The jungle cat, Felis chaus, is one of the most common small wild cats in southeast Asia. Also known as the reed cat and the swamp cat, the jungle cat has a distinct vocalization, which sounds like “wow”. Once thought to be a relative of the lynx family, it is actually a close relative of the domestic cat.
The range of the jungle cat is patchy but spans two continents, Africa and Asia. In Africa, it is found only around the Nile River and in the Nile Delta in Egypt. The rest of its range is scattered across southwestern Asia, including India and the Middle East. Major threats to the jungle cat are loss of habitat to industrialization and urbanization of agricultural areas, primarily on the Indian subcontinent. Infrastructure development (land reclamation, dam construction, and irrigation) are also major threats to the jungle cat as these projects destroy the natural wetlands the jungle cat calls home. Environmental pollution and illegal hunting make up secondary threats to the species. Trapping, snaring, and poisoning in agricultural areas throughout its rage are also secondary threats to the jungle cat.
Despite its name, the jungle cat is not closely associated with the classic tropical rainforests one thinks of when imagining the “jungle.” In fact, the jungle cat is mostly found in the marshy swamp areas and low-lying wetlands throughout its range, areas with water and thick vegetation.
The majority of the jungle cat’s diet consists of prey that weighs less that a single kilogram, principally small rodents. Birds, hare, nutria, reptiles such as lizards and snakes, frogs, insects, and fish make up secondary prey sources. However, while these predators specialize in small prey, jungle cats are physically capable of taking down larger prey like young swine, gazelle, and fawns.
Ezebert is a relaxed, confident kitty who, unlike most of her shy jungle cat species, seems to genuinely enjoy the attention of visitors and tour groups. She particularly likes people who bring scent enrichment, especially herbs or natural scents like vanilla, peppermint, or chamomile. Of course, Ezebert doesn’t turn down food treats, and she’ll choose whole prey (usually mice) as her first choice every time. When not basking in the attention of those who bring her tribute, Ezebert can usually be found luxuriating in the sun atop a wooden platform or snuggled into a fire-hose hammock. She has a lovely jungle cat call and has been known to loudly and passionately voice her thoughts…but mostly only if no one is looking at her!
Our only male jungle cat, Andreka, is a muscular macho cat who enjoys striding confidently around his bachelor pad. While he frequently establishes his masculine presence using the typical “wow-wow” jungle cat call, Andreka has also been observed calling at the same time the lions roar. As “king of the jungle (cats),” Andreka does not deign to accept human attention or get especially excited about most scent enrichment. Food, however, is worthy of notice, and he’s usually quick to grab a meal or treat when it is offered.