The Pallas's Cat, also called Manul, is a small wild cat having a broad, but patchy distribution in the grasslands and montane steppe of Central Asia. The species is negatively affected by habitat degradation, prey base decline, and hunting, and has therefore been classified as Near Threatened by IUCN since 2002.
The Pallas's cat was named after the German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas, who first described the species in 1776 under the binomial Felis manul.
The Pallas's cat is about the size of a domestic cat, its body is 46 to 65 cm (18 to 26 in) long and its tail is 21 to 31 cm (8.3 to 12.2 in) long. It weighs 2.5 to 4.5 kg (5.5 to 9.9 lb). The combination of its stocky posture and long, dense fur makes it appear stout and plush. Its fur is ochre with dark vertical bars on the torso and forelegs. The winter coat is greyer and less patterned than the summer coat. There are clear black rings on the tail and dark spots on the forehead. The cheeks are white with narrow black stripes running from the corners of the eyes. The chin and throat are also white, merging into the greyish, silky fur of the underparts. Concentric white and black rims around the eyes accentuate their rounded shape. The legs are proportionately shorter than those of other cats, the ears are set very low and wide apart, and it has unusually short claws. The face is shortened compared with other cats, giving it a flattened face. The pupils are circular. The shorter jaw has fewer teeth than is usual among cats, with the first pair of upper premolars missing, and canine teeth are large.
Pallas's cats are native to the steppe regions of Central Asia, where they inhabit elevations of up to 5,050 m (16,570 ft) in the Tibetan Plateau. They inhabit Mongolia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kashmir, and occur across much of western China. They are also found in the Transbaikal regions of Russia, and less frequently in the Altai, Tyva, and Buryatia Republics. In 1997, they were reported for the first time as being present in the eastern Sayan Mountains.
They feed largely on diurnally active prey species such as gerbils, pikas, voles and chukar partridges, and sometimes catch young marmots.
Pallas's cats are solitary. Both males and females scent mark their territory. They spend the day in caves, rock crevices, or marmot burrows, and emerge in the late afternoon to begin hunting. They are not fast runners, and hunt primarily by ambush or stalking, using low vegetation and rocky terrain for cover.