Felis chausjungle cat

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Geographic Range

Jungle cats have a wide ranging distribution that extends from Egypt, Israel, Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, to the shores of the Caspian Sea and the Volga River delta, east through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tadzhikistan, Kazakhstan and to western Xingjian, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and southwestern China. (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)

Habitat

Jungle cats prefer habitats near water with dense vegetative cover but can be found in a variety of habitats including deserts (where they are found near oases or along riverbeds), grasslands, shrubby woodlands and dry deciduous forests, as well as cleared areas in moist forests. They are commonly found in tall grass, thick brush, riverside swamps, and reed beds. They also adapt well to cultivated land and can be found in many different types of agriculture and forest plantations. Jungle cats are known to occur at elevations of up to 2500 m, but are more common in lowlands. ("International Society for Endangered Cats", 2001; Nowell and Jackson, 1996; Ogurlu, et al., 2010; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)

  • Range elevation
    2500 (high) m
    8202.10 (high) ft

Physical Description

Jungle cats range in size from 70 to 120 cm long and 35 to 38 cm tall. They weigh from 4 to 16 kg. Adult males are larger and heavier than adult females. Throughout their range, significant variation in mass occurs. For example, in west Israel, they weigh 43% more than those in east India. This is likely due to increased competition between different cat species in the east. Jungle cats have long, slim faces with white lines above and below their bright yellow eyes with a dark spot just below each eye near the nose. They have long rounded ears, with a distinctive tuft of hair at the tips. Jungle cats have relatively short tails, about 1/3 of their total body length, which have several dark rings along its length and a black tip. Their coat color varies from a reddish or sandy brown to tawny grey. Black jungle cats are regularly seen in southeastern Pakistan and India. Kittens may be striped and spotted, however, these markings typically fade with age and are only retained on the fore and hindlimbs. The muzzle, throat, and belly of the jungle cat are a pale cream color, and their winter coat is darker and denser than their summer coat. ("International Society for Endangered Cats", 2001; Mukherjee and Groves, 2007; Nowell and Jackson, 1996; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)

Based largely on external morphological differences, jungle cats have been separated into 10 subspecies: Felis chaus nilotica (Egypt), Felis chaus chaus (Caucasus), Felis chaus furax (Isreal and Iraq), Felis chaus oxiana (Syr Darya and Amu Darya), Felis chaus prateri (Thar desert in the Indo-Pak region), Felis chaus affinis (Himalayan region), Felis chaus kutas (Northern India), Felis chaus valballala (Southern India), Felis chaus kelaarti (Sri Lanka), and Felis chaus fulvidina (Southeast Asia). ("International Society for Endangered Cats", 2001; Mukherjee and Groves, 2007; Nowell and Jackson, 1996; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    4 to 16 kg
    8.81 to 35.24 lb
  • Range length
    70 to 120 cm
    27.56 to 47.24 in

Reproduction

Jungle cat mating season is marked by the shrieks and fighting of male cats. Vocalization rates of males and females increases prior to copulation. Intense mew calls are used by both genders to attract potential mates. They also scent mark territorial boundaries, which may help them find and locate potential mates. Male and female jungle cats may have multiple different mates throughout their lives. (Mukherjee, 2008; Peters, et al., 2008; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)

Jungle cats breed twice a year and produce litters of 3 to 6 kittens. Breeding season varies regionally and gestation lasts between 63 and 66 days. Kittens are quite large at birth (136 g) and gain weight at a rate of about 22 g per day. Kittens nurse until they are about 90 days old, but begin to eat solid food around day 49. They are not completely weaned until 15 weeks old. Jungle cats are independent by 8 to 9 months of age and reach sexual maturity at 11 to 18 months of age. (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)

  • Breeding interval
    Jungle cats breed 1 or 2 times a year.
  • Range number of offspring
    3 to 6
  • Average number of offspring
    3
    AnAge
  • Range gestation period
    63 to 66 days
  • Average weaning age
    15 weeks
  • Range time to independence
    8 to 9 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    11 to 18 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    11 to 18 months

Jungle cats live in families consisting of mother, father, and offspring while cubs are being reared. Paternal investment is limited to territorial defense while mothers provide cubs with food via nursing. Young jungle cats develop predatory skills rapidly and are able to stalk, kill, and eat their own prey by 6 months old. At 8 to 9 months old, although only half the size of a mature adult, they are independent. (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)

Lifespan/Longevity

In captivity, jungle cats live an average of 15 years, but have been known to live up to 20 years. Lifespan in the wild ranges from 12 to 14 years. (Mukherjee, 2008; Ogurlu, et al., 2010; Weigl, 2005)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    20 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    12 to 14 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    15 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    20 years
    AnAge

Behavior

Except for breeding season, jungle cats live solitary lives. They are most active at night, but are not strictly nocturnal. They are more often seen at dusk and travel approximately 5 to 6 km per night. They typically rest in dense cover during the day but often sunbathe on cold winter days. Unlike most cat species, jungle cats have an affinity for water and are proficient swimmers that will dive into water to catch fish with their mouths. (Mukherjee, 2008; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002; Taber, et al., 1967)

  • Range territory size
    45 to 180 km^2

Home Range

Jungle cats have home ranges of 45 to 180 km^2, which they likely maintain via indirect means such as scent marking. (Ogurlu, et al., 2010; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)

Communication and Perception

Jungle cats are solitary animals outside of mating season, however, family groups (male, female, and cubs) are not uncommon. Vocal communication consists of meowing, chirping, purring, gurgling, growling, hissing, and barking. These noises have not been significantly studied, therefore, their meanings are not well understood. Jungle cats also communicate via scent marking and cheek rubbing. Like most felids, they use urine to scent mark their territory, which may help individuals avoid unwanted confrontation. When cats cheek rub, they leave saliva, which serves as a scent marker for other cats. They also cheek rub against scent markings to "pick up" scents, and males often cheek rub females that are in estrus. (Mellen, 1993; Mukherjee and Groves, 2007; Nowell and Jackson, 1996; Peters, et al., 2008; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)

Food Habits

Jungle cats primarily prey on animals that weigh less than 1 kg and commonly consume rodents, lizards, snakes, frogs, birds, hare, fish, insects, livestock, and even fruit during the winter. Rodents are its primary prey item, however, which provides up to 70% of its daily energy intake. Although they specialize on small prey, jungle cats have been known to kill wild pigs (Sus scrofa) and chital fawns (Axis axis). (Baker, et al., 2003; Duckworth, et al., 2008; Mukherjee, et al., 2004; Mukherjee, 2008)

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats terrestrial vertebrates
  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • fish
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit

Predation

As cubs, jungle cat have markings that help camouflage them from potential predators. Although they may sometimes fall prey to large snakes (Serpentes) or other large mammals (e.g., leopards, Panthera pardus), their primary predator is humans (Homo sapiens). They are often treated as pests and hunted or poisoned by farmers for attacking poultry. India formerly exported large numbers of jungle cat skins before they came under legal protection in 1976, however, illegal trade continues to this day. (Baker, et al., 2003; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Little is known of the ecological role that jungle cats play in their ecosystem. However, they primarily prey upon small rodents, which often carry parasites, and are known to eat a variety of other small prey items. In the wild, jungle cats are hosts for mites (Haemaphysalis silvafelis and Haemaphysalis bispinosa var. intermedia) and in captivity, are hosts for the parasitic protozoa Toxoplasma gondii. (Hoogstraal and Trapido, 1963; Hoogstraal, et al., 1963; Ogurlu, et al., 2010; Silva, et al., 2001; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)

Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Jungle cats feed primarily on rodents, which provide up to 70% of the cats daily energy intake. They are often spotted hunting near villages and farms where rodent populations tend to be higher and are sometimes viewed as pests themselves. (Mukherjee, 2008)

  • Positive Impacts
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Jungle cats can negatively impact poultry farm owners. As a result, jungle cats are often hunted and poisoned by farmers for attacking poultry. (Mukherjee, 2008; Ogurlu, et al., 2010; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)

Conservation Status

Habitat destruction and persecution by humans are the main threats to jungle cats. As the human population increases, more land is cultivated and jungle cats' natural habitat is converted to farmland. Although they are very adaptable, these altered environments do not support the same density of cats. In addition, farmers often hunt and poison jungle cats for attacking and killing poultry and are also poached for their fur. Although laws have been implemented to protect them, illegal trade still continues in many countries. For example, over the last decade more than 3,000 jungle cat skins have been seized across the globe. Currently, jungle cats are considered as a species of "least concern" by the IUCN, however, population numbers are currently declining. (Mukherjee, 2008; Ogurlu, et al., 2010; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)

Contributors

Amber Fitzgerald (author), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

intertidal or littoral

the area of shoreline influenced mainly by the tides, between the highest and lowest reaches of the tide. An aquatic habitat.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males

marsh

marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

polygynandrous

the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

International Society for Endangered Cats (ISEC) Canada. 2001. "International Society for Endangered Cats" (On-line). Accessed February 19, 2010 at http://www.wildcatconservation.org/Jungle_Cat_(Felis_chaus).html.

Baker, M., K. Nassar, L. Rifai, M. Qarqaz, W. Al-Melhim, Z. Amr. 2003. On the current status and distribution of the Jungle Cat, Felis chaus, in Jordan (Mammalia: Carnivora). Zoology in the Middle East, 30: 5-10.

Byers, A. 1996. Historical and Contemporary Human Disturbance in the Upper Barun Valley, Makalu-Barun. Mountain Research and Development, Vol. 16, No. 3: 235-247.

Chandrasekar-Rao, A., M. Sunquist. 1996. Ecology of Small Mammals in Tropical Forest Habitats of Southern India. Journal of Tropical Ecology, Vol. 12, No. 9: 561-571.

Christiansen, P., S. Wroe. 2007. Bite Forces and Evolutionary Adaptations to Feeding Ecology in Carnivores. Ecology, Vol. 88, No. 2: 347-358.

Dayan, T., D. Simberloff, E. Tchernov, Y. Yom-Tov. 1990. Feline Canines: Community-Wide Character Displacement Among the Small Cats of Israel. The American Naturalist, Vol. 136, No. 1: 39-60.

Duckworth, J., C. Poole, R. Tizard, J. Walston, R. Timmins. 2005. The Jungle Cat Felis chaus in Indochina: a threatened population of a widespread and adaptable species. Biodiversity and Conservation, 14: 1263-1280.

Duckworth, J., R. Steinmetz, J. Sanderson, S. Mukherjee. 2008. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Felis chaus. Accessed March 15, 2010 at www.iucnredlist.org.

Hoogstraal, H., H. Trapido. 1963. Haemaphysalis silvafelis sp. n., a Parasite of the Jungle Cat in Southern India (Ixodoidea, Ixodidae). Journal of Parasitology, 49/2: 346-349.

Hoogstraal, H., H. Trapido, M. Rebello. 1963. Haemaphysalis paraturturis sp. n., a Carnivore Parasite of the H. turturis Group in India (Ixodoidea, Ixodidae). Journal of Parasitology, 49/4: 686-691.

Mellen, J. 1993. A Comparative Analysis of Scent-Marking, Social and Reproductive Behavior in 20 Species of. American Zoologist, Vol. 33, No. 2: 151-166.

Mukherjee, S. 2008. Field Mouser. Natural History, Vol. 117, Issue 7: 48.

Mukherjee, S., S. Goyal, A. Johnsingh, M. Leite Pitman. 2004. The importance of rodents in the diet of juncle cat (Felis chaus), caracal (Caracal caracal) and golden jackal (Canis aureus) in Sariska Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan, India. The Zoological Society of London, 262: 405-411.

Mukherjee, S., C. Groves. 2007. Geographic variation in jungle cat (Felis chaus Schreber, 1777) (Mammalia, Carnivora, Felidae) body size: is competition responsible?. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 92: 163-172.

Nowell, K., P. Jackson. 1996. Wild Cats: status survery and conservation action plan. Switzerland: International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Ogurlu, I., E. Gundogdu, I. Yildirim. 2010. Population status of jungle cat (Felis chaus) in Egirdir lake, Turkey. Journal of Environmental Biology, 31: 179-183. Accessed March 25, 2010 at http://jeb.co.in/journal_issues/201001_jan10/paper_23.pdf.

Peters, G., L. Baum, M. Peters, B. Tonkin-Leyhausen. 2008. Spectral characteristics of intense mew calls in cat species of the genus Felis (Mammalia: Carnivora: Felidae). Springer, 27: 221-337.

Rabinowitz, A., S. Walker. 1991. The Carnivore Community in a Dry Tropical Forest Mosaic in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife. Journal of Tropical Ecology,, Vol. 7, No. 1: 37-47.

Silva, J., S. Ogassawara, M. Marvulo, J. Ferreira-Neto, J. Dubey. 2001. Toxoplasma gondii Antibodies in Exotic Wild Felids from Brazilian Zoos. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, 32/3: 349-351.

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

Taber, R., A. Sheri, M. Ahmad. 1967. Mammals of the Lyallpur Region, West Pakistan. Journal of Mammalogy, Vol. 48, No. 3: 392-407.

Weigl, R. 2005. Longevity of Mammals in Captivity; from the Living Collections of the World. Stuttgart, Germany: Kleine Senckenberg-Reihe.