Also known as the manul, the Pallas’s cat (Otocolobus manul) is a small wild cat native to Mongolia, Kazakhstan, India, and parts of China and Russia.
Manuls are roughly the size of domestic cats but have long and dense fur that makes them appear stouter and heavier than they are. The Pallas’s cat also has a shorter face than domestic cats and fewer teeth than most felines. Unlike other small cats, the Pallas’s cat has circular pupils rather than slits and large eyes for its face.
The Pallas’s cat is most common in cold grassland and rocky steppe climates, often at high elevations; manuls living at over 16,000 feet have been reported on the Tibetan Plateau, with tracks occasionally spotted in deep snow. The Pallas’s cat usually lives in an abandoned burrow, small cave or rock outcropping. Though they can be active any time of day, most emerge from their burrows to being hunting in late afternoon. Common prey is small mammals and rodents such as ground squirrels, pikas, and voles. Manuls are not fast runners and usually hunt using an ambush technique.
Pallas’s cats are very solitary animals with large individual ranges. Though they do scent mark for communication, most physical contact occurs when males begin to follow females during the early spring mating season. Litters of 3-6 kittens are born each April or May, and all will be expected to become independent by late summer and able to breed by the next spring.
The Pallas’s cat if far too elusive and solitary to have any regular natural predators, but is now considered near-threatened due to human activity. Manuls have long been hunted for their warm and luxurious pelts, and their traditional habitat is shrinking due to human development. Complicating conservation efforts is the difficulty in keeping and breeding Pallas’s cats in captivity. Their isolated existence has left them with underdeveloped immune systems unable to fight off common infections they may be exposed to in a zoo environment.
PALLAS’S CAT FACTS
Pallas’s cats can live up to 11 years in captivity.
There are four subspecies of manul that inhabit different regions.
IUCN Red List
Pallas Cat Study and Conservation Program