The rusty-spotted cat is the world's smallest (and most adorable) big cat

January 16, 2018, 2:33 p.m.

About half the size of a domestic kitty, the tiny rusty-spotted cat is the most minuscule member of the big cat family. The photogenic feline is only between 13-18 inches from its head to the base of its tail and weighs between 1.7 and 3.5 pounds.

But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in attitude.

The Big Cat Sanctuary in Kent in the U.K. has one rusty-spotted cat named Nuwara, pictured above.

"She is very feisty, which is typical of her breed," the sanctuary's Press & PR Officer Tanitha Brown tells MNN. "Being so tiny, they need to be that way or they would simply not survive in their natural habitat."

There are two subspecies of the felines, named for the forests of Sri Lanka and India, the only places they are found.

When kittens are born, they can't see and their coats don't have the trademark rusty spots, which they develop as they grow. To evade predators, the small cats are typically nocturnal, hunting primarily on the ground and climbing when they need to escape detection.

Due to issues such as habitat loss and landscape cultivation, the rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosusis) is listed as "near threatened" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Brown explains why the diminutive cats are so popular with fans.

"I think people find them appealing partly [due to] their size and partly their big eyes," she says. "They look deceptively cute!"

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