Other Names
swamp cat, reed cat (English)
chat des marais, chat de jungle (French)
Rohrkatze, Sumpfluchs (German)
gato de la jungla, gato de los pantanos (Spanish)

Tropical Asia:
wab, ban beral (Bengali: Bangladesh, India)
conglin mao, limao (Chinese)
sembalado [a cat living on the boundary of a village] (Gujarati: India)
jangli billi, ban bilao, khattas (Hindi: India)
bokana kotti (Kannada: India)
meo pa (Laos)
kyaung ba, taw kyaung (Myanmar)
wal ballala, handun diviya (Sinhalese: Sri Lanka)
kadu poona (Tamil: India, Sri Lanka)
maew pa, sewa kratay (Thailand)

  • Description and Behavior

  • Biology

  • Habitat and Distribution

  • Population Status

  • Protection Status

  • Principal Threats

  • References

  • North Africa and South-West Asia:
    bizoon el berr, qat-wahshee (Arabic)
    ehegna katu (Armenia)
    chel pshigi (Azerbaijan)
    smuncha (Dari: Afghanistan)
    gurbeh jangali (Farsi: Iran)
    lelianis cata (Georgian)
    pishik (Iraq)
    kamish mishiki (Kazakh)
    bizoon, pesheela-kaywee, pisheek-kaywee, kitkakive, kithakaywee (Kurdish)
    kamish suloosunu (Kyrgyz)
    kameshovy kot, haus (Russian)
    saz kedisi (Turkey)
    sabancha, malim (Uzbek)

    Description and Behavior
    Like the serval, the jungle cat has long legs and a slender build. The fur is generally sandy brown, reddish or grey, and is unpatterned except for stripes on the legs and occasionally the throat, which are very light in the south of its range and darker in the north (Pocock 1951, Heptner and Sludskii 1972, Harrison and Bates 1991). The winter coat is darker and denser than in summer (Heptner and Sludskii 1972). Melanistic individuals are occasionally reported (Pocock 1939a, Chakraborty et al. 1988, T. Roberts in litt. 1993). Jungle cats have black ear tufts (up to 15 mm in length: Roberts 1977). The tail is relatively short, averaging about 40% of head-body length (TL=27 cm; n=49: Pocock 1951). Males are markedly larger than females (6.1±1.5 kg [n=20] vs. 4.2±1.1 kg [n=12]: Pocock 1951). An old male captured in Russia’s Astrakhan reserve weighed 13 kg (Heptner and Sludskii 1972). In captivity, males are very protective of the cubs, even more so than females, and sexual dimorphism may be linked to this behavior (Schauenberg 1979, H. Mendelssohn in litt. 1991). Family groups -- male, female and cubs - have been seen in the wild (Schaller 1967, Mendelssohn 1989). Allayarov (1964) described two jungle cat dens found along rivers in Uzbekistan: small hollows in dense reed thickets lined with old cane leaves and fur.

    Jungle cats are frequently observed in the daytime. They feed primarily on rodents (Allayarov 1964, Schaller 1967, Heptner and Sludskii 1972, Roberts 1977, Khan and Beg 1986, A. Johnsingh in litt. 1991), including large rodents such as the introduced coypu (weight 6-7 kg) in Eurasia (Dal 1954) -- Heptner and Sludskii (1972) note that 200 cats were caught in traps over a period of 14 years in the vicinity of a coypu fur-farming operation. Jungle cats also take hares, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and the young of larger mammals such as chital or wild pig (Rathore and Thapar 1984). They are strong swimmers, and will dive to catch fish (Mendelssohn 1989), or to escape when chased by man or dog (Heptner and Sludskii 1972). One cat in India, observed hiding in a bush while stalking a group of grey jungle fowl, appeared to make deliberate clockwise movements of its head, rustling leaves and attracting the curiousity of the birds (Tehsin and Tehsin 1990).

    Reproductive season (W): Mating behavior reported in Oct in south-western India (A. Johnsingh in litt. 1991); Jan-Feb in Central Asia (Allayarov 1964). Births reported in early May in Armenia (M. Akhverdian in litt. 1993)

    Estrus (C): five days (Schauenberg 1979)

    Gestation (C): 63-68 days (Green 1991)

    Litter Size (C): 2.89 (n=82); range 1-6

    Interbirth Interval (C): 93-131 days (Schauenberg 1979)

    Age at Sexual Maturity (C): 11 months (Schauenberg 1979) -- 18 months (Petzsch 1968)

    Longevity (C): up to 14 years (Green 1991)

    Habitat and Distribution
    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. It is able to satisfy these requirements in a variety of habitats across a wide geographic area (Figure 16). In sandy and stony desert country (sometimes with only very sparse shrub cover: Roberts 1977), it occurs along riverbeds or near oases (Heptner and Sludskii 1972, Osborn and Helmy 1980, Harrison and Bates 1991, Belousova 1993, E. Matjuschkin in litt. 1993). In South-East Asia, it is typically found in tropical deciduous forest (Lekagul and McNeely 1977, Feng et al. 1986, Rabinowitz and Walker 1990, A. Johnsingh in litt. 1991), although it has also been reported from evergreen forest in central Vietnam (Trinh 1991), probably in association with forest clearance. It does not occur south of the Isthmus of Kra. It is also found in shrub and grassland. It has been recorded up to 2,400 m in the Himalayas (Guggisberg 1975), and up to 1,000 m in the Caucasus mountains between the Black and Caspian seas (Vereshchagin 1959). It was reported from the south-eastern mountains of Algeria in the 1930s (3,000 km from the Nile River Delta in Egypt, the only place it is known to occur in Africa), but the skin, purchased in a market, was later identified by Pocock (1951) as an African wildcat (Kowalski and Rzebik-Kowalska 1991).

    Jungle cats have adapted well to irrigated cultivation, having been observed in many different types of agricultural and forest plantations throughout their range, with sugarcane frequently mentioned in Tropical Asia (Tikader 1983, Khan and Beg 1986, U. Karanth in litt. 1991, 1993). In Israel, they are commonly found around pisciculture ponds and irrigation ditches (Mendelssohn 1989). Vereshchagin (1959) noted that the cats’ use of the semi-arid plains of Azerbaijan increased with development of a local irrigation system and decreased with its abandonment. However, mowing the seasonally flooded riverine tugai vegetation (trees and shrubs with dense stands of tall reeds and grasses) of this region for livestock fodder, as well as plowing it under for agriculture, is known to be associated with the decline of jungle cat populations in some parts of Central Asia (Amudarya, Dagestan, Kalmykia, Karakalpakiya, Khorezm Oasis, northern Osetia and Syrdarya: Heptner and Sludskii 1972, Nuratdinov and Reimov 1972, Esipov 1983, Korneev and Spasskaya 1983, Kuryatnikov 1983, Belousova 1993).

    Jungle cats are often spotted amidst human settlement (and are frequently reported to take chickens). Pocock (1939a) reported that jungle cats in Kashmir occupied “nearly every old building about Srinagar”, and recently, in southern India, a breeding pair was found occupying an old building in an urban area, near coconut palm plantations (U. Karanth in litt. 1991).

    Population Status
    Global: Category 5b
    Regional (Tropical Asia): Category 4
    Regional (N Africa & SW Asia): Category 5a
    IUCN: Not Listed

    The species is widely considered common, and is probably uncommon only in countries at the edge of its range, such as China (Tan 1984, Wang and Wang 1986, Gao et al. 1987). In Sri Lanka as well, Phillips (1935) described the jungle cat as uncommon, and confined to the dry, open country of the north.

    Density estimates from natural tugai habitat in Central Asia range from 4-15 individuals per 10 km2 (Belousova 1993), but where this vegetation type has declined due to development density does not exceed two cats per 10 km2 (Nuratdinov and Reimov 1972).

    Protection Status
    Protection Status: CITES Appendix II

    National Legislation:
    Protected over part of its range

    Hunting Prohibited:
    Bangladesh, China, India, Israel, Myanmar, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey

    No Legal Protection Outside Protected Areas:
    Bhutan, Georgia, Laos, Lebanon, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam

    No Information:
    Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan (IUCN Environmental Law Centre 1986, Nichols et al. 1991; A. Bukhnicashvili, U. Ohn, R. Salter, S. Umar in litt. 1993)

    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 (Allayarov 1964, Belousova 1993).

    © 1996 IUCN - The World Conservation Union