Hi everybody, welcome to another wonderful episode of Weird Biology! I’m your host, Bunjy.
We’re here today to talk about a seriously adoraweird critter with a heart of gold! (Or maybe just fluff, it’s hard to tell.) So put all your emotions in your front pocket where you can reach them and give it up for-
The Manul is a smallish wildcat native to the mountains of Central Asia. They are also called the Pallas Cat, after German Naturalist Peter Pallas. However, we won’t be using that name. Because he was a big stupid dumb idiot.
Seriously, he thought the Manul was related to the Persian housecat, which is a breed of domestic cat. (Persians are descended from the African Wildcat just like the rest of housekittydom, sorry Pallas.) Also he didn’t discover jack, the native Mongolians have been calling it the Manul since the first human to meet one got their shins clawed off hundreds of years ago.
Manuls are about the size of a housecat, weighing up to 10 pounds. However unlike a housecat, which is composed of about 30% fluff, the Manul is composed of nearly 110% fluff. There’s barely any cat in there at all! You could probably stick your hand right through. Try it yourself! Go ahead, I’ll watch from back here.
What? I just like to keep 10 feet and a solid barrier between myself and other people at all times. Do it. You can trust me. (No you can’t.)
Anyway as you have possibly just found out from the emergency room doctor, there is in fact some cat inside the Manul’s grand fluff! And it is not fond of being pawed at by people. (Manuls make terrible pets, so get that thought out of your head right now. Go see them at the zoo like everyone else.) But it’s a shame, because that fur coat is darn luxurious. In fact, the Manul has the longest and thickest fur of any wildcat! This is because they live only at high elevations (up to 16,000 feet, which is 15,997 feet higher than I will tolerate), where the weather is windy and brutally cold. You’ve probably also noticed their tiny Garfield ears, which help to minimize heat loss. This combo keeps them toasty warm on otherwise bare mountainsides. (At least until Jim Davis sues them for copyright infringement.)
Though all these biology facts are very interesting, I must confess they aren’t the reason that I’ve chosen the Manul for this week’s topic. The real reason is that they’re a bunch of hyperemotive memelords. No seriously, the Manul has catapulted (har!) to internet fame in recent years because their round faces, wide expressive eyes and stubby bodies combine to form a perfect emotive machine. This cat can express emotions that haven’t been invented yet, let alone named.
Okay, where were we before I got distracted by cat memes? *Paper rustles* ah, right. The spite chapter. Manuls are ambush predators, despite their fluffy bulk. They mostly eat Pika, (sorry, Pokemon fans) a small rabbity creature that squeaks a lot and doesn’t really deserve the fame Nintendo gave it. Manuls are solitary animals and live alone. (This sounds sad, but it’s actually because every Manul hates every other Manul in existence and not even god himself can change this.)
Manuls avoid each other, keeping fiercely to their individual territories. The only contact adult cats have with each other at all is during the breeding season, which is pathetically short. After briefly working together to make some kittens, the adult Manuls part ways. (Presumably while avoiding eye contact.) After about three months the female gives birth to 2-6 bouncing baby kittens, which all hate each other immediately. Seriously, Manul kittens growl and hiss at their littermates before they can even open their eyes! Talk about sibling rivalry. Once the kittens are old enough to make it alone, they’ll take off in different directions and never call home again.
Unfortunately the Manul is classified as Near Threatened in most of their range. Human encroachment and environmental destruction takes a toll, but most of the problem is a little more cartoon villain-y than you’d expect. See, humans really really really like the Manul’s plush fur coat, but they like it even better as an actual fur coat. (I was going to make a 101 Manuls joke here but it was just too depressing.) Manuls are still hunted for their fur in a fair amount of their range, though that is beginning to change. Many nations are putting protections in place for our favorite stubby emotion machine, and we can only hope this is enough to save the wonderful pile of antisocial fluff that is the Manul.
1. Albinfo, Wikimedia Commons
2. Tambako The Jaguar, Flickr
3. Tambako The Jaguar, Flickr
4. Trycatch, Wikimedia Commons