The Pallas’ Cat Is the Ultimate Grumpy Cat Breed
Who could forget the famous “Grumpy Cat”? The cat had a distinct look that made his facial features appear as if he was very annoyed with the world — ultimately making him a pop culture sensation until he died in 2019.
However, the Pallas’ cat breed was the original Grumpy Cat. Just look at that face. It has that mean-spirited look about it with a flat face and large owl-like eyes that produce a nasty scowl. Maybe living in the brutal conditions of central Asia has something to do with it. Or maybe they just like being grumpy.
Whatever it is, we're here to teach you everything you need to know about the ultimate cranky feline.
Worst Attitude Among All Cats
True to its nature, Pallas' cats are known to have the worst attitude among all feline breeds. In fact, they live in solitary, and they seem content to stay that way. They would rather hang out in their dens than socialize with anyone else.
Keep in mind that Pallas' cats are pretty much the same size as a domesticated cat but with some significant differences like appearance and where they live.
Live in Central Asia at High Elevation
Let’s just say that where Pallas' cats hang out is not the most attractive spot on the planet. These cats live throughout Central Asia, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, along with central China, Mongolia and southern Russia. Pallas' cats aren’t big fans of the snow since they prefer drier conditions to rain and cold.
They like to lounge in the dens they create in small caves, rock cracks and under boulders. What’s remarkable is these cats can be seen up to a height of 15,000 feet.
They Are Not House Pets
So, wouldn’t it be cool to have a Pallas' cat as a pet, scurrying around your front room as curious as any cat out there? Well, you can forget that idea. Pallas' cats are not suited for domestic life.
In fact, if they are removed from their natural habitat of high elevation, their health could be in serious trouble. They have an immune system that allows them to thrive in high altitudes, and they can catch bacteria and viruses from lower elevations.
Thick Fur Like No Other
Pallas’ cats have the longest and densest fur of any cat on the planet. What makes this a bit unusual is that their fur is twice as long on their belly and tail as on their top and sides. We must assume that their fur helps them when they hunt on snow or frozen ground.
In addition, their fur turns color relative to what season it is. For instance, in the winter, their hair becomes grayer and more uniform in color, whereas in the summer, they have more stripes and ochre colors in their fur. This comes in handy when Pallas’ cats need to use this for camouflage.
They Are Considered Ambush Hunters
When it comes to hunting, Pallas' cats are shrewd creatures that are calculating when they stalk their prey. They tend to use short vegetation and rocky terrain for cover. Sometimes, they will wait at the entrance to burrows where they are able to pounce when their prey exits.
Also, Pallas' cats love to go after rodents and small birds, or they will even munch on an insect from time to time.
Pallas' Cats Are Threatened
Unfortunately, Pallas' cats have reached a point in which their population is decreasing, and there’s a good chance they will be extinct in the near future. For instance, Pallas' cats are hunted for their fur and are traded illegally in China. There are many other factors leading to such a decrease in population.
As a result, only an estimated 15,000 Pallas' cats remain in the wild. However, many conservation groups recognize the need to save Pallas' cats, and it’s better to take action now before it’s too late.
How Did It Get Its Name?
Back in 1776, German naturalist Peter Pallas first classified the cat as Felis manul, with the word manul having roots dating back to the Mongolian language. Its scientific name is Otocolobus, which comes from the Greek language. Translation: ugly-eared. Spot on!
However, Pallas’ initial assessment is not entirely true. Pallas thought he discovered the cat as an ancestor of the domestic Persian breed because of its long fur and flattened face, but he was wrong.
Pallas' Cats Are Not as They Appear
When you first take a gander at a Pallas' cat, it appears to be a pretty good size. Yet, that’s not the case. It’s one of those situations where a cat’s fur makes it appear larger than what it really is. Take a look at the Pallas' cat’s thick fur where it makes the cat look heavier with a stocky build.
In essence, the Pallas' cat is really no larger than a domestic cat. It measures about 26 inches in body length with an 8- to 12-inch tail, and it weighs around 10 pounds.
Pallas' Cats Have Unusual Ears
One of the distinctions between Pallas' cats and most domesticated cats is their ears. Some may consider a Pallas' cat's ears to be ugly, while others think they’re cute. In addition, the cats’ round ears sit flat on both sides of the head. You don’t see many cats with that feature.
Yet, these ears are vital for hunting and keeping out of sight from predators. Since a Pallas' cat ears sit flat, the cat has a better chance to conceal itself, and unlike other cats, the ears won’t perk up to reveal its position.
They Have Unusual Pupils
So, have you noticed that most house cats have pupils that run vertically with a slit shape? That’s not so with a Pallas' cat. Its eyes are like a lion, tiger or larger wildcat. Their pupils are round.
What’s interesting about this comes from a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2015 when they discovered that animals’ pupil shapes may indicate their role in the food chain. They analyzed 214 land animals and noted that species with vertical pupils tended to ambush predators, while species with round pupils opted to chase their prey.
What Is Their Diet?
Unfortunately for Pallas' cats, they tend to hunt for the same food as a number of their predators such as European badgers, eagles, wolves, red foxes and dogs. So, to combat that, Pallas' cats will move in short bursts before lying flat on the ground and then repeat the process until they’re in range to capture their prey.
For the most part, Pallas' cats will hunt during dusk or dawn, but sometimes, they hunt during the day. To avoid competition and an all-out food war, Pallas' cats have adapted to their environment, knowing when to strike and when to lay low.
Avoiding a Food Fight With Badgers
So what happens when Pallas' cats are essentially on the same food schedule as their rivals, the badgers? It depends. In winter, Pallas' cats and badgers will hibernate, so they avoid each other. But during the rest of the year, badgers love to eat insects like Pallas' cats.
Meanwhile, red and corsac foxes like the same rodents and birds that Pallas' cats enjoy. The foxes also like plant material with fruits and seeds. In this case, since Pallas' cats do not feed on plant material, they avoid a diet overlap.
How They Reproduce
Pallas' cats obviously have a breeding season, but that takes into account the rugged environments they live in. So, what happens is the male will mate with several females. The breeding season is not very long, lasting from December to March with a gestation period lasting around 75 days. Litter sizes usually go between two to six kittens, and they’re born between late March and May.
Yet, once the kittens are born, the fathers are done, and it’s up to the mother to raise them and teach them to hunt until they reach about five months. At that point, the kittens have reached their adult size, and they can go off to find prey. Once the males reach one year, they become sexually mature and will go on to find their own mates.
Pallas' Cats Prefer to Avoid Humans
If Pallas' cats had their way, they would never interact with humans. It’s simply not in their nature to cozy up with humans because they are used to living in solitary, and they are territorial. In fact, they are so territorial that both males and females scent marking territories of about 2 to 3 miles.
All Pallas' cats want to do is spend their days in caves, crevices and burrows made by other animals.
Related to the Leopard Cat
The Pallas' cat is a very old breed. Its nearest relative is the leopard cat, but the Pallas' cat separated from the leopard cat about 5.2 million years ago.
What is remarkable about this is the Pallas' cat hasn’t changed that much over thousands of years. Perhaps it’s the fact that Pallas' cats have the thickest fur among all cats, and they are capable of putting up a good fight, if necessary. So, the breed has been able to withstand some very difficult conditions over the years.
Pallas' Cats Don’t Like Each Other
Don’t be fooled by the exterior of a Pallas' cat; its thick fur makes it look like a cute little feline. But the reality is these cats can be downright aggressive — even with each other.
For instance, in a book called “The Wild Cat Book,” authors Fiona and Mel Sunquist recall a story told by Bill Swanson, the Cincinnati Zoo’s director of animal research. One day, zookeepers thought that a litter of newborn Pallas' cats were having difficulty breathing, but when they listened closely, the noise was the kittens growling and hissing at each other. And their eyes weren’t even open yet!
Typical Lifespan of a Pallas' Cat
Unfortunately, Pallas' cats do not have a very long lifespan. The average lifespan is around 27 months or just a little more than two years. The reasons are poor living conditions, and often, Pallas' cats are victims of being preyed upon.
However, when it comes to being in captivity, Pallas' cats can live up to nearly 12 years.
Why Are Their Numbers Dwindling?
Over the years, Pallas' cat numbers have been decreasing rapidly. Why is this happening? It’s mainly agricultural activities, such as mining and poisoning programs to diminish pika and marmot populations.
They are also killed in wolf and fox traps, and while it’s illegal, Pallas' cats are victims of hunters wanting their thick fur.
What Does a Pallas' Cat Sound Like?
Unlike domesticated cats that meow, purr or hiss, a Pallas' cat makes its own distinctive sounds. When he or she is angry, they produce a low tone growl followed by a collection of deep breaths with their mouth open to go with a penetrating stare.
When it comes to hissing, the Pallas' cat sounds like most cats, and they’ve been known to purr now and then.
Which Zoos Have Pallas' Cats?
There are a number of zoos that feature Pallas' cats. One is the Red River Zoo in Fargo, North Dakota, where freezing temperatures and snow are right down these cats’ alley. Other noteworthy zoos in the U.S. that house Pallas' cats include the Cincinnati Zoo; Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Michigan; and the Hogle Zoo in Utah.
In addition, zoos in Europe, Russia and Japan have been known to house Pallas' cats. Specifically, there are 102 Pallas' cats living in 40 zoos in Europe alone.
Pallas' Cats Have Their Own Day
Did you know there is such a thing as International Pallas' Cat Day? It began in 2019, and it’s celebrated on April 23.
People who are interested in Pallas' cats are encouraged to participate on the International Pallas' Cat Day Facebook page and to check out the site for any updates.
Pallas' Cats Are Bad Runners
Normally, cats tend to be fast runners. It gives them an edge as far as hunting goes. And if you have an indoor cat, you dare not let him or her loose because they are too fast to be caught.
The exact opposite can be said about Pallas' cats. Quite frankly, they are pretty slow. Now, it’s not like they are turtles. Pallas' cats do have short bursts, but then they lie on the ground. In fact, these cats have to get pretty close to their prey before they can capture them.
How They Conserve Body Heat
With such dense fur, you would think that a Pallas' cat would have no problem during those nasty winters in the high country of central Asia. When the winds from Siberia cross through the mountains of central Asia, it can get to -40 degrees Fahrenheit and even colder if you take the freezing winds into account.
So, one thing a Pallas' cat will do is stand on its tail to keep its paws warm. Since there’s no liking amongst each other, there is no way Pallas' cats will try to keep each other warm with that thick fur, so Pallas' cats have to improvise to stay warm in those brutal conditions.
Subspecies of Pallas' Cats
According to knowyourcat.info, there are three known subspecies of Pallas' cats:
- Otocolobus manul manul, which was originally described by Pallas in 1776, and it inhabits the northern part of the range.
- Otocolobus manul nigripecta, which was described by Brian Hodgson in 1842. This subspecies occupies the area of Tibet and Indian Kashmir.
- Otocolobus manul ferruginea, described by Sergey Ognev in 1928. These cats can be found mainly in the southwestern part of the range.