Rusty Spotted Cat, world’s smallest and rare cat, seen in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district

Palanpur: The world’s smallest and rare cat has been seen in Jessore forest area of Banaskantha district in Gujarat. This cat weighs only up to 1.5 kg. It is known by the name Rusty Spotted Cat.

Deputy Conservator of Forest Ganga Charan Singh said this species of cat is on the brink of extinction. Over the last fifteen years, the wildlife experts and state forest department has recorded only 11 sightings of rusty-spotted cats in central and southern Gujarat State. Of these, seven sightings were within protected areas, three from reserve forests and one from open scrublands combined with agricultural fields.

Singh said this habitat is composed of hilly terrain with dry deciduous forests, scrublands, large boulders and agricultural fields, with a moderate human expansion. The most important habitat and forest blocks for the species in Gujarat are the reserve forests which act as corridors between the Jambughoda Wildlife Sanctuary and the Ratanmahal Wildlife Sanctuary.

The rusty-spotted cat is the smallest wild cat in Asia and rivals the black-footed cat as the world’s smallest wild cat. It is 35 to 48 cm in length, with a 15 to 30 cm tail.

The short fur is grey over most of the body, with rusty spots over the back and flanks, while the underbelly is white with large dark spots. The darker colored tail is thick and about half the length of the body and the spots are less distinct.

They feed mainly on rodents and birds, but may also hunt lizards, frogs, and insects. They hunt primarily on the ground, making rapid, darting movements to catch their prey. They apparently venture into trees to escape larger predators.