Chinese mountain cat

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Chinese mountain cat
Chinese Mountain Cat (Felis Bieti) in XiNing Wild Zoo.jpg
Chinese mountain cat in Xining Zoo
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Felis
F. bieti [2] [3]
Binomial name
Felis bieti [2] [3]
ChineseMountainCat distribution.jpg
Distribution of the Chinese mountain cat, 2015 [1]

The Chinese mountain cat (Felis bieti), also known as Chinese desert cat and Chinese steppe cat, is a small wild cat endemic to western China that has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 2002, as the effective population size may be fewer than 10,000 mature breeding individuals. [1]


It was provisionally classified as a wildcat subspecies with the name F. silvestris bieti in 2007. [4] It is recognised as a valid species since 2017, as it is morphologically distinct from wildcats. [2]


The scientific name Felis bieti was proposed by Alphonse Milne-Edwards in 1892 who described the Chinese mountain cat based on a skin collected in Sichuan Province. He named it Felis Bieti after the French missionary Félix Biet. [5]

Some authorities consider the chutuchta and vellerosa subspecies of the wildcat as Chinese mountain cat subspecies. [3]


The Chinese mountain cat has sand-coloured fur with dark guard hairs. Faint dark horizontal stripes on the face and legs are hardly visible. Its ears have black tips. It has a relatively broad skull, and long hair growing between the pads of their feet. It is whitish on the belly, and its legs and tail bear black rings. The tip of the tail is black. It is 69–84 cm (27–33 in) long in head and body with a 29–41 cm (11–16 in) long tail. Adults weigh from 6.5–9 kg (14–20 lb). [6]

Distribution and habitat

The Chinese mountain cat is endemic to China and lives on the north-eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. It was recorded only in eastern Qinghai and north-western Sichuan. [7] It inhabits high-elevation steppe grassland, alpine meadow, alpine shrubland and coniferous forest edges between 2,500 and 5,000 m (8,200 and 16,400 ft) elevation. It has not been confirmed in true desert or heavily forested mountains. [8]

The first photographs of a wild Chinese mountain cat were taken by camera traps during light snow in May 2007 at 3,570 m (11,710 ft) elevation in Sichuan. These photographs were taken in rolling grasslands and brush-covered mountains. [9] One individual was observed and photographed in May 2015 in the Ruoergai grasslands. [10] Between autumn 2018 and spring 2019, Chinese mountain cats were documented in an alpine meadow in the southeastern Sanjiangyuan region. [11]

Ecology and behaviour

The Chinese mountain cat is active at night and preys on pikas, rodents and birds. It breeds between January and March. Females give birth to two to four kittens in a secluded burrow. [8]

Until 2007, the Chinese mountain cat was known only from six individuals, all living in Chinese zoos, and a few skins in museums. [9]


The Chinese mountain cat is threatened due to the organised poisoning of pikas. The poison used diminishes prey species and also kills cats unintentionally. [7]


Felis bieti is listed on CITES Appendix II. [1] It is protected in China.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Felis is a genus of small and medium-sized cat species native to most of Africa and south of 60° latitude in Europe and Asia to Indochina. The genus includes the domestic cat. The smallest Felis species is the black-footed cat with a head and body length from 38 to 42 cm. The largest is the jungle cat with a head and body length from 62 to 76 cm.

Wildcat Small wild cat

The wildcat is a species complex comprising two small wild cat species, the European wildcat and the African wildcat. The European wildcat inhabits forests in Europe and the Caucasus, while the African wildcat inhabits semi-arid landscapes and steppes in Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia, into western India and western China. The wildcat species differ in fur pattern, tail, and size: the European wildcat has long fur and a bushy tail with a rounded tip; the smaller African wildcat is more faintly striped, has short sandy-gray fur and a tapering tail; the Asiatic wildcat is spotted.

Sand cat Small wild cat

The sand cat, also known as the sand dune cat, is a small wild cat living in sandy and stony deserts far from water sources. With its sandy to light grey fur, it is well camouflaged in a desert environment. Its head-and-body length ranges from 39–52 cm (15–20 in) with a 23–31 cm (9.1–12.2 in) long tail. Its 5–7 cm (2.0–2.8 in) long ears are set low on the sides of the head, aiding detection of prey moving underground. The long hair covering the soles of its feet insulate its foot pads against the extremely hot and cold temperatures in deserts.

Jungle cat Medium-sized wild cat

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Pallass cat Small wild cat

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Kodkod Small wild cat

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Asiatic wildcat Small wild cat

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Moupin pika Species of mammal

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