27 January 2012
| last updated at 11:44AM
'Don't keep leopard cats as pets'
THE leopard cat may look like an everyday domesticated feline but cat lovers are warned not to keep them as pets.
People rearing this wildlife species can be fined up to RM100,000 or jailed up to three years or both, according to Wildlife and National Parks Eco-tourism Department director Dr Sivananthan Elagupillay.
"Under the recently amended Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, the leopard cat is a fully protected species in Peninsular Malaysia.
"People should avoid keeping them as pets to prevent any interbreeding between leopard cats and domestic cats which can cause issues, such as spread of diseases."
Dr Sivananthan said leopard cats were sometimes crossbred or "hybridised" with domestic cats, resulting in a popular domestic breed, Safari Cat.
"Hybridisation of wildlife is an offence under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 and upon conviction, be liable to a RM50,000 fine or two years imprisonment or both."
World Wildlife Fund Malaysia Species Conservation Field Biologist Shariff Mohamad said these cats are not safe to keep as pets as they are known to be hard to domesticate.
"They are not as tame as the average cat and are normally kept in restrictive cages.
"Aggressive gestures such as clawing and biting are to be expected because of its natural wildlife instincts," he added.
Last week, a dead leopard cat was found on the Bukit Putus stretch of the Seremban-Kuala Pilah road.
Shariff said it was a common sight along most roads bordering forests.
"We have frequent reports of cases where leopard acts were killed during road accidents. They are active mainly at night and early morning, so road users need to be alert when driving during these periods along such roads."
Leopard cats are about the size of a domestic cat but have longer legs with well-defined webs between their toes.
They are one of the most common feline species found in South East Asia, though no proper population estimates are available from a nationwide or worldwide perspective.
Leopard cats are known to be a highly adaptable species and are commonly seen in secondary forests, oil palm plantations, rubber plantations, fruit orchards and also settlements located at the forest fringe.
These cats are occasionally hunted for their fur and sometimes sold as pets.
Leopard cats are about the size of regular cats but have longer legs with well-defined webs between their toes and are harder to domesticate.