The beautiful cat Iriomote lives only on the island of Iriomote in Japan, located nearly two hundred kilometers from the coast of Taiwan. It has lived for millennia on this small island (less than three hundred square kilometers) and has evolved to suit the habitat and environment of this particular place. Because of the similarities in appearance, for some time the Iriomot cat was considered a subspecies of the leopard cat. However, recent evidence suggests that the Iriomote cat diverged from the leopard cat in evolution several million years ago. A small wild cat, the Iriomote Cat weighs about twelve pounds and is about one and a half to two feet long (not including the tail). Males are slightly larger.
The fur is brownish with a number of dark brown spots that merge to form stripes that run the length of the body. The legs are short compared to the size of the body and the tail is fluffy. The toes are slightly webbed and the claws lack a complete sheath, which helps the cat in its pursuit of prey in water. The ears are short and rounded, indicating that the Iriomot cat primarily uses its sight for movement and hunting.
The Iriomot cat grabs a variety of prey. Its small body size allows it to move quickly through the brush and successfully hunt small mammals, birds, insects and fish. It is a solitary and territorial cat that often marks its territory (larger in the case of males) and is mostly nocturnal, especially in summer. Mating season is twice a year and pregnancy lasts two months, after which a litter of one to four kittens is born.
Prionailurus Iriomotensis, the Iriomote cat is critically endangered. Fewer than a hundred remain in the wild. They also seem to interbreed with feral cats, diluting their gene pool. Despite maintaining their territory on the island, the cats often stray from the reserve area and are often hunted by humans.