Most people have seen a stray cat running around here and there, but most people don’t know that stray cats are one of the most dangerous invasive species in the world. Domestic cats, Felis catus, are present on every continent except Antarctica, and it’s safe to say they weren’t endemic to all six major continents. Some areas have significant problems with feral cat populations, and the Philippines has some 12 million stray animals roaming their country as of 2019.1 The Philippines is home to two species of native wildcat, the Asian leopard cat and the Visayan leopard cat. Read on to learn more about feral cat colonies and other wild cats in the Philippines.
Feral Cats: Are They a Big Problem in the Philippines?
Feral cats are a present force in the Philippines, but their introduction to the ecosystem hasn’t been as viciously destructive as the introduction to some other areas. However, with at least 12 million stray animals as of 2019, it’s safe to say there’s a significant population of feral cats in the Philippines.
Despite the monstrous number of stray animals present on the islands, the Philippines has not identified a significant threat from stray cats and dogs. That’s not to say the presence of the cats is harmless, but at the very least, they haven’t completely destroyed the ecosystem for the natural fauna like in some other areas.
Are There Native Wildcats?
The Philippines is home to two species of native wildcat, the Asian leopard cat and the Visayan leopard cat. While their names sound similar, they are unique species with differences, with the Visayan leopard cat being a subspecies of the Sunda leopard cat unique to the Philippines.
The Visayan Leopard Cat
- Species: Prionailurus javanensis sumatranus
- Range: Philippine Islands of Negros, Cebu, and Panay
- Conservation Status: Vulnerable
The Visayan leopard cat is a local subspecies of the Sunda leopard cat thought to have migrated to the Philippine Islands after the eruption of the Toba Volcano. As we’ve mentioned, the Visayan leopard cat is a population of Sunda leopard cats that is endemic to the Philippines. This population is present on the Philippine Islands of Negros, Cebu, and Panay. Unfortunately, the Visayan leopard cat has declined in habitat ranges and population due to agriculture and development. As a result, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the Visayan wildcat as “threatened.”
The population of Visayan leopard cats is already quite limited, and the recorded population has been on a steady decrease in recent years. Scientists estimate that the Visayan leopard cat has lost between 90–95% of its natural habitat on the islands of Panay and Negros. In addition, it is thought to be locally extinct on the islands of Cebu and Masbate.
The Leopard Cat
- Species: Prionailurus bengalensis
- Range: East, Southeast Asia, the Philippines
- Conservation Status: Least Concern
The leopard cat (distinct from the Sunda leopard cat) is a staple wildcat present in most of East and Southeast Asia and the Philippines. Archaeological evidence shows that the leopard cat was first domesticated in China 5,000 years ago.
While the leopard cat is mainly associated with continental Asia, there are large populations of the leopard cat on the islands of the Philippines. Furthermore, the populations of the leopard cat are robust and not in decline. So, they’re categorized as “Least Concern” by the IUCN.
This is the crossbred cat with domestic cats to produce the Bengal breed. So, if they look familiar to you, you might have seen one of their descendants!
Wild cats are a more ubiquitous presence than most people are aware of. With populations of many kinds of cats, the Philippines has fantastic flora and fauna to explore throughout the islands. Hopefully, with a bit of care, the Visayan leopard cat’s habitat can be restored, and its populations can be propagated to keep these gorgeous cats in our world!