A wild inhabitant of the steppes and foothills, a ruthless predator with a charming muzzle and the most furry fur, a Pallas’s cat, also called the manul, whom everyone wants to stroke, but, fortunately, it rarely happens.
According to scientists, Pallas’s cat as a separate species appeared on the planet about 12-10 million years ago. His ancestor, as, indeed, the ancestor of all domestic cats was a dinict – a Pallas’s cat with thick long hair, a short tail and powerful paws. From the dictum, the cats were divided into large and small cats, and the manul remained in a transitional stage – he did not learn to growl like big cats, but he did not become an ordinary wild cat, retaining a round pupil, such as lions. Manul is a separate, one can say, relict type of cat.
For thousands of years he lived next to man, but was practically unknown to science, which was facilitated by the incredibly secretive lifestyle of the Pallas. Which, however, did not save him from hunters, for example, in Mongolia, the Pallas were actively exterminated for the sake of his fine coat. For the first time, the wild Pallas’s cat was scientifically described by the German naturalist Peter Pallas, who met him on the Caspian coast. Then the predatory mammal of the feline family received the Latin name “Otocolobus manul” – from the Greek oto – ear, kolobos – ugly, which seems completely unfair – the wide round ears of the manul, located low and shifted to the back, give it additional charm.
Three species of manul are known in the world:
- Otocolobus manul – the most common species that lives on the territory of Russia;
- Otocolobus manul ferruginea – distributed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, its skin is redder in color with noticeable reddish stripes;
- The species otocolobus manul nigripecta is also called the “Tibetan manul”, it lives in Tibet, in Kashmir and Nepal, its fur coat is more gray in color, and in winter it becomes silver.
Characteristics of the Pallas’s cat
Manul is a small animal 50-65 centimeters in length with a thick fluffy tail, the length of which reaches 30 centimeters. A wild cat has a well-formed heavy skeleton and strong muscles, as well as a predator. The head is small, strong, slightly flattened with well-developed jaws and “tanks” on the cheeks. Eyes are yellow with round pupils. The ears are round, wide, low set and thrown to the back of the head. Manula wool is the thickest among all cats, the length of hairs is up to 7 centimeters.
Such a fur coat allows the manuli to withstand 50-degree winter frosts. Manul is a sprinter, skillfully hiding, he catches prey with one jump and immediately deprives her of the opportunity to escape, which is facilitated by 30 strong teeth with fangs, which are three times longer than that of domestic cats, as well as powerful long claws rounded at the ends. This is the perfect machine for food and life in the harsh Asian foothills, mountains and steppes.
Pallas’s cat behavior
The charming appearance of the Pallas’s cat is very deceiving – it is a harsh, ruthless predator, living alone and not tolerating the presence of other competitors in its large territory. He leads mainly a nocturnal lifestyle, preferring to hide during the day in fox or badger burrows, which he chooses to live in, or in natural caves, and go hunting at night.
It is difficult to escape from rodents and birds from its powerful paws and jaws. The low-key coat color of fur helps him especially in hunting – it’s more convenient to hide, waiting for prey, and at the moment of danger you can not flee, but hide, merging with the surrounding nature. The art of disguise, by the way, in many ways does not allow scientists to actively observe the manuls in their natural habitat. Pallas’s cat enters into relations with females once a year, and mating rivalry among manul cats necessarily ends in bloody showdowns.
And the females of Pallas can compete with the males in severity. After 60 days, the females give birth to kittens, on average, from two to six blind and helpless babies.
Pallas’s cat grow up quite quickly: at 3-4 months they can already hunt on their own, and at 10 months they become adult predators and leave to live separately on their own territory.
“In no case is it possible to keep Pallas’s cat in apartments, houses or even special enclosures,” explains Russians experts, where for many years they have been protecting and studying the manul population in the Altai foothills. – First of all, because any person who buys a Pallas’s cat from his hands violates the criminal code of the Russian Federation. In our country, Pallas are protected by law as a rare, declining species, it is listed in the Red Book.
Capturing Pallas’s cat, taking them out of the wild for sale is a criminal offense. People who want to get a manula as a pet, encourage poaching, contribute to the destruction of the population of these rare cats.
Over time, realizing that not a cute cat appeared in the house, but a dangerous predator, some decide to release the Pallas’s cat back into captivity. But such animals can no longer live on their own, they are doomed to death. The only way to save them is to give them to the zoo, where the probability that the manul will survive is much greater, but everything is not 100 percent early.
“Unfortunately, today too few scientists are studying the life of Pallas’s cat in the wild, so there is no comprehensive data on their numbers in Russia,” says Dmitry MALIKOV, deputy director for science of the Saylyugemsky Altai National Park. –
Pallas’s cat is very difficult to track, they live in inaccessible territories, so the information is approximate, for example, several years ago we had data that 400 manulov remained in the Altai Republic.
Health and Disease
“Among cat felts, it has the weakest immunity,” says Dmitry Malikov, deputy director for science of the Saylyugemsky Altai National Park. – This animal lives in a very cold climate, where most bacteria simply do not survive, so historically they did not need to develop good immunity. Because of this, Pallas’s cat is very difficult to keep even in zoos – they often die, like their offspring, and there can be no talk of home living – without constant veterinary supervision, animals will die very quickly.