The Pallas' Cat or Otocolobus manul is a wild cat which is native to the steppes of Asia. These cats are variously classified as threatened or endangered, depending on which criteria are used. In either case, biologists generally agree that action should be taken to preserve the Pallas' Cat, and a number of zoos around the world have established breeding programs, exchanging the cats they breed to keep them diverse and healthy.
This wildcat is named for Peter Pallas, who observed them around the 18th century. Pallas initially thought that these cats were the forerunners of the modern Persian breed, as they look rather like Persians. Research has proved that the Pallas' cat is actually an entirely different species, however, and unlike a Persian, a Pallas's Cat is not something a person wants on his or her lap!
Pallas' Cats are about the size of ordinary housecats, with very stocky, muscular bodies. They also have extremely long fur and short legs, which make them look a little boxy. Pallas' Cats have distinctively flattened faces, and most notably, their pupils are round, rather than vertical. Their bodies are adapted for life at high altitude, with broad feet which allow them to walk on snow, and thick, luxurious coats to keep them warm.
The Pallas' Cat is gray to taupe in color, with vertical stripes which are sometimes hard to identify in the cat's thick fur. The long fur is often tipped with white, making the Pallas' Cat look slightly frosty, and the cats have long, thick tails which they use to balance. They have lifespans of around 12 years, maturing at around a year of age. Female Pallas' Cats have litters of six to eight kittens every spring.
Habitat pressure is one reason why stocks of the Pallas' Cat are in decline. The other reason is the poisoning of the primary food source for the Pallas' Cat, a rabbit relative called a pika. Pikas are viewed as pests in central Asia, and the cats are sometimes poisoned by eating poisoned pikas. Like many members of the feline family, the Pallas' Cat can be a bit irascible, and while it may seem tempting to pet one, this is not advised.