Prionailurus rubiginosus 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Felidae

Scientific Name: Prionailurus rubiginosus
Species Authority: (I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1831)
Common Name(s):
English Rusty-spotted Cat
French Chat Rubigineux, Chat Rougeâtre, Chat-léopard De L'Inde
Spanish Gato Rojizo, Gato Rubiginosa
Taxonomic Notes: Placed in Prionailurus according to genetic analysis (Johnson et al. 2006, O'Brien and Johnson 2007, Eizirik et al. submitted).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable C2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Khan, J.A. & Mukherjee, S.
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Found only in India and on the island of Sri Lanka, the rusty-spotted cat has a relatively restricted distribution. Research into its density and status is needed, but it is suspected that the total effective population size is below 10,000 mature individuals, with a declining trend due to habitat loss, and no subpopulation containing more than 1,000 mature breeding individuals (IUCN Cats Red List Workshop 2007).
Previously published Red List assessments:
2002 Vulnerable (VU)
1996 Data Deficient (DD)
1994 Insufficiently Known (K)
1990 Insufficiently Known (K)
1988 Insufficiently Known (K)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The rusty-spotted cat is found only in India and Sri Lanka. In India, it was long thought to be confined to the south, but recent records have established that it is found over much of the country (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002, Patel and Jackson 2006, Manakadan and Sivakumar 2006, Patel 2006, Vyas et al. 2007), with a record from the foothills of the Himalaya in Jammu (Chakraborty 1978) requiring confirmation.
Countries occurrence:
India; Sri Lanka
Upper elevation limit (metres):2100
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Rusty-spotted cats have been observed increasingly frequently by researchers (Kittle and Watson 2004, Manakadan and Sivakumar 2006, Patel 2006, Vyas et al. 2007). They have been described as abundant in some parts of India and Sri Lanka, and have been observed close to and within villages (Nowell and Jackson 1996), but that they were not known to occur in northern India until recent decades suggests rarity in some parts of the range (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Rusty-spotted cats occupy moist and dry deciduous forest types as well as scrub and grassland, but are likely absent from evergreen forest in India (Nowell and Jackson 1996), although there are a few records from montane and lowland rainforest in Sri Lanka (Deraniyagala 1956, Nekaris 2003). While dense vegetation and rocky areas are preferred (Worah 1991, Kittle and Watson 2004, Patel 2006), rusty-spotted cats have been found in the midst of agricultural and settled areas (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Mukherjee 1998, Nekaris 2003). They are highly arboreal (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002), and Patel (2006) observed cats pouncing down from tree branches when hunting prey. Most observations have been at night (Mukherjee 1998, Nekaris 2003, Kittle and Watson 2004, Patel 2006, Vyas et al. 2007). One cat was seen hunting frogs, but small rodents were the main prey reported from a series of observations by Patel (2006) and Nekaris (2003) - seeking out such prey is likely why the cats venture into cultivated areas.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Habitat loss and the spread of cultivation are serious problems for wildlife in both India and Sri Lanka. Although there are several records of rusty-spotted cats from cultivated and settled areas, it is not known to what degree cat populations are able to persist in such areas (Nowell and Jackson 1996) - some villagers say rusty-spotted cats, unlike jungle cats, "keep to the forest" and do not prey on domestic fowl (Manakadan and Sivakumar 2006). Kittle and Watson (2004) observed a rusty-spotted cat mating with a domestic cat and also saw a potential hybrid ("being slightly larger in size, with long legs and exhibiting unusual markings on a paler background"). There have been occasional reports of rusty-spotted cat skins in trade (Nowell and Jackson 1996), and rusty-spotted cats killed for food or as livestock pests (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002, Nekaris 2003).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Indian population is included on CITES Appendix I, while the Sri Lankan population is included on CITES Appendix II. The species is fully protected over most of its range, with hunting and trade banned in India, and Sri Lanka (although domestic trade is uncontrolled in Sri Lanka) (Nowell and Jackson 1996). It occurs in a number of protected areas, including Yala National Park in Sri Lanka (Nekaris 2003, Kittle and Watson 2004) and the Gir Forest National Park (Pathak 1990) and Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (Dubey 1999) in India.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.5. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
suitability: Suitable  
2. Savanna -> 2.1. Savanna - Dry
suitability: Suitable  
3. Shrubland -> 3.5. Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
suitability: Suitable  
4. Grassland -> 4.5. Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
suitability: Suitable  
8. Desert -> 8.1. Desert - Hot
suitability: Suitable  
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.2. Artificial/Terrestrial - Pastureland
suitability: Suitable  
3. Species management -> 3.4. Ex-situ conservation -> 3.4.1. Captive breeding/artificial propagation
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.2. National level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.4. Scale Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.3. Persecution/control
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

8. Invasive & other problematic species & genes -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species -> 8.1.2. Named species (Felis catus)
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.1. Hybridisation

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
1. Research -> 1.6. Actions
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓ 

♦  Handicrafts, jewellery, etc.
 National : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Chakraborty, S. 1978. The rusty-spotted cat, Felis rubiginosa I. Geoffroy, in Jammu and Kashmir. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 75: 478.

Deraniyagala, P. E. P. 1956. A new subspecies of rusty spotted cat from Ceylon. Spoila Zeylanica 28: 113.

Dubey, Y. 1999. Sighting of rustyspotted Cat in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 96(2): 310.

Eizirik, E., Johnson, W.E. and O'Brien, S.J. Submitted. Molecular systematics and revised classification of the family Felidae (Mammalia, Carnivora). Journal of Mammalogy. [see]

Johnson, W.E., Eizirik, E., Pecon-Slattery, J., Murphy, W.J., Antunes, A., Teeling, E. and O'Brien, S.J. 2006. The late Miocene radiation of modern Felidae: A genetic assesstment. Science 311: 73-77.

Kittle, A. and Watson, A. 2004. Rusty-spotted cat in Sri Lanka: observations of an arid zone population. Cat News 40: 17-19.

Manakadan, R. and Sivakumar, S. 2006. Rusty-spotted cat on India's east coast. Cat News 45: 26.

Mukherjee, S. K. 1998. Small Cats of India. Envis Bulletin. Wildlife Institute of India.

Nekaris, K. A. I. 2003. Distribution and behaviour of three small wild cats in Sri Lanka. Cat News 38: 30-32.

Nowell, K. and Jackson, P. 1996. Wild Cats. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

O'Brien, S.J. and Johnson, W E. 2007. The evolution of cats. Scientific American July: 68-75.

Patel, K. 2006. Observations of rusty-spotted cat in eastern Gujurat. Cat News 45: 27-28.

Patel, K. and Jackson, P. 2005. Rusty-spotted cat in India: new distribution data. Cat News 42: 27.

Pathak, B. J. 1990. Rusty spotted cat Felis rubiginosa Geoffroy: A new record for Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 87: 8.

Sunquist, M. and Sunquist, F. 2002. Wild Cats of the World. University of Chicago Press.

Vyas, V. R., Lakhmapurkar, J. J. and Gavali, D. 2007. Sighting of rusty-spotted cat from new localities in central Gujurat. Cat News 46: 18.

Worah, S. 1991. The ecology and management of a fragmented forest in south Gujurat, India: the Dangs. Thesis, University of Pune.

Citation: Khan, J.A. & Mukherjee, S. 2008. Prionailurus rubiginosus. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T18149A7673082. . Downloaded on 26 June 2016.
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