The rusty-spotted cat, also known as the 'hummingbird of the cat family', is one of the smallest wild cat species in the world. With its diminutive size and striking appearance, this feline is a fascinating creature to learn about. The rusty-spotted cat weighs only 2-3 pounds and has a body length of 14-19 inches. Despite its small size, this wild cat is a skilled hunter and can take down prey much more significantly than itself. In this blog, we'll explore the rusty-spotted cat's unique characteristics and behaviors and explore why it is considered one of the most impressive small cats in the animal kingdom.

Key Facts:

  • HB Length: 35-48 cm (13-19′′)
  • Tail Length: 15-30 cm (5.9-11′′)
  • Height: approx. 20 cm (8′′)
  • Weight: 1-1.6 kg (2.2-3.5 lbs)
  • Pop. Trend: Decreasing
Rusty-spottted cat Animal

What is the smallest wild cat?

The smallest wild cat is the Rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus), which is native to India and Sri Lanka. These cats are only about 14 to 19 inches (35 to 48 cm) in length and weigh only about 2 to 3.5 pounds (0.8 to 1.6 kg). They have a small, slender build and are about the size of a domestic kitten. Despite their small size, Rusty-spotted cats are fierce predators and are known to hunt prey much larger than themselves.

When it comes to wild cats, much attention is focused on nature's largest and most fearsome predators, such as the lion or tiger. The rusty-spotted cat, one of the world's smallest cat species, is at the polar opposite end of the feline spectrum.

The rusty-spotted cat seems and sounds like a kitten based only on its size. A fully-grown male is small enough to fit inside the palm of your hand and weighs only 2–3.5 pounds on average; yet, don't be fooled by its diminutive size; the rusty-spotted cat is a capable little beast.

The rusty-spotted cat's eyes are up to six times more sensitive to movement than a human's, allowing it to detect potential danger or prey. The feline also has empathetic hearing that can help the eyes examine an area.


The rusty-spotted cat has short reddish grey fur covering most of its body, with rusty spots on the back and flanks. Four blackish lines run over the eyes, two extending down the neck. Six dark streaks run across the cheekbones and forehead on each side of the head. It has a pale chin, throat, inner side of the limbs, and abdomen with tiny brownish dots. On the chest is a rusted band. Its paws and tail are a consistent reddish-grey colour. The irises of the reasonably large eyes range in colour from greyish brown to amber. Short, rounded ears have light-coloured basal ear patches and a rufous grey back. Their feet have black soles, and their legs are reasonably short. The tail is unmarked, has the proper length, and is more reddish than the body.


Deforestation and farming have been the most critical threats to the Rusty-spotted cat in Sri Lanka and India, resulting in large-scale habitat loss. The skin of the cat is still traded. In some locations, rusty-spotted cats are hunted for food and frequently killed because they prey on domestic livestock, particularly chickens. 

Rusty-spotted cats are considered rare practically everywhere they are found, according to the IUCN Red List. The rusty-spotted cat's entire population is less than 10,000 mature individuals. Owning a rusty-spotted cat as a pet is legal in some places, but this small cat breed is rare and isn’t found in many homes as pets. Overall, the population of this species is declining, and it is listed as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List.

Diet and Nutrition

Rusty-spotted cats consume birds and small mammals, as well as domestic ducks and poultry, and locals tell that these secretive cats appear after heavy rains to prey on the frogs and rodents that surface.


Southern India and Sri Lanka are the distribution hubs for the rusty-spotted cat. The cat can be found throughout its range on rocky terrain, hill slopes, tropical thorn forests, moist and dry deciduous forests, scrub forests, grasslands, and arid shrublands.

The tropical, arid Gir Forest in northern India is where their existence has been proven. They can be found in Sri Lanka between sea level and 2,100 metres.


Rusty-spotted Cats' reproductive behaviour has been examined in captivity and is nearly identical to that of the domestic cat. Mating lasts one to five minutes and can be done several times daily. Most cats are oestrous for around three days, possibly more if the female is unmated. Captive breeding is seasonal, but two wild litters of kittens were discovered in February.

Cat Wildlife

After a 67-day gestation period, a litter of one to three kittens is born in a secluded den. A newborn baby weighs less than an egg. The kittens lack the rusty markings of the adults and have pale blue irises. Nothing is known about their development. It will probably resemble that of domestic kittens, though. The lifespan of rusty-spotted cats is unknown in the wild, despite their twelve-year confinement.

Ecology and Behaviour

The rusty-spotted cat is only active at night. During the day, it can be found in a hollow log, tree, or thicket in small woodlands of heavy timber or deep scrub jungles. The rusty-spotted cat is very energetic, elegant, and a good climber. It is frequently sighted in trees and has been observed pursuing prey by leaping from tree branches. However, it most likely hunts on the ground. When threatened, the rusty-spotted cat retreats into the trees or seeks refuge in spaces between large boulders or stones. In some areas of its distribution, the rusty-spotted cat appears to live in caves.

What is the smallest predator cat? 

Rusty-spotted cats are fierce predators and are known to hunt prey that is much bigger than themselves despite their small size. They prey on a range of small animals, including rodents, birds, and small reptiles, and are busy nighttime hunters. They pursue their target while stalking, pouncing, and pouncing. They can hunt in a variety of habitats, such as grasslands, forests, and agricultural regions, because of their small stature.

Rusty-spotted cats are lonely creatures that spend the majority of the day sleeping. They are fiercely protective of their territory and interact with other cats nearby using vocalizations and scent marking. These cats are also renowned for their speed and agility, which helps them avoid predators like snakes, bigger cats, and raptors.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has the Rusty-spotted cat on its list of "Near Threatened" species. (IUCN). The main threats to this species are habitat loss, wildlife trade poaching, and human persecution because of imagined livestock threats. The last remaining populations of Rusty-spotted cats and their habitats are being protected through conservation initiatives.

What small wild cat looks like a kitten?

Meet the Sand Cat: a small wild feline native to desert areas in North Africa, Arabia, Central Asia, and Pakistan. Sand cats are curious creatures, as they more closely resemble domestic house cats than they do other wild cats. In fact, sand cats don't seem to age notably at all in comparison to their offspring, giving them the appearance of lifelong kittens. It isn't simply a case of zoological Benjamin Buttons, however.

Leave me a comment

Thank you for reading my post, if you want to leave a comment, you can do so below.