Animal World Records

Smallest Wild Cat

A rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus)
Image Source: Cloudtail

Welcome to Animal World Records! In this regular feature, we’ll be looking at animals that are the fastest, biggest or smallest of their kind. Those that fly higher in the air, or live deeper in the ocean, than any other. Those with the longest tongue, or the largest eyes, or the most number of legs.

For our very first Animal World Records, we’ll be looking at the smallest wild cat in the world. There are two contenders for this title: the black-footed cat from Africa, and the rusty-spotted cat from Asia. Both species are less than half the weight of an average house cat and are the smallest wild cats on their respective continents – but which one is the smallest overall?

That accolade goes to the rusty-spotted cat – but only just. The black-footed cat weighs a mere 1.1 – 2.1 kg, but the rusty-spotted is, on average, a shade lighter: 0.9 – 1.6 kg. At birth, rusty-spotted kittens weigh just 60 – 70 grams – not much heavier than a tennis ball. Even when almost fully grown, this miniature feline could just about fit in the palm of your hand.

The rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus), the smallest wild cat in the world
Because it lives in very remote parts of India and is so hard to spot, it is almost impossible to estimate how many rusty-spotted cats remain in the wild. A somewhat vague figure of fewer than 10,000 has been given.
Image Source: Cloudtail

Though the rusty-spotted cat is 200 times smaller than the biggest wild cat in the world, the Siberian tiger, it is still an efficient hunter, preying mainly on rodents and birds. Being nocturnal, tiny, and extremely elusive, there is much we do not yet know about this superb little animal. To see the rusty-spotted cat in action, take a look at this clip from the 2018 BBC documentary Big Cats:

Although it may be tempting to want an adorable little cat that stays kitten-sized for its whole life as a pet, the rusty-spotted cat is a shy, solitary wild animal, with wild instincts, completely unfit for life in a human house. We’ve already explored the many issues caused by keeping wild cats such as tigers as pets, especially in the US. Hopefully, we’ll have the sense to leave this little feline where it belongs.


  • Jason Woodcock

    With a background in conservation and animal behaviour studies, Jason's passion lies in the natural world. He adores all things nature and enjoys nothing more than spotting rare and interesting species out in the wild. He has also worked in a zoo and knows plenty about keeping the animals inside our homes healthy and happy, too.

1 thought on “Animal World Records: Smallest Wild Cat”

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: