Earlier this year, two of the tiniest kittens ever to exist were born at the Berlin Zoo. A rare rusty-spotted cat gave birth to the little darlings on Aug. 5, but the zoo withheld the birth announcement until this week, probably to make sure the babies survived.
The rusty-spotted cat is native to India and Sri Lanka, where its population is in jeopardy because of habitat destruction — so much so that with its assumed population of less than 10,000 mature cats, it’s listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It’s the smallest member of the wildcat family, with adults weighing two to three-and-a-half pounds, about a third the size of an average domestic cat.
Rusty-spotted cats are hard to breed compared with their feline cousins; their estrus cycle lasts five days, whereas the domestic cat’s heat cycle lasts two to three weeks. They also give birth to only one or two kittens per litter.
When Western scientists began studying the flora and fauna of Asia, they were amazed to find that these tiny wildcats are ridiculously easy to tame compared with other wildcats. Naturalist Robert Armitage Sterndale kept a pair of rusty-spotted cats and wrote about their antics.
"Whilst I was at work I usually had one in my lap and the other cuddled behind my back on the chair," he wrote in his 1884 book Natural History of the Mammalia of India and Ceylon.
(Does this sound familiar? It’s a daily ritual in my house!)
For some extra cute action, check out this video of some rusty-spotted cats frolicking at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Lincoln, CA.
Source: Scientific American