The rarest of all cats, the beautiful Iriomote Cat resides solely on the Japanese Iriomote island, located some two hundred kilometers off the coast of Taiwan. It has lived for millennia on this small island (less than three hundred square kilometers) and has evolved to suit the habitat and environment of this particular place. Owing to similarities in appearance, for some time the Iriomote Cat was considered a subspecies of the Leopard Cat. Recent evidence however indicated that the Iriomote Cat separated from the Leopard Cat in evolution couple of million years ago. A small wild cat, the Iriomote Cat weighs around twelve pounds and is around one a half to two feet long (excluding tail). Males are slightly larger.
Fur is brownish with a number of dark brown spots that coalesce to form stripes which run along the body length. Legs are short in comparison to body size and tail is bushy. Toes are slightly webbed and claws lack a complete sheath, helping the cat in its aquatic pursuits of prey. Ears are short and rounded indicating that the Iriomote Cat primarily uses sight in its movement and hunting.
A variety of prey is taken by the Iriomote Cat. Its small body size enables it to move quickly through the underbrush and successfully hunt small mammals, birds, insects and fish. It is a solitary and territorial feline that frequently marks its territory (larger in case of males) and is primarily nocturnal, particularly in summer. Mating season is twice an year and pregnancy lasts two months after which a litter of one to four kittens is born.
Prionailurus Iriomotensis, the Iriomote Cat is critically endangered. Less than one hundred remain in the wild. Plus they appear to be breeding with feral cats, leading to dilution of their gene pool. Despite preservation of their territory on the island, the cats frequently stray out of the reserve area and are hunted/eaten as a delicacy!