When it comes to wild cats, it’s the big cats that get all the attention. No one is going to name their pro sports team the Detroit Fishing Cats or the Florida Margays (though bobcats might be an exception). But there are small wild cats with enough striking looks and personality to draw crowds. The Pallas cat, also known as a manul, is one of them.
You’ll find the Pallas cat in the steppes of central Asia, its range stretching across several countries, extending up into Russia and east into China. They’re about the size of a typical pet cat, weighing up to ten pounds, though their thick coats give them a more robust and rotund appearance. In fact, their coat is the longest and densest of any cat species, an adaptation for the cold winter environments of their home territories. Adding to their round shape are their unusually short legs and ears that are set especially low on their heads, emphasizing a face that is relatively flat. Though their Latin name, Octocolobus manul, actually means ‘ugly-eared’, they are anything but ugly. In fact, Pallas cats are particularly adorable given their quirky and distinctively round fluff-ball appearance. Even their owl-like eyes form small circles when their pupils contract—as human eyes do—as opposed to becoming slits like other cat species.
Despite their natural attention-getting charisma, it’s tough to spot a Pallas cat in its habitat for a few reasons. First, their largely solitary lifestyle and vast territories mean that tracking them is difficult. Also, there aren’t a whole lot of these cats left in the wild. Pallas cats are vulnerable to extinction due to habitat degradation and loss of prey. In the past, they were hunted for those luxurious coats that give them their distinctly adorable appearance, and numbers are still struggling to rebound.
This makes the camera trap footage captured by Small Cat Conservation Alliance even more valuable. They were recently given a grant to help them place camera traps, gaining information and the footage you’re about to see. Check it out to see how these unique animals move around their territory, and see even more of their charming faces.