The Smallest Wild Cat in Asia

Caitlin Dempsey


A small wild cat with rusty colored dots on its back and tabby forehead markings.

One of the world’s smallest cat, and the smallest wild cat in Asia, is the rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus). This wild cat’s size ranges from 14 to 19 inches (35 to 48 centimeters) long and weighs between 2.0 to 3.5 pounds (0.9 to 1.6 kilograms).

These small wild cats bear a resemblance to a tabby kitten with short reddish grey fur and the “M” tabby cat markings on the forehead.

As their name suggests, their fur is dotted with rust-colored spots. Their larger eyes relative to their body size set them apart from the typical domestic cat.

A small wild cat with rusty colored dots on its back and tabby forehead markings.
Rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus). Photo: © jonnysek\

Where is the Rusty-Spotted Cat Found?

The rusty-spotted cat is native to many regions in India (Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jammu-Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa). The rusty-spotted cat also has habitat in Sri Lanka and there have been a few sightings parts of Nepal that border India.

There are three subspecies of the rusty-spotted cat:

  • P.r.rubiginosus (Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1831) – India and Nepal
  • P.r.phillipsi (Pocock, 1939) – Sri Lanka
  • P.r.koladivius (Deraniyagala, 1956) – Sri Lanka

Rusty-Spotted Cat Habitat

Not a lot is known about this tiny predator.

The rusty-spotted cat inhabits areas with dense vegetation and rocky areas. The cat is found in deciduous forest, grassland, and scrub vegetation. There is some evidence of rusty-spotted cats living among dense housing in India where they hunt mice and rats.

The rusty-spotted cat is solitary and hunts on the ground for rodents, birds, lizards, frogs, and insects. The cat is nocturnal, with most records of sightings captured between dusk and dawn.

The eyesight of a rusty-spotted cat is about six times sharper than that of a human. These wild cats hunt by ambush or by leaping on to their prey from trees.

How Many Rusty-Spotted Cats are There?

It’s unknown how many individuals of rusty-spotted cat there are in the world. Habitat destruction is the biggest threat to this small wild cat’s existence.


Lamichhane, B.R.; Kadariya, R.; Subedi, N.; Dhakal, B.K.; Dhakal, M.; Thapa, K.; Acharya, K.P. (2016). Rusty-spotted Cat: 12th cat species discovered in Western Terai of Nepal. Cat News64, 30-36.

Vyas, R., Shukla, A., & Vaghashiya, P. (2018). Rusty-Spotted Cat: Distribution account of Prionailurus rubiginosus (Carnivora: Felidae) with comments on unusual irregularity observed in Gujarat, India. Small Mammal Mail# 419. Zoo’s Print, 33(7), 10-18.


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Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey holds both a master's in Geography from UCLA and a Master of Library and Information Science. She is the editor of and an avid researcher of geography and feline topics. A lifelong cat owner, Caitlin currently has three rescued cats: an orange tabby, a gray tabby, and a black cat.