolved beginning some 10,000 years ago with the dawn of agriculture and permanent human settlements.

Wildcats with friendlier and bolder dispositions were the first to approach human settlements, drawn by the rodents who were themselves feasting on human grain supplies. Humans realized that the cats were taking care of their rodent problems but weren’t interested in eating the grain, and a beautiful partnership was born.

superhandsomebuddy1
“I have a yuge, yuge brain, the best brain. It’s tremendous.”

Smaller brains do not necessarily correlate to lower intelligence, however, and cats aren’t the only species whose brains became smaller after they were domesticated. Dog brains are about 30 percent smaller than the brains of gray wolves, but dogs have adapted spectacularly to living with humans and reading human behavioral cues.

“The dog is successful not because of the size of its whole brain per se, but because domestication has led to subtle brain changes with a stunning result: the ability to live in the world of people,” a Smithsonian Magazine article points out, noting dogs are also adept at getting people to do all sorts of things for them.

If brain size alone resulted in higher levels of intelligence, whales and elephants would rule the Earth.

Instead “the complexity of cellular and molecular organization of neural connections, or synapses, is what truly determines a brain’s computational capacity,” neuroscientist Kendra Lechtenberg wrote.

The researchers weren’t interested in drawing any major conclusions about feline cognition with the study. They’re more interested in the phenomena of “domestication syndrome,” which causes changes both physical (floppy ears, coat color variation, shorter muzzles) and behavioral. (Less aggression, playfulness.)

The jury’s still out on why exactly those traits emerge, but some studies have attributed it to differences in embryonic development. Unlike many other domestic animals, cats don’t look much different than their wild felis lybica and felis sylvestris counterparts.

The cat study was published on Jan. 26 to Royal Science Open Science, a peer-reviewed open-access journal. The research team was comprised of biologists from the University of Vienna and data curators from the National Museum of Scotland.

What Kind Of Cat Is This?

A reader in Alabama sent this image to the Bangor Daily News and asked for help identifying the cat.

Like many other states, Alabama is home to bobcats and cougars, but we can cross them both off the list: The long tail eliminates the possibility of a bobcat, while the coat pattern and build of the cat rules out a puma.

Aside from puma, bobcats and the lynx, almost all other species of wild cat in the western hemisphere are found only in South America.

The cat in the photo is muscular and looks like it’s taking a leisurely stroll, but something in the wooded area has caught its attention. The dipped tail may indicate uncertainty. Its tabby stripes are well-defined but broken, a trait often seen in domestic cats.

Finally, although Bangor says there’s not much to help put the cat’s overall size in context, it’s almost certainly smaller than it looks, judging from the barrel in the background. In fact, if you expand the image and look closely at the barrel, you can see there’s an arched entry cut out of it, and it’s secured to some kind of foundation. Who knows, maybe someone converted it into a small shelter for this cat and other strays.

I took the image, cropped it close, tried to enhance the details as much as possible without ruining the data, and got this:

The mystery cat of Alabama

My verdict: It’s a domestic cat.

The proportions, tail and gait are all consistent with a domestic cat, as is the coat pattern. The cat in the photo doesn’t resemble any local wild cats, and the cat isn’t as large as it may initially appear.

What do you think?

‘Social Influencer’ Thinks He Saw A Panther…In New Zealand

A New Zealand man says he filmed a “panther” after taking blurry footage of a house cat.

Kyle Mulinder does his best Steve Irwin impression with a breathless “Look at that thing! Amazing!” while zooming in on what looks an awful lot like a domestic cat.

Mulinder continues to provide commentary and generously estimates the cat at “four foot high” as it dashes off a dirt road into a wooded area in New Zealand’s Hanmer Springs Heritage Forest.

Here’s a screenshot of the cat. I wasn’t able to embed the video, so you’ll have to visit the New Zealand Herald to watch it.

Screenshot_2020-11-30 Canterbury mystery Is it a cat or is it a panther - NZ Herald

A handful of New Zealanders have said they’ve seen a large cat since at least this summer, long enough for the local press to dub the cat the Canterbury Panther. Various reports identify the cat as grey, tawny or black.

Mulinder, who calls himself Bare Kiwi online, demonstrated a flair for the dramatic while telling his tale to the Herald.

“It was about 50 metres away, strolling in the other direction but it sat down, turned and looked into my soul,” Mulinder said. “It was a very emotional experience. I was fearing for my life.”

(Insert terrifying Buddy joke here.)

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Yolanda van Heezik, a zoologist at New Zealand’s Otago University, said the chances of a big cat on the loose are “extremely unlikely.”

Aside from the lack of convincing footage of the Canterbury Panther, there aren’t any obvious signs of a mountain lion, jaguar or leopard, van Heezik said. Those signs could include scratches from large claws high up in trees, widespread scent-marking and the trail of prey that would be left by a large carnivore.

“No one’s ever caught one, no one’s ever got really good evidence that they are something different from just a large feral cat,” she said earlier this month. “And there’s also a complete lack of evidence that is indirect like if you had a really big cat like that you would expect there to be more stock kills, for example, but we don’t really have that evidence either.”

blackjaguar

Aside from the cat’s small size, there are other obvious reasons why it’s unlikely to be a panther. The word panther can refer to a cougar, also known as a mountain lion or puma. It can also refer to a jaguar or a leopard.

None of those cats are found on New Zealand: Pumas and jaguars are native to the Americas, while leopards exist in Africa and parts of Asia.

Of course it’s possible someone purchased a big cat from the illegal wildlife market and the animal escaped or was let go, but those cases are rare and big cats tend to be the “toys” of the ultra-wealthy. Local authorities have ruled out the possibility of a large cat escaping from any nearby zoo or wildlife facility, according to the Herald.