The Pallas’s cat, also known as manul, is a small wild cat, perfectly adapted to the harsh conditions typical of its habitat. Naturally secretive, it is rarely seen and little known.
- Short legs and dense fur for stocky appearance and insulation
- Coat colouration and flat ears set on the sides for supreme camouflage
- Characteristic black spots on the forehead
- Round pupils, unlike in most small cats
DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT
Wide but fragmented distribution throughout montane grasslands and steppes of Central Asia.
- Eastern Mongolia to western Iran
- Core populations in Mongolia and China
- Range encompasses 16 countries
- Distribution becomes progressively scattered and isolated further west
BEHAVIOUR AND ECOLOGY
Habitat and diet specialist, highly dependent on rocky areas and pikas (small hare-like animals).
- Uses refuges or dens for feeding, raising young, cover from predators and thermoregulation
- Most active during dawn and dusk
- Large home range for its small size
- Can give birth to up to 8 kittens
- Lives up to 6 years in the wild
THREATS AND PRESSURES
The Pallas’s cat is unlikely to go globally extinct in the near future. However:
- Many populations are small, isolated and declining
- Species at risk of localised and regional extinction
- Faces numerous threats- e.g. habitat degradation and fragmentation, dog predation, loss of prey, accidental capture
Specific habitat requirements and low densities = vulnerable to changes in land use
Dens and refuges critical for survival = threatened by declines in burrowing mammals
Highly reliant on pikas = sensitive to fluctuations in prey numbers
Wide-ranging behaviour = increased risk of human-induced mortality
Although little is known about Pallas’s cat vocalisations in the wild recent research in captivity (by a member of the PICA team) has found that they do become vocal during the breeding season. The research which remotely recorded all vocalisations found that they have a range of vocalisations from typical felid hisses and snarls to a more unusual call used in the breeding season. Used mainly at night these unique and elusive cats most likely use this call to attract other Pallas’s cats prior to mating.