Jungle Cat (Felis chaus)

-Susan Sharma

The genera Felis is comprised of the smaller or lesser cat species... cats that cannot roar. The largest of these cats is the cougar (mountain lion). Felis Concolor. Some of the other species also found in this genera are the ocelot, the serval, the lynx and the domestic cat (Felis Cattus... also known as Felis Domesticus). Like their larger cousins, many of these beautiful wild cats belonging to genera Felis are becoming more rare in their native habitats... due to loss of habitat and hunting or poaching. Again, sadly, many of these species are listed as endangered.

There are 15 different varieties of wild cats in India. (WII). They can be classified as large, medium and small on basis of their body size. Unfortunately there are very few studies conducted on the lesser cats of India and one cannot be too sure of the viable populations of these cats in the country

Central India is known to be the habitat for 6 different species of the lesser cats. 1) Caracal (Felis caracal) 2) Jungle cat (Felis chaus) 3) Desert cat(Felis lybica ornata) 4) Leopard cat(Felis bengalensis) 5) Rusty spotted cat (Felis (Prionailurus) rubiginosa)6) Fishing cat(Felis viverrina)

The jungle cat, despite its name, is not strongly associated with closed forest, but rather with water and dense vegetative cover, especially reed swamps, marsh, and littoral and riparian environments.
Jungle cats are frequently observed in the daytime. They feed primarily on rodents.

Principal Threats

Jungle cats do well in cultivated landscapes (especially those that lead to increased numbers of rodents) and artificial wetlands. However, reclamation and destruction of natural wetlands, ongoing throughout its range but particularly in the arid areas (Dugan 1993), still pose a threat to the species, as density in natural wetlands is generally higher.

The jungle cat can be distinguished from other wild cat species within its range by its long legs and uniform coat colour, which ranges from sandy yellow to reddish brown. On closer examination, the adult jungle cat can be seen to have faint stripes on the legs and tail, which is tipped with black. On the head the nose and chin areas are often white, the rather large ears tipped with darker fur and in certain sub-species faint ‘tear stripes’ are noticeable beneath the eyes. As kittens, jungle cats are heavily spotted but these juvenile markings are generally lost at about six months of age.

Jungle cats are common in India but due to their secretive nature are rarely seen/ observed. Ranthamhore National Park offers good sightings. They are very swift and exceedingly strong for their size (around 6kg) and although they prey mainly on birds and smaller mammals such as porcupines, they are capable of bringing down larger game.

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