Chinese Desert Cat

Felis bieti

Quick Bio for Chinese Desert Cats:

Status: Vulnerable
have from 2-4 kittens, usually 3
Weight: 4-9 kg
Diet: Carnivore

Physical description of Chinese Desert Cats

Felis bieti is a stocky cat with short legs weighing on average 10 to 15 kg. Dense fur adds to its bulky appearance. For effective camouflage during winter, the fur is a lighter shade of grey, whilst its summer appearance is brown with stripes on the sides, tail and legs.

Distribution and habitat of Chinese Desert Cats

The Chinese Desert Cat is endemic to China, living in the high mountains of Tibet and Qinghai provinces. It lives in the dry, open grasslands of the Tibetan Plateau and can be found in some of the neighboring provinces, such as Sichuan.

Also known as the Chinese mountain cat, its habitat range includes the forested elevations of 2500 m above sea level, the favorable grasslands of the steppe and high-elevation desert regions up to 5000 m.

Chinese Desert Cat behaviour

Little behavioral research has been collated on these cats, however their solitary nature has been confirmed. Current information suggests that they are nocturnal, though they are also active at dawn and dusk. It is a common assumption that they sleep during the day.

With a tendency to inhabit burrows, Chinese desert cats often use the ready-made burrows of other animals, such as the marmots which live in the same regions.

The cats’ hunting technique engages auditory perception rather than sight. This is achieved by a massive (relative to size) auditory bullae (essentially the body of the eardrum over which the tympanic membrane is stretched), that presumably permits greater detection of prey.

What do Chinese Desert Cats eat?

The Chinese mountain cat is carnivorous, feeding upon small mammals, mostly rodents, particularly pikas and zokors. Zokors are a small rodent species of Asian mole rat.

With extraordinary hearing ability, the cats detect and hunt animals that live underground. Chinese desert cats are also opportunistic bird hunters.

Mating and Parental care of Chinese Desert Cats

These mountain cats dwell in burrows, and are solitary animals until mating season, when adults have been observed to share dens. 2 to 4 kittens per litter are born in May at the onset of summer in the mountains.

During the nursing period, the kittens are well protected in the dens. They become independent at eight months of age.

How long do Chinese Desert Cats live?

The cats’ lifespan is undocumented.

Impact of Chinese Desert Cats on the human economy

Hunting, whilst illegal, does not prevent its demise and the exploitation and trade of its fur by humans.

Conservation status and human impact on Chinese Desert Cats

The Chinese desert cat is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN. Despite its protected status in China, hunting currently persists for its pelt, to fashion warm clothing.

It is also threatened by the poisoning of agricultural pests. The rodents upon which the cat preys become toxic. Anthropogenic threats to Chinese desert cats are primarily caused by the negative impacts of climate change on the high steppe, the extent of which is still unknown.

Chinese Desert Cat in French, German, Spanish ...

Latin Name
Felis bieti
Alternative Names
Chinese Mountain Cat, Chinese Alpine Steppe Cat, Chinese Steppe Cat, Grass Cat
French Names
Chat de Biet
German Names
Graukatze
Spanish Names
Gato de Biet, Gato Del Desierto de China
Swahili Names
Paka-milima Wa China

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