What’s New, Pussycat?

[Our theme for this month’s posts will be on wildlife in Mongolia.]

Photo by Radovan Zierik on Pexels.com

One of the more unique wildcats in the world lives in Mongolia: Pallas’s Cat, or the Manul. The Manul is a small wildcat about the size of a domestic housecat, and it lives from Siberia, throughout Mongolia, into parts of China, across the Himalayas, through Central Asia, and as far west as Iran. That said, most of these cats live in Siberia and Mongolia–likely because they are the least populated areas (by humans) than the rest of their range.

The Manul is built for harsh climates. Its fur is the thickest of all felines with an especially dense undercoat, which makes sense if you make your home in Siberia, Mongolia, and the Himalayas. They are fairly solitary creatures, leading to a low reproduction rate (I believe even lower than pandas’). Their kittens are totes adorbs though. I mean, look at them!

If you take a closer look at these cats, you’ll notice that unlike other small cats, their pupils are round rather than vertical slits. Other cats with round pupils are lions and tigers–large predators. One of the reasons for the round pupils on the Manul is to accommodate its wide ranging hunting terrain–snow, steppes, rocky terrain, winter deserts, etc. (Manul eat rodents primarily, such as pika, mice, and smaller marmots.) Another reason for the round pupils is to give the cat a better view of its own predators, such as eagles.

The Manul faces a few issues that have led to it being endangered, some of which I’ve already mentioned above (loners, small window for reproduction). It has been hunted for its fur and for use in traditional medicine, its habitat overlaps with the grazing lands for domesticated herds, and some of their prey has been eradicated (various reasons). Fortunately, there are conservation efforts in both Mongolia and Russia to counteract these different impacts on the Manul’s life so we can have fluffy chonky bois in the future.

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