When you think of wild cats like leopards and cheetahs, you expect them to be large. Larger, at least, than a domesticated house cat. But not rusty-spotted cats. These creatures are one of the world’s smallest wild cat species, weighing between 2.2 and 3.5 pounds and measuring up to 20 inches long. That’s smaller than most adult house cats!
Although these tiny cats look like domesticated felines—with markings similar to the Bengal breed—their body is slender and smaller than their domestic counterparts. Their fur is brownish-gray with rusty streaks that run from their heads to their paws. (The reddish-brown spots are how the species got its name.)
Rusty-spotted cats are found in South Asian, including places like India, Sri Lanka, and the Bardia National Park in Nepal. Their habitats vary; the cats have been found in both dry and moist forests, bamboo forests, wooded grasslands, and rocky hills. They are fierce hunters who look for rodents and small birds. They’ll even climb trees to look for their prey up high, in addition to on the ground.
This species isn’t endangered, but it is considered “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The reason is mostly due to habitat loss as human populations in India and Sri Lanka continue to grow. Protecting land from development will give the rusty-spotted cat the chance to thrive, along with other animals who live in its environment.