Wild Cats of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has four species of wild cats: viz, the Leopard, the Fishing Cat, the Jungle Cat & the Rusty-spotted Cat. None of them endemic to Sri Lanka
Wild Cats of Sri Lanka
Of the 91 species of native mammals in Sri Lanka, 14 species belong to the order Carnivora while four of them are members of the family Felid (Miththapala, 2006). They include the Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya), the Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), the Jungle Cat (Felis chaus) and the Rusty-spotted Cat [(Prionailurus rubiginosa) Miththapala, 2006]. Of them, the leopard is a medium-sized cat with a body mass of 40-60 kg while the fishing cat, jungle cat, and rusty-spotted cat are small cats with a body mass of less than 20 kg (Miththapala, 2006). Therefore, the leopard can be distinguished easily from the other wild cats in the country by its larger size.

The leopard is the largest of the four wild cats with an average head and body length of 91-191 cm and an average mass of 37-90 kg for males and 28-60 kg for females (Miththapala, 2006). Its golden tawny coat is marked with clusters of spots called dark brown/black rosettes (Miththapala, 2006). The leopard found in Sri Lanka is considered a unique and distinct subspecies in the world (Miththapala, 2006). It is a protected animal designated under the Flora and Fauna Ordinance of Sri Lanka.

Leopards are found in all types of forests including thorn scrub and dry deciduous forests, lowland rainforests and montane forests. 

Fishing Cat
Fishing Cat
The fishing cat has an average head and body length of 71.8 cm for males and 66 cm for females and an average mass of 15 kg for males (Miththapala, 2006). Its coat is olive-grey in colour and some rows of black spots are visible extending from its head to its back (Miththapala, 2006; Thudugala & Ranawana, 2015). The tail is short when it is compared with the length of the head and body.

Fishing cats are found all over the country, even at high elevations and in the forests of both the wet and dry zones (Miththapala, 2006). It is the second-largest endangered wild cat in Sri Lanka (Thudugala & Ranawana, 2015).

Jungle Cat
Jungle Cat
The jungle cat is long-limbed with an average head and body length of 73.9 cm for males and 62.8 cm for females (Miththapala, 2006). The average mass of a male is 7.9 kg while it is 4.8 kg for a female (Miththapala, 2006). The base colour of its coat is sandy brown or reddish-grey and some stripes are seen on its limbs (Miththapala, 2006).

Jungle cats have been reported from northern monsoon forests of the dry zone and in patches southwards through Puttalam and Chilaw up to Kurunegala.

Rusty-spotted Cat
Rusty-spotted Cat
The rusty-spotted cat is the smallest of the four wild cats with an average head and body length of 37 cm for females and an average mass of 1.5 kg for males and <1 kg for females (Miththapala, 2006). Its russet-coloured coat is marked with rust-coloured blotches.

The rusty-spotted cat is resident in all forested areas (Miththapala, 2006).

1) Miththapala, S., 2006. The ecology of the wild cats of Sri Lanka. The Fauna of Sri Lanka: Status of Taxonomy, Research, and Conservation. IUCN, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 308pp, pp.235-256.
2) Thudugala, A.N.; Ranawana, K.B., 2015. Conservation and monitoring of fishing cats (prionailurus viverrinus) in the hill country of Sri Lanka. Sciscitator-2015 (2).

This page was last updated on 12 April 2022
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