Pallas Cat Key Facts
Key Features of the Pallas Cat
The Pallas Cat, which is also known as the Manul, is a small wild cat known for its distinctive ‘flat’ head and stocky/furry body; well adapted for the cold, arid habitats it frequents. A fully grown adult Pallas Cat weight around 10 pounds and is around 24 inches in length – similar to a mid-size domestic cat; although its thick insulated coat makes it look bigger. There are wide variations in coat colour, from light grey to yellow/brown colorations and you can easily make out the dark streaks on the side of the head and stripes/rings on both the lower legs and tail. The coat of the Pallas Cat is thicker than any of its small cat relatives and is ideally suited for the frozen ground it both lives in and hunts on. The ‘frosted’ appearance of their coats is due to the white tips on their hairs. Its small round ears are set low on the side of the head and its paws are proportionally large for its body size. Unlike other small cat species and its domestic relatives, the pupils of Pallas' cats contract into circles, rather than vertical slits.
There is speculation that some of the modern Persian species of cats are descended from the Manual, but no definite proof.
Pallas Cat habitat and diet
This stocky, thick-coated small cat is designed to survive and thrive in the cold habitats of the steppes, high mountains and alpine deserts of Asia and populations can be found in India, Tibet and Mongolia. Accurate population sizes on the Pallas Cat are not well known, as it has not been studied as well as larger species such as tiger and leopards and it found in harsher environments for scientific study. We now know of populations in Siberia and other countries with steppe habitat and await to hear about their numbers and health.
They are efficient stealthy hunters, who will eat a variety of prey, including insects, birds and small mammals. By far their most common prey is the Pika; which is can catch on the run, or by ambush at the site of its den.
Principle Threats to the Pallas Cat
The most imminent threats to the Pallas Cat are hunting for its fur and the loss – by hunting – of its main prey; the Pika. We also don’t know the future impact of climate change on mountain/steppes habitats and how that will affect prey density and the breeding success of the Manual.
Best place to see Pallas Cat in the wild
It is not uncommon when looking for other cat species who occupy the same habitat, such as Snow Leopards, to come across the Pallas Cat. They are mainly crepuscular in nature and are shy of humans and disturbance; therefore, sightings tend to be distant and fleeting. It is possible with the help of local researchers and an ethical, low impact approach to wildlife photography, to set up a camera hide a few hundred metres from a Pallas Cat den and photograph the female Pallas Cat and her kittens. This is what we have been able to do with our very special Mongolia Pallas Cat safari.
Best time of year to see Pallas Cat
Given the nature of their remote habitats – which are often at altitude – it is often better to wait until spring/early summer to observe and photograph Pallas Cats and we have found that the month of July for our Mongolia small cat safari is about perfect for intimate photograph of the adult female Manual and her kittens. Although still cold at night in the Ger camp we set up for our clients, the temperatures during the days are pleasant and generally the weather is clear and stable.
What do expect on your Pallas Cat safari in Mongolia
A safari in Mongolia is all about actually living and breathing those vast, open, landscapes and patiently observing and photographing its rare, but spectacular wildlife. This type of small cat safari suits a person with an adventurous spirit, who does not mind sleeping under canvas and long hours in a custom hide in order to maximise the photography of this small, exotic, beautiful cat. Expect good food and happy smiles from the camp staff and plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs and looks for other steppe wildlife; such as the Mongolian Gazelle, Mongolian Fox and Steppe Eagle.