Class: Mammalia (Mammals)
Length: 3 feet (1.4 meters) long, with a 3-foot-long tail
Height at shoulders: 10 to 16 inches (25 to 40 centimeters)
Weight: males—45 to 60 pounds (20 to 27 kilograms); females—25 to 30 pounds (11 to 14 kilograms)
Life span: average 11 years, recorded up to 19 years in zoos; unknown in the wild
Gestation: 85 to 93 days
Number of young at birth: 1 to 5, usually 2
Weight at birth: 6 ounces (170 grams)
Age of maturity: 2 years
Conservation status: critical risk
Male clouded leopards can be more than twice the size of females. This is the largest gender size difference in the cat family.
• Clouded leopards are good swimmers and may have populated small islands off Vietnam and Borneo in this way.
• In Malaysia, this arboreal cat is known as the “tree tiger.” In China it is called the "mint leopard" because its spots look like mint leaves.
- Fishing Cat
- Lynx & Bobcat
- Mountain Lion
- Small Cat
- Snow Leopard
Listen to a clouded leopard
Mammals: Clouded Leopard
Few people have seen a clouded leopard, either in its wild habitat in Southeast Asia or in a zoo. Officially recorded as a species in 1821, the clouded leopard remains just as mysterious today as it was nearly 200 years ago. Most of what we know about these cats comes from observing them in zoos. Named for its cloud-like spots, recent genetic studies have shown that clouded leopards are a separate species of cat and not just a “type” of leopard. Cloudeds are most closely related to snow leopards and are now in the same taxonomic subfamily as tigers, lions, jaguars, and true leopard species.
Some cat biology
Clouded leopards are an interesting species. They are larger than small cat species and smaller than the large cats! Cloudeds can purr like the small cats, but they also have a low, moaning roar, a soft chuffle, a growl, a hiss, and meows as part of their calls. The pupils of the clouded leopards’ eyes are different from any other cats’ pupils: they never get fully round like big cats’ pupils do, yet they never shrink to vertical slits like the small cats’ pupils do. Instead, they stay in an oblong shape. And then there’s that amazing tail—the longest, in relation to body size, of any cat's tail.
What big teeth they have!
A clouded leopard’s jaws can open wider than any other cat’s, and its tooth development is most like that of the extinct sabertooth cat. A clouded’s 2-inch-long (5-centimeter-long) canine teeth are the same size as those of a tiger, even though tigers are 10 times larger in body size! These rain forest cats ambush their prey from the treetops, landing on their target’s back and delivering one killing bite. Despite their small size, cloudeds have adapted to take down large hoofed stock with this method. It is believed they hunt on the ground as well. They are thought to eat a variety of birds, squirrels, monkeys, and wild pigs. The San Diego Zoo’s clouded leopards are fed a zoo carnivore diet and large knuckle bones to gnaw on. They are often given a special popsicle treat: chunks of papaya frozen in ice blocks!
An adaptable cat
In areas where clouded leopards share their habitat with tigers and common leopards, cloudeds seem to be more nocturnal and arboreal in their habits. A long, thick tail provides balance in the trees. Their flexible ankle joints can rotate backward, allowing the cat to climb down tree trunks headfirst. Cloudeds can climb upside down along branches and can hang by the back feet alone, which frees the front paws to snatch at prey. On islands or in other areas where there are no larger cats, clouded leopards are more active during the day and spend more time on the ground.
Growing up clouded
Like any newborn kitten, clouded leopard cubs are small and helpless at birth. Their eyes are closed, they have no teeth, and they are not able to walk. But at about two weeks of age their eyes open, and a week later the teeth start to emerge and they begin to walk on wobbly legs. By the time they are six months old they are fully weaned and have the full adult coloration.
Considering its size, the clouded leopard is very secretive and has been difficult for researchers to study in the wild. It is believed the cats live solitary lives, unless a mother is caring for cubs. Never common, its population numbers are dropping outside of protected areas. Its rain forest habitat is often divided into small, unconnected patches of forest. As is true of all rain forest dwellers, the clouded leopards’ main threat to survival is continued habitat loss from a growing number of farms. And although they are protected by law, cloudeds are still hunted for their beautiful coat, and some Asian cultures believe clouded leopard bones and teeth have healing powers.