So what is it like to live with a couple of asian leopard cats?
The most important thing that a prospective owner has to understand is their shyness. Anything new will be considered by them as a potential threat, even things that other cats might not even notice. This can be anything from the nice new furniture you brought home, a new light, the noise of a bird they did not hear before, your computer, the smell of something coming from outside, etc.
Once scared, the typical "flight or fight" reaction of the cat family will be magnified several times compared to your expectations. Ella's typical reaction to something she does not like will be to run and hide to a place where no one can see her, even if she has to cross the whole house or enclosure. Abou on the contrary will face the danger, growl, hiss, show the white spots behind his ears and if none of this work then bite.
I should emphasize here that despite their small size the scratching and biting of an asian leopard cat should not be taken lightly. Their claws are extremely sharp and will cut human skin very easily while their jaws are far more powerful than those of a domestic cat.
I have seen often ella or abou break bones that Kassaļ ( our 16 pound F2 savannah ) had tried unsuccessfully to break. Hence we handle Ella with bare hands because she trusts us so much that she never ever tried to scratch or bite us, but Abou is a different story; with a lot of patience we can pat him, approach him, and I even play with him, but he still has from time to time what I call "fear crisis " which leads to a quick bite, so I have bought a pair of big leather gloves lined with kevlar that we use when we have a doubt on his reactions.
Another important thing is that they hate being chased more than anything. This is a big problem when you want to handle them and do not have much time. With Ella we have solved the problem by using toys (she loves to play) but this did not work with Abou. For him we have to use an established routine which consist in making him understand that we do not want to aggress him (pat him, talk to him), make him go inside his kennel, and handle him while inside.
This routine gave excellent results but it took us some time to establish it; both Ella and Abou live in our big house with us and we let them on the 1600 square feet outside enclosure during the day if the weather permits. Since the enclosure and the house are not connected this means that you have to hold each cat at least twice a day to put them inside their kennel to get them in and out of the enclosure, the problem being is that the house and the enclosure are both much too big to catch them if they do not want to (I join a small quicktime movie to give you an idea of their agility). Consider that they can climb anything, jump 8 feet high, and run fast and you get the picture.
Another surprising thing is that they can move so silently that even the other cats cannot locate them. This was very disconcerting during the first months : I would call ella for half an hour to discover she was following me 3 feet behind! They also have an incredible ability to hide in uncommon places but it seems that we have now developed a 3rd sense for locating them (feline telepathy ?)
They will of course only eat fresh meat that we supplement with oasis and calcium powder for Abou. Ella won't eat the calcium powder but fortunately I can administer caps of calcium because she does not bite.
Their litter habits tends to be less a problem than other exotic felines; they prefer pee and poo in water or on a glassy surface, so a standard cat litter box with a 1/2 inch of water will do perfectly.
Last but not least surprising thing: they are nocturnal cats. This of course means they are more active during the night but not only; they may also change completely their behavior. Abou, very shy during the day, loses most of his shyness after dark falls. We are often awakened in the middle of the night by weird noises (chasing, howling, falling objects, sniffing...).
We have 3 other cats that used to sleep during the night and all decided that it was a lot more fun to go to "asian leopard parties" so you can imagine the experience...Ella also very often decides around midnight (before the "party") that she wants to eat, so she will awake us by purring. If we fake sleeping she will suck the tip of our fingers. If this does not work she will chew the tips of our fingers until we bring her some food. Abou also likes to eat at night and to make us notice he would come in the bedroom and make as much noise as he can with his nose (sniffing).
As I said before we live with a newfoundland dog, 2 F2 savannahs, and a domestic cat. Ella and Abou had no problems adapting to the family and both developed special friendship with Domino (the domestic) who seems to be extremely fond of the asian leopard cat breed for some reason we shall probably never quite understand.
Overall I would say that they are lovely cats but not lap cats. If you want a cat that will come often on your knees purring then this is not the cat for you. Most of the time they will communicate in a very discrete way so you have to be very receptive to understand their needs. They also have an ingrained shyness that some people will love and others will hate, so they will more easily adapt to quite people living in a quiet environment, and tend to keep their "wildness." I would certainly not pretend that Ella and Abou are tame. They just seem to like living here with us and we like living with them . Our goal is just making them happy, nothing less but nothing more.
One also have to keep in mind that every cats are different and it is
impossible to generalize, so you have to be ready to adapt yourself
very quickly in the best interest of the cat . We both feel that living
with Abou and Ella is a privilege and that it is possible only because
they accept and love us.
Many thanks to Plaud Thierry for allowing the use of this article on exoticcatz.com. This article is copyrighted 2005 by Plaud Thierry. All rights are reserved.
A public thank-you
Thank you to all the Oregon legislators who opposed HB 3437 and all of you who took the time to write your legislators in opposition on this FAILED ban bill!
F5 Savannah Behavior Answers on vocalization and litterbox use.
Asian Leopard Cats Articles, photos, and video clips now online!
Rough Play Biting in Exotic Kittens; How to Teach Gentle Behavior
The Ever-Present Danger
The most dangerous animal on earth doesn't even require a permit in this country.
Enclosure Profiles; A bobcat enclosure design.
Finding an Escaped Exotic Cat Detailed suggestions on bringing a lost feline home safely.
The Truth About PETA PETA: People Eradicating Tons of Animals.