Guest Author - Joy Alari
The Iriomote Cat is a wild cat, that is native to the islands of Iriomote, which is close to Okinawa. The Iriomote Cat is quite like your house tabby, especially in size and vocalization, yes the Iriomote cat meows and howls much the same way as your house cat.
The Iriomote cat has the built of a predator, with short legs as well as an elongated body, which is a plus when it forages in thick undergrowths, excluding its tail the size of the Iriomote Cat, is between 53 to 56cm(about 20-22 inches) female Iriomote Cats are smaller at 48cm(18 inches) the average weight of the Iriomote Cat is between 3 to 7kg(about 6-15 lbs).
The features of the Iriomote Cat includes its dark brown fur, which has some grayish brown spots, as well as two white lines that run from the corner of its eye to across its cheek, the Iriomote Cat also has five to seven dark stripes along its neck, another distinguishing feature is its bushy tail, which is relatively short and ringed towards the tip, the Iriomote Cat's ears are also rounded with a central dark spotting.
Like most cats the Iriomote Cat is a solitary creature, it is said to be more nocturnal during the summer than winter and whether its in trees or on the ground, the Iriomote Cat will hunt both day and night. Even though this wild cat cannot sheathe its claws, its still very agile and can swiftly climb up tall trees to hunt for prey. The Iriomote cat is also a good swimmer and unlike our domestic cat, doesnít toy with its food. It hunts in a slow stalk, before it pounces and finishes off its prey in a quick kill.
The Iriomote cat is fiercely territorial, males stake between two to three square kilometers, while the female Iriomote cat would only claim, a kilometer as her territory. The Iriomote cat loves making its den in rock crevices and hollow trees, especially in mountainous areas that is close to water. The Iriomote catís diet usually consists of birds, lizards, fish, insects, frogs, small rodents such as rats, fruit bats and even wild boar.
Mating for the Iriomote cat, starts from the months of February to March or from September to October, its only during these months that you get to see this feline in pairs. Gestation is within 60 days and the female Iriomote cat, will give birth to two to four kittens, Iriomote kittens mature very quick and within three months, they are left to fend for themselves.
The Iriomote cat was first discovered in 1965 and scientists believe that, the Iriomote cat is a sub specie of the much larger leopard cat, scientists have also accepted as fact that, the Iriomote cat is a living fossil because its features, has not changed from its primitive form and in 1967, the Iriomote cat was confirmed as a unique specie!
In 1977 the Iriomote Cat was declared a Japanese National Treasure but even as it was protected by the state, the population of the Iriomote cat started to dwindle fast. In 2007 when the population of the Iriomote cat, had finally reduced to just a few hundred, its name had to be removed from the critical list, to the critically endangered lists of extinct species.
The extinction of the Iriomote Cat lies mainly in human hands, in the past the Iriomote cat was eaten as a delicacy, overgrazing into the Iriomote Cat's habitat was also another major factor, as many Iriomote cats met a sad end on the highways, at least one or two Iriomote cats die each year, from being run over on the road.
Inbreeding with domestic cats is also another factor, as the Iriomote cat isn't resistant to the diseases of the domestic cats, the Iriomote cat is also the subject of the many local crab traps.
In a bid to save this National Treasure, especially in regards to road accidents, the Japanese Government built a rehabilitation center and also provided a 24hr hotline. The Japanese Government also converted one third of Irimote Island, into a National Park but this seems not to be working, mainly because of the Iriomote catís solitary life style, as well as its preference for coastal areas and forest edges, which are not within the protected areas.
There have being various research, on the Iriomote Cat but captive breeding of the Iriomote Cat, has never being achieved and till date, the Iriomote Cat is still on the list of critically endangered species.