Chinese mountain cat

Chinese mountain cat
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Felis
Species: F. bieti
Binomial name
Felis bieti[2]
Milne-Edwards, 1892
Distribution of the Chinese mountain cat (in green)

The Chinese mountain cat (Felis bieti), also known as the Chinese desert cat and the Chinese steppe cat, is a wild cat of western China that has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 2002, as the effective population size may be fewer than 10,000 mature breeding individuals.[1]

It was classified as a wildcat subspecies in 2007, F. silvestris bieti, based on genetic analysis.[3]


The Chinese mountain cat has sand-coloured fur with dark guard hairs. Faint dark horizontal stripes on the face and legs are hardly visible. Its ears have black tips. It has a relatively broad skull, and long hair growing between the pads of their feet. It is whitish on the belly, and its legs and tail bear black rings. The tip of the tail is black. It is 69–84 cm (27–33 in) long in head and body with a 29–41 cm (11–16 in) long tail. Adults weigh from 6.5 to 9 kilograms (14 to 20 lb).[4]

Distribution and habitat

Chinese mountain cats are endemic to China and live on the north-eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. They were recorded only in eastern Qinghai and north-western Sichuan.[5]

Chinese mountain cats occur in high-elevation steppe grassland, alpine meadow, alpine shrubland and coniferous forest edges between 2,500 and 5,000 m (8,200 and 16,400 ft) elevation. They have not been confirmed in true desert or heavily forested mountains.[6]

The first photographs of a wild Chinese mountain cat were taken by camera traps during light snow in May 2007 at 3,570 m (11,710 ft) altitude in Sichuan. These photographs were taken in rolling grasslands and brush-covered mountains.[7] One individual was observed and photographed in May 2015 in the Ruoergai grasslands.[8]

Ecology and behaviour

Chinese mountain cats are active at night; they hunt for pikas, rodents and birds. They breed between January and March. Females give birth to two to four kittens in a secluded burrow.[6]

Until 2007, this cat was known only from six animals, all living in Chinese zoos, and a few skins in museums.[7]


Chinese mountain cats are threatened due to the organised poisoning of pikas. The poisons used either kill them unintentionally, or diminish their main prey.[5]


Felis bieti is listed on CITES Appendix II.[1] It is protected in China.

Taxonomic history

Alphonse Milne-Edwards first described the Chinese mountain cat in 1892 based on a skin collected in Tibet. He named it Felis Bieti after the French missionary Félix Biet.[9]

Some authorities consider the chutuchta and vellerosa subspecies of the wildcat as Chinese mountain cat subspecies.[2]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Riordan, P.; Sanderson, J.; Bao, W.; Abdukadir, A.; Shi, K. (2015). "Felis bieti". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
  2. 1 2 Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 534. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  3. Driscoll, C. A.; Menotti-Raymond, M.; Roca, A. L. Hupe; K., Johnson; W. E., Geffen; E., Harley; E. H.; Delibes; M., Pontier; D., Kitchener; A. C.; Yamaguchi; N., O’Brien; S. J.; Macdonald; D. W. (2007). "The Near Eastern Origin of Cat Domestication" (PDF). Science. 317 (5837): 519–523. doi:10.1126/science.1139518. PMID 17600185.
  4. Sunquist, M.; Sunquist, F. (2002). Wild cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 57–59. ISBN 0-226-77999-8.
  5. 1 2 He, L., Garcia-Perea, R., Li M., Wei, F. (2004). Distribution and conservation status of the endemic Chinese mountain cat Felis bieti'. Oryx 38: 55–61.
  6. 1 2 Liao Y. (1988). Some biological information of desert cat in Qinhai. Acta Theriologica Sinica 8: 128–131.
  7. 1 2 Yin Y., Drubgyal N., Achu, Lu Z., Sanderson J. (2007). First photographs in nature of the Chinese mountain cat. Cat News 47: 6–7.
  8. Francis, S., Muzika, Y. (2015). Chinese Mountain Cat in the Ruoergai Grasslands. Small Wild Cat Conservation News 1 (1): II.
  9. Milne-Edwards, A. (1892). Observations sur les mammifères du Thibet. Revue générale des sciences pures et appliquées. Tome III: 670–671.
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