As reporters who adore cats, we are always seeking the comfort and joy that our feline companions bring us. However, our fast-paced lifestyles sometimes leave us yearning for something beyond the ordinary housecat. This is how we stumbled upon Pallas’s cats. We were captivated by their distinct appearance and expressive faces, which prompted us to make a trip to Nasu Animal Kingdom in Tochigi Prefecture to meet them personally. Pallas’s cats, also known as manuls, are said to be the oldest species within the Felidae family. They possess round pupils, flat faces, and thick fur, all of which contribute to their unique and charming look. At Nasu Animal Kingdom, Bol and Polly, the two resident Pallas’s cats, have become social media sensations due to their viral videos and peculiar hunting habits. Upon arriving at the animal kingdom, Bol, who was fluffy beyond our imagination, greeted us. He ran towards us and sat on a stump in front of a glass wall, and his intense gaze held our attention. According to Yuri Chiba, the animal keeper, the Pallas’s cats’ round pupils give them a distinct facial expression that resembles that of humans. We were fascinated by these extraordinary creatures and left Nasu Animal Kingdom feeling replenished by their presence. Even though our daily routines do not allow us to keep Pallas’s cats as pets, we are grateful for the opportunity to appreciate their exceptional beauty up close.
Polly, a Pallas’ cat, was recently spotted leisurely walking on snow and approaching humans. These felines, originally from Central Asia, have a thick winter coat that helps them survive the hot summers and cold winters of their habitat. Miyachi shared that these cats can easily adapt to the harsh Japanese winter climate. Polly’s behavior appeared to mimic stalking prey, moving slowly with lowered body, tail, and limbs. Chiba explained that this is part of their natural hunting instinct and the facility aims to support this behavior. Despite their adorable looks, Pallas’ cats emit a wild aura and are not known to meow often, except during breeding season when males may hiss or meow menacingly.
Bol, the Pallas’s cat, is a fan of stretching his body but does not like being held by humans. These felines are fierce creatures that require a shield for protection when entering their exhibition room, and they have an insatiable appetite for horsemeat. Unfortunately, their population has declined due to extensive hunting for their fur, leading to their classification as a threatened species. However, efforts have been made to conserve them, and they are now categorized as “least concern” on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In Japan, 16 Pallas’s cats are being kept in zoos and animal parks, where staff work tirelessly to safeguard them from contagious diseases. During our visit, we were amazed by the diverse expressions and movements of these cats, which are more than just adorable creatures. After our encounter with them, we became committed to protecting Pallas’s cats and longing to see them again soon!