Marbled cats range from the Eastern Himalayas to Upper Burma and the Indochinese region. This distribution includes areas of northern India, Nepal, Sikkim, Assam, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, and Borneo. In the Malay area they are rare and confined to the mainland. (Medway, 1969; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)
Marbled cats have been recorded in a variety of habitats from sea level to 3,000 meters. Habitats include mixed deciduous-evergreen forest, secondary forest, clearings, six-year-old logged forest, and rocky scrub. Most sources describe this species as primarily arboreal. However many records of marbled cats are single observations and habitat and distribution may be wider than currently recognized. ("Arkive Images of Life on Earth", 2009; Medway, 1969; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)
The physical appearance of marbled cats is often compared to that of their close relative, clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa). They are close in size to house cats (Felis catus), but are longer and more slender. Young are mottled brown until they get their adult markings at about 4 months old. The fur is full and soft with widely variable markings. The base color is brownish yellow and the coat is covered in large blotches which are paler in their centers and outlined in black. Large broken blotches occur on the flanks and blackish lines occur on the head, neck, and back. These patterns tend to be smaller than in clouded leopards and they merge together resembling marble (hence the name marbled cat). Interrupted bands run from the corner of each eye over the head. The ears are short and rounded and are black with grey bars marking them. There is a white or buff spot on the back of each ear. The chin and upper lip are also white or buff in color. The tail is spotted and tipped with black, and about three quarters of the body length. Head and body length ranges from 45 to 61 cm. Height at shoulder averages 28 cm and tail length is 35 to 55 cm. Marbled cats have relatively large feet with very large heel pads. They have unmistakably large canines for cats of their size. The skull is high and rounded and wide across the zygomata. The eye socket is surrounded by a complete bony ring, unusual among felids. The occipital area is wide with low crests and the sagittal crest is quite small. The anterior upper pre-molar is absent or vestigial. There are 3 generally recognized subspecies, Pardofelis marmorata marmorata, Pardofelis marmorata charltoni, and Pardofelis marmorata longicaudata. ("Arkive Images of Life on Earth", 2009; Pocock, F.R.S., 1939; Postanowicz and Lioncrusher, 2008; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)
Marbled cats are solitary animals. All observations of P. marmorata have been single animals, except for one in which a pair was observed crossing a salt lick in Thailand. It is suggested that pairs form only for a period of time to allow breeding. Almost no information is available on the mating system of marbled cats. (Grassman, et al., 2005)
Rarely seen in the wild, there are currently no accounts of reproductive behavior of Pardofelis marmorata observed in their natural habitat. On a few occasions marbled cats have given birth in captivity, with 2 litters yielding 2 kittens each and another litter of 4 kittens. Estrus occurs monthly, without seasonal variation in captive animals. Once pregnant, gestation lasts from 66 to 82 days in marbled cats. Captive kittens can eat solid food by 59 days of age in captivity, which may indicate the earliest onset of weaning in the wild. In addition to gestation, lactation, and food supplementation, there is likely time involved in teaching kittens to hunt leaving only enough time for a single litter per year. One captive litter began at 4 kittens and was reduced to a single kitten, presumably by maternal infanticide. If infanticide is common in the wild and not just a result of captive stress, or if fertilization can overlap offspring rearing, it may be possible for marbled cats to have more than a single litter per year. Kittens begin walking at around 15 days but increased awareness and athletic movement occurred after 65 days old. Before kittens displayed this capacity to jump and climb it is likely they rely completely on their mother’s protection as well as their cryptic mottled colors for hiding. Marbled cats become sexually mature at around the age of 2 years. (Indian Tiger Welfare Society, 2005; Lekagul and McNeely, 1977; Pocock, 1867; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)
Information on parental investment in marbled cats is not reported in the literature. However, like most small cats, marbled cat females invest heavily in offspring through gestation and lactation, and probably also engage in significant post-weaning care and teaching. Less than 100 g when born, kittens develop quickly and have a full set of teeth. A kitten's eyes will be fully opened by 16 days and it will be able to walk by about 22 days. (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)
In captivity, marbled cats are docile and said to be easily tamed. They are also characterized as very active, with great capacity for climbing and jumping. Their forefeet have webbed, flexible paws with heel pads twice as wide as they are long. They also have double-sheathed, retractable claws, making them well suited for climbing. Marbled cats have a bushy tail that is 35 to 54 cm long (75% or more of body length) and is ideal for balancing. Marbled cats are also comfortable on the ground. Behavior and morphology suggests that they are semi-arboreal. Insufficient telemetry or field data makes it hard to draw conclusions about P. marmorata activity patterns. Previously thought to be nocturnal, current evidence is based on limited observations and suggests no difference in activity patterns. Marbled cats have been observed between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. in a reserve in Kalimantan and during the day on a path in Thailand. They have been observed hunting birds and a specimen was shot and collected during the night. ("International Society for Endangered Cats", 2001; "IUCN - The World Conservation Union", 1996; Grassman, et al., 2005; Harrison, 1966; Lekagul and McNeely, 1977; Pocock, 1867; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)
A radio collared female tracked from May to June in 2001 had a home range of 5.3 square kilometers (95% minimum convex polygon), which was almost exclusively in closed tropical forest. (Grassman, et al., 2005)
Similar to domestic cats, marbled cats have been observed purring and their meow has been described as chirping instead of more continuous sound inflection. Marbled cats rely heavily on vision and have good vision in low light. Their shorter, more rounded skull with flattened broad nasals gives them unobscured forward vision. This morphology, in combination with large, amber-colored eyes with large, vertically-oriented elliptical pupils, provides maximum light gathering ability and telescopic vision necessary to navigate in low light conditions. ("International Society for Endangered Cats", 2001; Harrison, 1966; Indian Tiger Welfare Society, 2005; Pocock, 1867; Wildscreen, 2009)
Marbled cats are thought to prey primarily on birds and arboreal small mammals. Mammal prey includes tree squirrels, tree shrews, rats and mice, small primates, and fruit bats. Birds up to the size of pheasants are thought to be their primary prey. Other prey include lizards, frogs, and insects. In Borneo they may be more terrestrial and forage on the ground. ("Arkive Images of Life on Earth", 2009; Pocock, F.R.S., 1939; Postanowicz and Lioncrusher, 2008; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)
Marbled cats are cryptically colored, extremely wary, and arboreal, helping them to avoid most predation. Marbled cats have exceptionally long canines in relation to other skull dimensions and, when coupled with their fierce demeanor when trapped, these teeth present a formidable defense. There are no observations of predation on marbled cats. ("International Society for Endangered Cats", 2001; Lekagul and McNeely, 1977; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)
Marbled cats are important predators of birds and small mammals. There is no available information on their ecosystem roles otherwise.
Marbled cats are charismatic and appealing animals. This makes them useful in winning popular support and funding for conservation efforts focused on their vulnerable ecosystems. (Grassman, et al., 2005)
Marbled cats are reclusive animals that avoid humans and are not known for having any negative impacts. There is one account of a marbled cat caught raiding a fowl pen. However, this kind of interaction is likely only where humans are invading and modifying native marbled cat habitat. (Pocock, 1867)
Populations of marbled cats are thought to be around 10,000 individuals. Their natural rarity and reclusive nature makes accurate estimates hard to calculate. Because marbled cats are rare they are not common in fur or meat markets. There are countries where regulated hunting is permitted (Laos and Singapore) and countries that offer no protection outside of designated parks (Bhutan and Brunei). These cats are sensitive to any human disturbance and readily abandon areas with humans. They depend on intact forest habitats, making them vulnerable to habitat destruction from logging, agriculture, and development. ("FCF / Feline Conservation Federation", 2009; "IUCN - The World Conservation Union", 1996; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)
Zach Laubach (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Vanessa Hutzley (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor, instructor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.
Nicole Knibbe (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
uses sound to communicate
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.
rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.
Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).
scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
Living on the ground.
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
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Pocock, R. 1867. The Marbled Cat (Pardofelis marmorata) and some other Oriental Species, with Definitions of a new Genus of the Felidae. Proc. Zool. Soc.: 742-763.
Postanowicz, R., Lioncrusher. 2008. "Marbled Cat" (On-line). Lioncrushers Domain - Carnivora Species Information. Accessed April 01, 2009 at http://www.lioncrusher.com/animal.asp?animal=60.
Sunquist, M., F. Sunquist. 2002. Wild Cats of the World. Chicago: University Chicago Press.
Wildscreen, 2009. "Arkive Images of Life on Earth" (On-line). Marbled cat (Padofelis marmorata). Accessed April 03, 2009 at http://www.arkive.org/marbled-cat/pardofelis-marmorata.html.