Sunday 25 March 2012

More Than You Ever Needed To Know About Feliformia, Part 1 - Felines

You're all probably really sick of hearing about the zoo. Don't worry, this one isn't just about the zoo. I went the other week (although with the time it took to write this post it was nearly five weeks ago) with my sister, mum, and baby nephew Rudy. Rudy is 8 months old, and very cute. He didn't cry once, and was more interested in the trees and the wind than the animals - but oh well, we had fun.

I didn't take too many photos, but one of the snow leopards was asleep on its back, so I took some of that. My arms are kind of short due to the fact I am tinycat so it's hard to take decent photos. I also tried to get lemur photos but they were all sitting in the sun so they were just patches of glare.

If you click on the photos, you can see some pretty good detail on the dear cat.

Anyway, this isn't really a post on the zoo. It's a post about cats. Not another cat fact sheet - this is a post about all the endangered cat species in the world - and there are lots. I live well within the knowledge that nearly no one will read this post, but it burned nearly six hours of time up.

If you know all this definition crap, I have helpfully put a header on the main point of the post.

Here is the Wiki definition of Feliformia, links intact so you can click through for learnings.

"The Feliformia ("cat-like" carnivorans, also Feloidea) are a suborder within the order Carnivora and includes cats (large and small), hyenas, mongooses, civets and related taxa. The other suborder of Carnivora is Caniformia ("dog-like" carnivorans)."
With beautiful, beautiful encyclopedic defitions out of the way, I am of course going to talk about feliformia. Caniformia can wait for another day. As the definition states, it is a large suborder within Carnivora. (Fun fact: The southern elephant seal is the biggest member of Carnivora. Yes, even bigger than polar bears. Here is their wiki. Note the sexual dysmorphia between the bull and cow. Poor ladies, I know that feel.) I will be making a series of posts on feliformia.

More specifically than just feliforms for the next few posts, however, I will be talking about felidae - both big, and small, cats. Can we break for a kitty picture? Yes? Yes we...? Yes we can. Okay. Break for a kitty picture.

This has been: a kitty picture.
saws: wikipedia Carnviora page
 After such a fuzzy interlude, I will break down felidae for you as I have in the past, and hopefully make you just as annoyed as I am when people refer to tigers as "felines."

European Wildcat, saws: wikipedia.
Felis Silvestris. Not endangered, but
very cute.
Felidae can be broken into two parts: felinae and pantherinae. Felinae are the "small cats" - domestic cats, servals, caracals, and interestingly enough, cheetas. Cheetas are not big cats. Who knew, right? And pantherinae are the "big cats" - leopards, tigers, lions, snow leopards (usually thought of as the "big attraction" animals for zoos).

What is interesting, however, is the fact that while most species of cats are considered solitary, there are so many exceptions to this that it always seemed a little strange to rule them so strictly. While you get some dogs that don't like other dogs, and some cats that don't like other cats, they are social animals - but while many cats, big and small, are thought of as "solitary", the overwhelming number of "but some individuals have been observed" should change the classification to "semi-social". But that is my opinion, not a university student or anything.

This post will be covering endangered felidae and the threats facing feral and stray domestic cats.

The Main Article

Of the feline family, the small cats, there are 34 distinct species (according to my sawses, I could be wrong however, and have miscounted. Regardless, there are 41 known felids, including pantherinae). They range from small (the sand cat) to the large (the cheetah, and puma). Most people have never heard of most of these species before, and little to no conservation effort is being made in the public arena outside of specialist groups. So let's start with the most endangered feline. 

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED - best website ever?
Iberian Lynx

The most critically endangered cat, native to Southern Europe and the Iberian Peninsula. Like other lynx, they have tall ears ending with fur tufts. They have leopardlike spots and a short tail, no longer than a foot long (which is short, on a feline that is over a metre long). Males average 12.9kg, with a maximum of nearly 25kg, whereas the females average around 9kg. They are vulnerable to myxomatosis, which it may catch from its main prey of rabbits. Threats to this species include habitat loss, poisoning, road kills, and poaching, however much of its decline in the last decade is caused by myxomatosis.

Iriomote Cat
The Iriomote Cat is consideered to be the second most endangered cat species on the planet. It lives only on the Japanese island of Iriomote and is a subspecies of of the leopard cat. Less 250 of these precious cats remain. They have protection status in Japan, and are considered a national treasure.

They have a short, low body suited to a foraging predator. Its fur is dark to medium brown. It is a small cat, about the size of a domesticated feline. Its tail is relatively short. Its diet consists of small mammals, birds and reptiles. Its main threat is human industrialisation.

 The Bay Cat

A wild cat endemic to Borneo. The bay cat is very rare, very shy and very secretive. Wikipedia notes that a trap camera study from 2003 to 2006, with a total of 5, 034 combined camera hours, yeilded one photograph of the animal. Too few species have been studied for size and weight estimate, gathered information puts them at upwards of 40cm long with a foot-or-so-long tail. They were once thought to be a kitten of the Asian Golden Cat. Their tail is reddish with a white stripe down the underside like a stoat or marten. Its main threats are encroaching humans, deforestation and palm oil harvesting.

Flat-Headed Cat

Another cat from Borneo, although this one reaches Malaysia, Thailand and Sumatra. Occasionally resembling a possum or prosimian (lesser ape), they are distiguishable by their depressed skull stucture which causes a lateral distending of the muzzle, and lending to its possumlike appearance. It has reddish, roan and brown fur, with proportionally large canine teeth, nearly as long as a cat twice its size. It is 40-50cm long with a short tail of about 14cm. They will wash objects in water, similar to raccoons, and seem to eat mainly fish (either live, which they will take at least two metres from the water before eating, or dead), frogs and rats. Their main threats are deforestation, palm oil harvesting and poison. They are also under threat from poisoning and trapping by humans and overhunting and fishing of their natural diets.

Andean Mountain Cat

Fewer than 2500 individuals are thought to exist. They are small felines, growing no larger than 64cm with a tail length of 48cm and has thick fur, making it appear larger than it is. They are more or less the small version of the snow leopard, prefering the cold climates of the Andes. Their isolated habitat makes it difficult to study, and as such Andean Mountain Cats are one of the least known and rarest of all of the small cats. They prey largely on southern viscachas (a member of the chinchilla family), but it was thought the chinchilla was a large part of its diet before they were hunted for fur. They look, behave and prey on the same species as their more common cousin, the Pampas cat. Prior to 1998, this cat was known only by two photographs. Habitat loss and degradation and human encroachment make up most of the threats to the species.

The Fishing Cat

Taronga Zoo's fishing cat. saws: wikipedia
This is one I have personally seen, only metres from me at the Melbourne Zoo. It is a medium sized cat, native to South and South East Asia. As its name suggests, its main prey is fish. They are fantastic swimmers, even able to swim underwater for long distances. They live mostly in wetlands and mangroves, the destruction of which has lead to the rapid decline of the species. They are around 70cm long with a tail up to 30cm long. There have been individuals exceeding a metre in body length, with tails up to 60cm long, or more. Conservation efforts are being made by zoos worldwide - every captive fishing cat in the world is in the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums International Studbook. Habitat destruction and human fishing is the main cause of endangerment of the species.


Chinese Mountain Cat

Also known as the Chinese Desert Cat, it is a small wildcat from...China, believe it or not. It resembles the European Wildcat, except for its fur colour, which is a sandish grey colour. Its ears and tail are tipped with black, with some dark rings present on the tail and back legs. It also has horizontal lines on its face, more visible in some individuals than others. They range from 69-84cm long, with a tail between 29-41cm. Their main diet consist of pikas, rodents and birds. Their decline is caused by the poisoning of pikas, their main food source, which either poisons the cats or causes withdrawral of their food.

Black-Footed Cat

Native to south west Africa, the Black-Footed cat is the smallest of the african cats, and one of the smallest overall. It is an arid cat, and lesser studied than other African species. Its name comes from the pads of its feet, the fur around which is black. Males of the species will weigh less than 3kg at most, and measure at most 43.3cm with a tail of nearly 20cm. Females' average weight is 1.65kg, and they measure up to 36.9cm with a 14-17cm tail. It lives primarily around South-Western African countries, and live a strictly nocturnal and solitary life. They are highly unsocial and shy, but are very tenacious. According to an African legend, it could kill a giraffe by piercing its jugular, a myth emphasising the bravery of the animal. Hunting is banned, but along with human development and hatred of their natural prey, termites, it puts pressure on the population.

Despite appearences, no, this animal is not wearing Professor Trelawney's glasses, or the world's best mad scientist goggles. The Oncilla is a small rainforest cat from Central and South America, related to the Ocelot and the Margay. It has an ochre coat, with many rosettes, like its relatives. It is mostly nocturnal, although like a domestic cat its behaviour varies, and primarily terrestrial but has been noted as an adept climber. It grows between 38cm-59cm long, with a tail of up to 42cm. Although longer than the average domestic cat, it is generally lighter, weighing no more than four kilograms. It has been found at habitats above 4000m, higher than the margay and the ocelot. Typically, it is found from Costa Rica to Argentina. They live for about 11 years in the wild, but have been recorded as old as 17. Their litters have between one and three (but usually one) kittens. Their chief threats are from deforestation and poaching. 

Rusty-spotted Cat
The smallest member of the cat family, the rusty-spotted cat is found only in Sri Lanka and India. It never grows longer than 48cm, with a tail between 15-30cm. It can weigh as little as 0.9kg, and only as much as 1.6kg. Its fur is short, since its prefered habitat is heavy vegetation and rocky areas. The fur is mostly grey with rusty spots on its hindquarters. The underbelly has black spots on a mainly white surface, not unlike a domestic tabby. It has a thick, darker and around half the length of the body. Its spots are not as noticeable. Its facial markings are also very tabby-like.

There are two subspecies: one in India, one in Sri Lanka. While originally thought to only inhabit the south of India, studies show they are found all through the country. At birth, its kittens (usually one or two) have rows of black spots, and no more than 77g.  The threats facing this unique animal are the spreading cultivation and industrialisation of both of the countries, mainly due to western influence and unstable economic growth. Anecdotal evidence shows they make very affectionate pets. The Animal Diversity website says this about the species: "When taken captive, the rusty-spotted cat is a very affectionate, playful, and expressive cat, that longs for the company and attention of its owner."

Marbled Cat
The last cat on our list is a small cat from Asia and South-East Asia. It is closely related to both the Bay Cat and the Asian Golden Cat. Similarly sized to the domestic cat, it has a tail with thick fur, which may be longer than the body. It does not weigh more than 5kg, as it spends most of its life in trees. With banded, blotchy fur like marble, it is similar in appearance to clouded leopards. It has spots on its legs, head and underside, with dark bands on its long tail. It measures between 45cm and 62cm, with a tail as long as 55cm. - I thought this was a lovely photo!
Along with its long tail, it is distinguishable by its unusually large feet, suited to its life in trees, and it shares this with the Clouded Leopard (and in my experience, the snow leopard, which has the most disproportional feet I've ever seen!). Wikipedia also nots the following: "It also possesses unusually large canine teeth, resembling those of the big cats, although these appear to be the result of parallel evolution." They are found in tropical forests of the Indomalaya region, and westward as far as Nepal, as well as China, Borneo and Sumatra. The first radio-tracked marble cat had a range of 5.8 square kilometres, at an elevation between 1000m and 1500m. They have two kittens per litter, and weigh up to 85g at birth. Eyes open at twelve days, and solid food is taken at two months, which Wikipedia indicates is the same time they "begin actively climbing". Its forest home has been shrinking, and while they have always been rarely sighted, they are in danger of extinction as less than 10 000 mature individuals are thought to exist.

Feral Cats and How You Can Help.

Feral cats are domestic cats that have reverted to a wild state, or born in such conditions. They are distinct from stray cats in that strays show little to no agression towards humans, and can easily be caught and rehomed with humans. There are also semi-feral cats, such as farm cats. Feral cats have little to no positive interactions with humans, and reguard them with fear, suspicion or aggression. Every year, hundreds of thousands of feral cats are killed by humans, whether accidentally, or on purpose. They are likely to die very young, from fighting, disease, poison and over-breeding.

Feral cats pose a danger to wildlife, and here in Australia are often poisoned as a nuisance and as pests, and animal abuse with cats in rural towns is considered "boys will be boys", and no one is punished for the heinous torture of cats and kittens. Studies show, however, that the most effective way of controlling populations is the "trap-neuter-release" method, where ferals are trapped, sterilised, an ear tipped to mark their sterilisation and are released back into their environments. More information on the lives of feral cats can be found here.

Helping feral cats, and wild cats around the world, is easy. Donate your money, or better yet, your time to organisations that help stray and feral cats. Organisations like the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida dedicate themselves to helping wildcats and big cats in private zoos.

More ways to help feral cats are to try and give time to cat shelters, and foster cats and kittens until they can be adopted. Spreading awareness of the plight of cats, domestic and wild, worldwide will help save millions of individuals. To help protect wildcats, check your food and toilet paper ingredients. Say no to palm oil and instable foresting for toilet and print paper. It is as easy as being an aware consumer.

Keep an eye out in your neighbourhood. Try to document any stray cats you see or hear about. We feed our resident stray female, so as to try and keep her healthy until we can catch her, and a poll to give her a name will be over there! -> Call rescue organisations and get help to save these cats, both wild and domesticated.

If you enjoyed this post, please comment and tell me if you want them to continue.

Much love.


Monday 19 March 2012

Really Quick Exciting News Post

I know, I know, I haven't been posting lately and I am bad. But I am also boring! I'm working on it, I promise. ANYWAY if you're in the facebook group you already know and this is a redundancy, but if you're one of the other, oh, nearly 170 people, this is news to you. Shaun and I are getting maaaarried.

Not any time soon though. But we're engaged.

/end the most interesting post all year!

PS: Yes, you may start your planning of the gothy wedding.

Thursday 15 March 2012


So apparently after all the work you guys did clicking on ads for me, Google has insisted that I was scamming them somehow.

I've sent an appeal, but will probably be ignored. In any case, THANK YOU anyway. You tried something to help me, and I really, really appreciate that. Thank you all so much who tried to help us feed the cats, but we should be okay in the end. My gratitude for this community will always remind me that there are good people out there.

Thanks again guys.

I've been lax posting lately but I have a big encyclopedic post about cats on its way. And I mean encyclopedic. I've basically attempted to write a wiki page here.

Your support means more to me than anything.

Much love, always.


Saturday 10 March 2012

Well Shit

Two people, or one who saw things they've liked, have clicked ads on my blog. Some of you are probably wondering why I have them now.

Yes, they're annoying. I'm sorry. I know. But we're in a tight spot here. Shaun lost his job yesterday and that was barely making ends meet. We've got until April 25th to come up with another four hundred dollars.

The money from Adsense will go to nothing but food and toys for the cats. They are my biggest concern.

I can't ask any more of you guys. Please click ads, so I can keep feeding and looking after my cats.


Saturday 3 March 2012

Totally Necessary Purchases

So yesterday my mum took me shopping at the Queen Victoria Markets. We were there to buy food and kitchenware for my house. Spent about $300 on kitchenware, including an eight set of pots and pans, a baking dish for lasagne, some wooden spoons, salad bowl, mixing bowls and a knife set. Everything came in boxes so there is lots for the cats to play with!

My best purchase was this, however - a totally, completely necessary one - was this: an espresso set.

It was $10. Thanks mum!


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