Discover the wild and elusive Pallas’s cats: A rendezvous with feline celebrities

We are a pair of cat-loving journalists from Yomiuri Shimbun who often yearn for the comforting presence of our feline friends. However, given our busy schedules, we have been unable to enjoy their nourishing effect as frequently as we would like. Hence, we decided to embark on a journey to find something unique and special that could help us fill this void. That is how we stumbled upon Pallas’s cats, which seemed to fit the bill perfectly! Pallas’s cats, also known as manul, are considered to be the oldest species in the Felidae family and are well-known for their distinct appearance – round pupils, wide eyes, and thick fur. These cats are said to inhabit the plains of several Eurasian countries such as Russia and Mongolia. During our visit to Nasu Animal Kingdom in Tochigi Prefecture, we were delighted to meet Bol, a seven-year-old male Pallas’s cat born in Japan, and Polly, a six-year-old female that came from Sweden. Their videos showcasing their hunting methods and varied facial expressions have made them popular among Pallas’s cat enthusiasts. When we visited them, Bol was sitting silently on a stump in front of a glass wall that separated the cats from spectators. His furry presence was even more adorable than we imagined, making us scream like enthusiastic pop star fans. Their wide, powerful eyes were particularly striking. According to Yuri Chiba, an animal keeper at the facility, Pallas’s cats’ horizontal pupils give them a unique facial expression. Interestingly, it is believed that these pupils may not provide an advantage for survival in the wild. Our encounter with Pallas’s cats was truly unforgettable. Their distinctive appearance and expressive eyes make them stand out from other cat species.

As we were exploring the snowy terrain, we came across a striking creature named Polly. She was a Pallas’ cat, sporting a thick fur coat that caught our attention right away. These cats are originally from Central Asia, where they endure extreme weather conditions with hot summers and frigid winters. Their furry appearance showcases their ability to adapt and survive in harsh environments. Despite their wild nature, they are surprisingly comfortable living in the cold winters of Japan. When we encountered Polly, she appeared to be stalking prey, moving slowly and cautiously like a seasoned hunter. Although these cats are undeniably cute, they still maintain their natural instincts, and they seldom meow. Male cats only meow during breeding season, and otherwise, they emit menacing hisses. The facility where we met Polly supports and encourages their natural behavior, allowing them to maintain their wild essence.

Bol, the Pallas’s cat, can be seen lounging around and stretching his body. Due to their cool and independent nature, it is not possible to hold these cats. Visitors are advised to wear protective gear when entering the exhibition room as these cats can be harmful. The sight of Pallas’s cats devouring horse meat is a must-see, and it is evident that they are not to be underestimated. The story of Polly reminds us that Pallas’s cats were once hunted indiscriminately for their fur, leading to a significant decline in their population. While they are now classified as “least concern,” zoos and animal parks in Japan have taken measures to protect them. These cats are naturally found in high altitudes and are susceptible to contagious diseases, yet they display an abundance of energy and curiosity even in captivity. Besides being adorable, Pallas’s cats are fascinating creatures with diverse expressions and movements. After getting captivated by their charm, we are more determined than ever to raise awareness about protecting these amazing animals. Hopefully, we will get to see them again soon!

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