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Rusty Spotted Cat

Rusty Spotted CatThe Rusty-spotted cat, is an extremely rare cat of southern India and Sri Lanka, with a small population in Jammu and Gujarat. As the name suggests, this felid is grayish-brown with a reddish suffusion to the fur with the undersides being a tawny white. Elongated rusty-brown spots are superimposed over the background coloration, arranged in lines along the sides and back, turning into blotches on the belly and undersides.

Zoological name: Prionailurus rubiginosus

Species: Rusty-spotted cats have been placed in the genus Felis, but Wozencraft (1993) in the latest review of cat taxonomy emphasises that the Prionailurus cats (leopard cat P. bengalensis; flat-headed cat P. planiceps; and fishing cat P. viverrinus) are more closely related to one another than they are to the other cats.

There are two recognised subspecies:
- F. (P.) r. rubiginosus India
- F. (P.) r. phillipsi Sri Lanka

F. (P.) r. phillipsi is rather more brightly coloured than the subcontinental subspecies.

Presence on the planet: It is found in southern India, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, and Sri Lanka, but recent reports of sightings elsewhere in India suggest that it may be more widely distributed.

The Indian form, F. (P.) r. rubiginosus is restricted to relatively open country including dry grassland scrub although in the Gir Lion Sanctuary rusty-spotted cats have been seen in dense forest as well as cultivated areas.

Habitat: No research has been on this species in the wild, but reports of sightings indicate it prefers swampy areas, oxbow lakes and riverine forests. It has also been seen hunting rodents in oil palm plantations.

Physical appearance: One of the most unique and unusual members of the cat family, the Flat Headed cat is ideally adapted for a life of fish-eating and water hunting. It has a long sloping snout and the top of the skull is flattened (hence the name), and it has unusually small ears. Its eyes are large and close set which allow for maximum binocular vision. Its molars are larger and sharper than other members of the felid family, and are designed to be efficient at holding on to slippery prey. Like the Fishing Cat and the Cheetah, the Flat Headed Cat does not have completely retractile claws.
Rusty Spotted Cat
Diet: Based on the analysis of stomach contents of deceased animals, it is determined that the main diet of these cats is fish, frogs and shrimp. They are mostly nocturnal, and are frequently seen hunting along riverbanks. Captive Flat Headed cats take readily to water and show no hesitation at completely submerging their heads in search of prey or toys.

Reproduction & offspring: The reproductive behaviour of rusty spotted cats has been observed in captivity, and is almost identical to the domestic cat. For several days prior to actual copulation, a male follows and attempts to approach a female coming into oestrous. Presumably, the male has determined the onset of the females reproductive period by monitoring her scent marks and vocalizations.

Births occur in the spring in India. A litter of one to three kittens is born in a secluded den after a gestation of approximately 67 days. The kittens lack the rusty spotting of the adults and their irises are light blue. Nothing is known of their development but it is probably much like that of domestic kittens.

Conservation status: Worah (1990) states that the rusty-spotted cat does not seem to be rare in Gujarat, even though they are hunted and eaten. Almost every village in a survey reported to have seen them. A limited distribution in scattered areas implies that the populations could be very vulnerable. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) does not consider the rusty-spotted cat to be threatened, but the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has restricted international commerce

Life span: 16 years
Behaviour of Rusty spotted cat

The rusty spotted cat is nocturnal and spends most of its time in the trees. They are very territorial, but not much else is known about their behavior in the wild. Breeding takes place in early spring, with the kittens usually born around April. Their coats are duller than the adults. It has been said that if taken young enough, they can make good house cats.

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