- The jungle cat is one of India’s ten small wild cat species. The cat is strongly associated with scrub, grasslands, wetlands and dense vegetation habitats.
- With dwindling natural habitats, the jungle cat has adapted to live in cultivated and artificial landscapes which have a good prey base.
- However, in human-dominated agricultural fields, mechanised farming, methods to reduce rodents and protect crops, vehicle collisions, and the presence of feral dogs, pose threats to the jungle cat’s survival.
- Wildlife experts highlight the need for more studies to understand the elusive cat’s behaviour and ecology beyond protected areas.
The jungle cat is one of India’s ten small wild cat species and is also the most common cat, widely distributed throughout the Indian subcontinent except in the higher reaches of the Himalayas and the extreme deserts.
The name ‘jungle cat’ can be misleading, as the cat is not strongly associated with closed forests but with scrub, grassland, wetlands and dense vegetation habitats. The cat’s sandy brown, reddish, or grey coloured coat gives it a good camouflage in these spaces.
With dwindling natural habitats, the jungle cat has adapted more readily than most other small cats, to live in cultivated and artificial landscapes. A natural pest manager, the solitary jungle cat consumes approximately 1,500 rodents annually.
However, in a continuously disturbed human-dominated agricultural landscape, the chances of conflict with humans are high. Mechanised farming, the presence of feral dogs and increasing roadkills threaten the cat population. The cat’s prey base is also decreasing, with farmers eradicating rodents to protect their crops.
A substantial population of small cats, such as the jungle cat, is distributed outside India’s sanctuaries and national parks. As scrub, grasslands and wetlands existing around the cat’s farm habitats shrink to make way for more farms, roads and other infrastructure, wildlife experts suggest that the jungle cat needs more attention and research priority.
Banner image: The jungle cat (Felis chaus) in a field on the outskirts of Gurugram, Haryana. Photo by Yatin Verma/Mongabay.