Around eight weeks ago, two rare, tiny kittens were born at the Porfell Wildlife Park and Sanctuary, Cornwall in the UK. Described as being the size of mice when they were born, the pair are the first litter of the Rusty-spotted wild cat born at the sanctuary.
Smaller than domestic cats, the body of a fully grown adult Rusty-spotted cat (prionailurus rubiginosus) measures around 13-19 inches (33-48cm) in length with a tail of between 5-12 inches (15-30cm) long. Native to the forests of Southern India, Sri Lanka and occasionally spotted in Nepal, this is yet another wild species under threat due to human encroachment and loss of habitat and are listed as ‘Near Threatened’ on the IUCN Red List.
These tiny nocturnal felines avoid predators by hiding in trees and caves until dark but often emerge for brief excursions during the day and their faded, spotted, leopard look-alike coats provide perfect camouflage in the dappled forest light. While small mammals such as rodents, and birds are their preferred meal, they also enjoy snacking on frogs, lizards and smaller insects.
Although the reproductive behavior of Rusty-spotted cats has only been observed in captivity, it is very close to that of domestic cats and breeding is seasonal in captivity, with a litter of one to three kittens born after a gestation period of about 67 days. In captivity, they have a life span of approximately 12 years.
Porfell Wildlife Park and Sanctuary is part of an ongoing conservation program with the Rusty Spotted Cat Conservation Breeding Programme. Sharing photos of the adorable cubs and their mum they wrote:
“As most of you know, we are a sanctuary for unwanted/surplus animals and do not actively take part in breeding. However, we had an enclosure spare last summer and were given the opportunity to take on a pair of rusty-spotted cats. To our knowledge they are two of only around 40 in captivity across the world, so we were excited about the opportunity.
“We’ve been waiting for the right moment to reveal that they have had two cubs! They are now coming up for 8 weeks and starting to explore their surroundings with mum. She has done a fabulous job at raising them and continues to be very protective of them, so we are unsure of their gender.
“We are over the moon with the new babies as the majority of our animals are old and here for retirement. As we are well into the 6th week of lockdown we wanted to share some positive news with you all! Thank you for your ongoing support, we hope you can all visit us and the cubs soon.”
The sanctuary also shared a link to a GoFundMe to help care for the cats and other animals in its care, which you can donate to here.
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