The manul lives in the grasslands and high steppes of Central Asia: Mongolia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kashmir, and western China. It's the size of a house cat, but its stocky build and long, dense fur makes it look stout and plush. It has a shorter jaw with fewer teeth than most cats.
Mamuls spend most of the day in caves, cracks in the rock, or marmot burrows. In the late afternoon they come out and hunt. They can't run fast, so they mainly hunt by ambush or stalking. They feed largely on prey that are active during the day: gerbils, pikas, voles, partridges, and sometimes young marmots.
They're most closely related to the leopard cat, a small cat of southeast Asia which is sometimes crossbred with house cats to give beautiful cats called 'Bengals' that enjoy getting wet. Some even live here in Singapore, but I've sure never seen one! The manul and the leopard cat seem to have diverged just 5 million years ago. It always amazes me how new many mammal species are.
The manul is hard to raise in zoos, and they're listed as 'near threatened'. They are hunted for its fur in relatively large numbers in China, Mongolia, and Russia, although international trade in manul pelts has largely ceased since the late 1980s, and Mongolia is the only place where it's still legal to kill them.
The manul is also called Pallas's cat, after a naturalist who wrote about them. Its scientific name is Otocolobus manul :
I got this picture from a great list of wild cats:
Check out the species you may not know: the fishing cat, the Borneo bay cat, the flat headed cat, the Iberian lynx, and the margay!