Clouded leopards are two species of wild cat that live throughout the forests of Southeast Asia.
Clouded leopards are officially recorded as a species in 1821.
Until 2006, there was thought to be a single clouded leopard species. However, recent genetic and morphological research has shown that there are two distinct species.
The cats on mainland Asia and Taiwan kept the traditional species name (Neofelis nebulosa) while the cats from Borneo and Sumatra took the name the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi).
Clouded leopards primarily live in lowland tropical rainforests, but can also be found in dry woodlands and secondary forests.
Clouded Leopards spend nearly all their lives in the trees.
They have been spotted at elevations up to 2,700 meters (8,850 feet) in the Himalayan mountains.
The smallest of the big cats, they are secretive and rare in the wild, preferring to remain alone and hidden from view.
While little is known about their lifespan in the wild, clouded leopards have been known to live up to 17 years in captivity.
The cats usually stand 25 to 40 centimeters (10 to 16 inches) tall and are 1.2 to 1.8 meters (4 to 6 feet) long, almost half of which is the tail.
Males tend to be larger and weigh up to 23 kilograms (50 pounds), while females rank in at about 16 kilograms (35 pounds).
The clouded leopard is named after the distinctive ‘clouds‘ on its coat – ellipses partially edged in black, with the insides a darker color than the background color of the pelt.
Virtually nothing is known of the social behavior of wild clouded leopards.
It is believed clouded leopards live solitary lives, unless a mother is caring for cubs.
Once thought to be exclusively nocturnal, evidence suggests that clouded leopards may show some periods of activity during the day as well.
Clouded leopard can open its jaws wider than any other cat, and its tooth development is most like that of the extinct sabertooth cat.
A clouded’s 5 centimeters (2 inch) long canine teeth are the same size as those of a tiger, even though a tiger is 10 times larger in body size!
The clouded leopard has the longest canine teeth in relation to body size of any wild cat.
They have an exceptionally long tail for balancing, which can be as long as the body itself, thick with black ring markings.
Clouded leopards are one of the best climbers in the cat family.Their ankles can rotate backward so the cat can climb down a tree headfirst, climb upside down, and even hang from its back feet, leaving the powerful front paws free to snatch at prey.
They can also ambush their prey from the treetops, landing on their target’s back and delivering one killing bite.
While some hunting may occur in the trees, most takes place on the ground.
It is known that they will patrol their territory (like all cats) and may use logging roads for hunting and
travelling. Territories range from about 20 to 50 square kilometers (7.7 to 19.3 square miles).
Clouded leopards 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.
Mating can occur in any month, but in captivity most breeding occurs between December and March.
The gestation period is 85 to 93 days long with 1 to 5 cubs per litter, although 2 is the most common number.
Like any newborn kitten, clouded leopard cubs are small and helpless at birth.
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. Cubs begin solid food between 7 and 10 weeks of age but continue to nurse until 11 to 14 weeks old.
Cubs become independent at approximately 10 months of age.
The exact numbers of this secretive cat are not known but they are believed to be in decline due to habitat loss and poaching.
In China, the clouded leopard is called the mint leopard because its spots look like mint leaves.
In Malaysia, the clouded leopard is known as the tree tiger.
Clouded leopards are good swimmers and may have populated small islands off Vietnam and Borneo in this way.
The pupils of the clouded leopard’s eyes are different from any other cat’s pupils: they never get fully round like a big cat’s pupils do, yet they never shrink to vertical slits like a small cat’s pupils do. Instead, they stay in an oblong shape.