Guest Videos: Asia’s Tropical Cats, Part 2: Marbles and Spots

Marbled cats were thought to spend most of their time in trees, until camera traps frequently showed them prowling along the forest floor, holding their thick, beautifully furred tail straight out behind them.

The footage we will see comes from Leuser National Park, on Sumatra in Indonesia.

Marbled cats have been filmed in the tropical to transitional sections of the park, far from the tourist areas shown here. (Tourism is a viable alternative to the current situation.)

Marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata)

The same coat markings that give clouded leopards their name are called “marbling” in this small cat.

But marbled cats aren’t in Panthera and are actually closely related to Asiatic golden cats, despite the different appearance.

Another feature that marbled cats share with another feline species (margays, in the Americas) is the ability to rotate their ankles 180° and climb down a tree face first.

This collection of camera-trap captures doesn’t show that, but we get plenty of views of that adorable and very un-Fluffy-like small round head!

The brief night video shows the cat’s marbling well.

Leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis)

This kitty is all over spots, especially in the southern part of its range.

It’s the most widespread of all small Asian cats (ISEC), but I found surprisingly few online videos of it in the wild.

For basic facts, here is my 2020 post on these little spotted cuties.

I’m in a dilemma about videos because the best one I found — from Singapore, of all places! — is a bit grim.

  • In such an urban setting, there are bound to be roadkills, and they show a couple of these photographs, briefly.
  • It’s good that they explain the connection with domestic Bengals, but they emphasize the negative impact this “designer cat” has on the wild leopard cats.

There’s enough trouble in the world, so I try to keep these posts positive. Also, some of you might own Bengals and be very happy.

This five-month-old Bengal domestic cat is beautiful. And the breed’s founder was trying to save leopard cats from the fur industry. It’s just hard to avoid unintended consequences. (Sean McGrath, CC BY 2.0)

However I decided to embed the video anyway because: (a) it has much footage of the golden coated, dark spotted leopard cat type in the southern part of its range; (b) this conservation group is one of those on the front lines of the illegal trade and must face things that the rest of us can ignore; I respect that, just as I like both Bengal cats and their wild ancestors; and (c) I learned while writing the cat book that Bengals are often dropped off at shelters because their owners can’t deal with the difference between them and cats that haven’t had a wild ancestor for thousands of years. This is why there are so many Bengal rescue groups in every state.

I suspect that most of those owners weren’t irresponsible; they just didn’t know what they were getting into. So maybe a little grittiness from the front lines is called for here.

What finally decided me was finding another video of someone who went into wintertime Siberia to film an Amur leopard and instead saw, and really liked, the northern-style leopard cat, which Russians often call the Amur cat.

So let’s get serious for a moment…

…and end on a note as light and bright as winter sunshine in a Siberian forest!

In the north, leopard cats have light brown to gray coats, much lighter spots, and as you can see, incredibly thick coats. Prionailurus bengalensis is very adaptable!

Featured image: Marbled cat (top) by Thawatchai Suttikarn/Shutterstock; leopard cat (bottom) by Soumyajit Nandy/Shutterstock

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