marbled cat

endangered cats

  • HB Length:45-62 cm (17-24″)
  • Tail Length: 35-55 cm (14-22″)
  • Height: Approx. 28 cm (11″)
  • Weight: 2-5 kg (4.4-11 lbs)
  • Pop. Trend: Decreasing

Marbled Cats Pardofelis marmorata have been compared to small Clouded Leopards Neofelis nebulosa, as both bear the distinctive marbling pattern on their coats, with the combination of large, irregular shaped dark blotches, lined with black.

The background colour of the coat is a brownish grey through reddish brown, with narrow, longitudinal, black stripes on the crown, neck and back. Their fur is thick and soft with a well-developed underfur. The underparts are light grey or off white, marked with solid black spots. The head is short, and more rounded than other felines, with a wide forehead, large brown pupils, and marked with three dark stripes on either side. The backs of the short rounded ears are black with a grey bar. The legs are relatively short and end in broad foot pads. The Marbled Cat’s round, bushy tail is very long, and sometimes even exceeds the length of the head and body. It is black tipped with dull spotting down its length. When walking, the tail is held horizontally in a straight line from the body.

Distribution

marbled cat range map
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Restricted to forest habitats, the Marbled Cat occurs throughout Southeast Asia, from south of the Himalayan foothills to Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra. They are rarely seen in the wild, and very secretive.

The species has never been studied in the wild, with the exception of one radio-collared female in Thailand that was tracked for a month. Her range was calculated as 5.3 km2.

Ecology

They are thought to be a purely arboreal cat. This theory is supported by the structure of their feet which show no adaptation to ground dwelling habits, the length of their tail, and the short limbs. Like the larger Clouded Leopard, they have double claw sheaths on broad, flexible paws. When sitting, lying or standing, they retract the head slightly and arch the back. They are thought to be extremely swift climbers.  From limited camera trapping in protected areas, Marbled Cats are thought to be most active during the daylight hours.

A Bornean camera trap study observed one cat for 10 minutes in a spotlight. It groomed itself while sitting on a branch about 25 m above the ground, then climbed down the trunk head first. Previously, this ability was thought to be restricted to the Margay Leopard wiedii and the Clouded Leopard, two equally arboreal species.

Blood serum analysis indicates that Marbled Cats are quite closely related to the larger cats. Perhaps they are similar in form to the forest ancestors of the big cats some ten million years ago. However, they may have also decreased in size due to competition with big cats.

Reproduction

Based only on two captive births, one to four kittens are born after a gestation of approximately 66-81 days. Weight at birth was 100 – 115 grams. Their ears unfolded from their head at five days, and their eyes were open by 14 days. Sexual maturity was reached around 21-22 months. Their vocal repertoire is basically similar to that of the domestic cat although the meow resembles a twittering bird call and they purr infrequently. Maximum longevity has been reported to be 12 years in captivity.

Conservation

Seldom photographed in camera trap surveys and rarely seen in Asian wildlife markets, Marbled Cats may exist in naturally low densities.

Primarily associated with moist forest, their habitat is undergoing the world’s fastest deforestation rate (1.2-1.3% annually) due to logging, palm oil plantations, human settlement and agriculture. Indiscriminate snaring for the bush meat trade is also rampant throughout its range.

Range Map IUCN Red List (2008)

Updated 2016

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7 Responses

  1. Margaret Behan

    Why aren’t more studies done on this feline?? I’m a college student with a major in wildlife conservation, is it not possible to get funding to do long term research on it?

    • Pat Bumstead

      Now that is the question. Any field data on the Marbled Cat has been gathered during studies of a carnivore guild in a certain area. Studies of clouded leopards, for example, also include information on Marbled Cats. It is very difficult to obtain funding for research on one small cat species. It makes more sense to study the group of cats in an area, rather than one species.

  2. Terry Kerrison

    We saw a Marbled Cat yesterday in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand and took a good photo. Beautiful animal. I would guess at least 1 metre in length including the big bushy tail.

  3. badaruddin

    i am from assam university silchar assam india
    two days back i saw a marbled cat dead on the road passing AU to Irongmara.

    Here Animals monkeys birds are disterbed by Noise pollution and Deforestation
    Come once and see practically

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