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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Bay Cat

Family : Felidae
Species : Catopuma badia

Head-body length : up to 66 cm
Tail length : up to 40 cm
Weight : up to 5 kg

The Bay Cat occurs only on the island of Borneo, where it is documented from primary forest, ranging from lowland areas to lower montane elevations, and freshwater swamp forest. The degree to which the species can adapt to logged forest appears to be unclear: some studies have confirmed its presence in intensively logged forest, for example at Kalabakan Forest Reserve, Sabah (Wearn et al, 2013). However, it has not been recorded from the vast oil palm plantations which now cover large areas of the island.  

This is a relative small cat, with a lithe body, long legs and a long tail. It has only been seen or recorded on the ground, and never up in trees (although arboreal records of many cat species are hard to acquire). It appears to be mainly diurnal, but little else is known about its ecology. Nothing is known about its diet or home range.

In common with its close relative, the Asian Golden Cat Catopuma temminckii, its fur colour can be variable: two colour phases have been documented - either reddish and grey, but intermediate forms are described, as well as black morphs. (The term 'bay' is a descriptive word typically used to describe the reddish-brown colour of some horses.)

The use of camera traps has greatly helped researchers in understanding the geographical distribution of this elusive wild cat. Modelling of habitat suitability has identified a core area in the north of Borneo, comprising Sarawak, Sabah, Brunei and northern parts of Kalimantan, which could support the species (Hearn et al, 2016).

The loss of native forest and its conversion to oil palm constitute a big threat to the survival of this apparently rare cat, which is also under pressure from illegal wildlife poaching.

Figs 1 and 2 : A reddish Bay Cat caught on camera trap as it explores a forest clearing in Sabah, Borneo.  Photos thanks to Oliver Wearn.

References : M12

Hearn, A. J., Ross, J., Macdonald, D. W., Samejima, H., Heydon, M., Bernard, H., ... & Mohamed, A. (2016). Predicted distribution of the bay cat Catopuma badia (Mammalia: Carnivora: Felidae) on Borneo. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. 33: 165-172.

Wearn, O. R., Rowcliffe, J. M., Carbone, C., Bernard, H., & Ewers, R. M. (2013). Assessing the status of wild felids in a highly-disturbed commercial forest reserve in Borneo and the implications for camera trap survey design. PLoS One, 8(11), e77598.


Fig 1
ゥ  Oliver Wearn
Fig 2
ゥ  Oliver Wearn