Meet the Rusty Spotted Cat—the World’s Smallest Feline

Small but mighty.
Small but mighty. / Pierre Aden/iStock via Getty Images

Aside from their playful nature and predatory instincts, your house cat may not bear much resemblance to their relatives that stalk the wilderness. While most wild cats are larger than the pets you have at home, the rusty spotted cat is a notable exception. Weighing just 2 to 4 pounds, the feisty predator is officially the world's smallest feline.

As you can see in this video from the BBC, the rusty spotted cat looks (and sounds) like a kitten when it's fully mature. It grows to a length of up to 20 inches, not including its 6-inch tail. It stands 8 inches tall from toes to ears, making it the perfect height for slinking through the forest floors of its native India and Sri Lanka.

Despite their petite stature, rusty spotted cats are capable of holding their own in the wild. Their sharp eyesight—nearly six times more powerful than a human's—helps them hunt small prey like rodents and birds. When they can't find dinner on the ground, they've been known to scale trees for their next meal.

There are roughly 10,000 rusty spotted cats alive today, in addition to the 40 to 50 specimens kept in captivity. Shrinking habitats threaten the species's status in the wild, but conservationists are optimistic about their chances of survival. The cats are more adaptable than previously believed, capable of surviving in bamboo forests, wooded grasslands, dry scrublands, and on rocky hillsides in addition to the moist forests where they're normally found.

After watching a rusty spot cat explore his wooded habitat in Sri Lanka in the video below, check out these cat breeds with wild roots.