Thursday 8 December 2011

Chinese Desert Cat

This is a mobile version of a larger article on the Chinese desert cat, which is little known. Only recently was it classified as a subspecies of the wildcat (Driscoll et al 2007 based in genetic analysis).

It has the appearance of the cats of the species Felis silvestris. It looks like a wildcat, that is the species of cat called, "wildcat". They also look somewhat like domestic cats. They should because the domestic cat is a domesticated wildcat (African and Eurasian).

  • Chinese mountain cat
  • Chinese desert cat
  • Chinese steppe cat
  • Scientific name: Felis silvestris bieti or Felis silvestris ssp. bieti. These are the same, just different ways of presenting the name. A scientist named, Milne-Edwards, first classified this species of cat in 1892. He classified it Felis bieti.

Chinese desert cat - photograph copyright Jim Sanderson.

The Chinese desert cat looks similar to a very large domestic cat that is wild in appearance and which has a ticked yellow-gray coat and a thick, fluffy banded tail with a black tip.

It has lighter undersides and brown stripes on the cheeks. The chin is white. The skull is broad.


This map gives an indication as to its distribution. It is a little imprecise because, as I said, little is known about this cat. The map is based on the IUCN Red List™ map.

It inhabits China (including Tibetan Plateau) and Mongolia. China includes Tibet. China has sovereignty over Tibet.


This cat's name is misleading as it lives in rocky terrain and not desert as we know it. But the habitat includes semi-desert and alpine meadows and montane forest. I have a picture: of the Tibetan Plateau:

Tibetan Plateau - Photograph copyright reurinkjan


Primary prey is the rock rabbit (pika). It also feeds on rodents generally, lizards and birds. Rodents make up 90% of prey.

Pika - Photograph copyright reurinkjan


Mating happens from January to March.  Births are usually in May. Burrows are used as birth dens. Litters: 2-4 offspring.


Listed as Vulnerable by IUCN Red List™ due to loss of prey the pika which is poisoned by locals. The Chinese desert cat is rare and populations are declining. It is also hunted for its skin.

See larger article.

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