The Rusty-Spotted Cat is one of the cat family's smallest members, and is found only in India and Sri Lanka. It has been listed as Vulnerable by IUCN in 2002 as the total effective population size is below 10,000 mature individuals, with a declining trend due to habitat loss, and no sub-population containing more than 1,000 mature breeding individuals.
Habitat loss and the spread of cultivation are serious problems for wildlife in both India and Sri Lanka. Although there are several records of rusty-spotted cats from cultivated and settled areas, it is not known to what degree cat populations are able to persist in such areas. There have been occasional reports of rusty-spotted cat skins in trade. In some areas, they are hunted for food or as livestock pests.
The rusty-spotted cat rivals the black-footed cat as the world's smallest wild cat. It is 35 to 48 cm (14 to 19 in) in length, with a 15 to 30 cm (5.9 to 11.8 in) tail, and weighs only 0.9 to 1.6 kg (2.0 to 3.5 lb). The short fur is grey over most of the body, with rusty spots over the back and flanks, while the underbelly is white with large dark spots. The darker colored tail is thick and about half the length of the body, and the spots are less distinct. There are six dark streaks on each side of the head, extending over the cheeks and forehead.
Rusty-spotted cats have a relatively restricted distribution. They mainly occur in moist and dry deciduous forests as well as scrub and grassland, but are likely absent from evergreen forest. They prefer dense vegetation and rocky areas.
It feeds mainly on rodents and birds, but may also take lizards, frogs, or insects.
The rusty-spotted cat is nocturnal and partly arboreal, spending the day sleeping in dense cover or shelter such as hollow logs. They hunt primarily on the ground, making rapid, darting movements to catch their prey; they apparently venture into the trees primarily to escape larger predators rather than for food. As with other cats, they mark their territory by spraying urine.