Thursday

Ancient Cat Species


Pallas’s Cats,also known as the Manul Cat, along with the extinct Martelli’s Cat, was probably one of the first two modern cats, appearing about 12 million years ago. It has changed little since that time, retaining features that have changed in modern cats. These include round pupils rather than slit-like pupils in other small cats and the first pair of upper premolars are absent. The cats generally weigh 5.5-9.9 pounds.

The cats are found in the Asian steppes between 3,300-13,00 feet in northern Iran, India and Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China, and Mongolia. It prefers rocky areas with few trees where it has been known to sun bathe on the warm rocks. It usually hunts at dawn and dusk preferring a diet of small rodents such as pika and voles.

The major threats to the Pallas’s Cat comes from the poisoning of its prey by farmers. In many areas the pikas and voles are poisoned as pests, these poisoned animals are then eaten by the cats which sicken and die due to accumulation of toxins. They are also susceptible to toxomoplasmosis which they catch from their rodent prey, this disease is particularly detrimental to the kittens. Human threats include hunting for their fur, as the fur is not only beautiful, but very soft. Although it is protected under CITES, many of the countries in which it lives do not have the money nor resources to prevent poaching and the harvesting of pelts continues. Also, habitat fragmentation and development which could result in local extinctions. This is especially problematic as there are 3 recognized sub-species of Pallas’s Cat, and if one were to lose its habitat the genetic diversity, and thus over-all health, of the population would decrease drastically.

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