The original Grumpy Cat with owl-like eyes, Pallas Cats, went without detection until 2019 on Earth’s highest mountain, Mount Everest. Then, the most comprehensive scientific expedition to Everest by National Geographic yielded evidence the cats were there, peeking grumpily from the crevices.
The findings from the expedition to Sagarmatha National Park at Everest were recently published in the winter 2022 issue of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s newsletter “Cat News.” The report adds important new information about these rare cats:
“These findings extend the range of Pallas’s cat into eastern Nepal and add a new species to the list of known mammals in Sagarmatha National Park,” the report states.
Other names for these charismatic cats are Manul, Steppe Cat, or Rock Wildcat. Their big owl-like yellow eyes have pupils that dilate to a circle instead of vertical slits (like lions and tigers). According to the International Society for Endangered Cats Canada (ISEC), these cats also sound a bit like owls.
“Their mating call is said to resemble a cross between the bark of a small dog and the hoot of an owl,” ISEC says.
To complete the owl-like look, they are big rounded squat cats with low-set ears that look like an owl’s ear tufts. Their scientific name, Otocolobus manul, translates to “ugly-eared,” but helps them hide in frigid temperatures.
Heck, even their coloration and markings are like some owl species! To stay warm, they have the densest fur of any cat.
Pallas Cats are Near Threatened
Since the 70s, visitors to Everest have gone up by many thousands. Whereas a few thousand attempted the dangerous climb back then, now there are as many as 50 thousand annual visits. So it’s remarkable that the Pallas Cat remained undetected on the mountain all those years. They are clearly masters of keeping out of sight.
While the numbers of human visitors (and deaths of mountain climbers) have risen dramatically, the Pallas’s population is near threatened. But finding the cats at a World Heritage Site will hopefully improve conservation efforts. The cats are already legally protected through the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
Pallas Cats at Over 17,000 Ft Elevations
Before finding the elusive Pallas Cats on Everest, scientists knew the cats lived as high as 5,050 meters, or 16568 feet, on the Tibetan plateau. The latest findings show the cats are as high as 5,190 meters or 17,027 feet. One co-leader of the team of researchers to Everest was Dr. Tracie Seimon of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Zoological Health Program, based at the Bronx Zoo.
The team had a four-week expedition to Mount Everest and found scat samples at two locations.
“It is phenomenal to discover proof of this rare and remarkable species at the top of the world,” said Dr. Seimon. “The nearly four-week journey was extremely rewarding not just for our team but for the larger scientific community. The discovery of Pallas’s cat on Everest illuminates the rich biodiversity of this remote high-alpine ecosystem and extends the known range of this species to eastern Nepal.”
Give All Wild Cats Room to Be Free
While these cats look similar to some grump house cats, they are wild cats unrelated to domesticated cats. So, they would not be good pets. They’re adapted to living in the harshest conditions on Earth and could probably kill you with one sideways piercing glance anyhow.
Nevertheless, cat lovers and grumpy folks who haven’t had their coffee love Pallas Cats, and they have even been called “the most expressive cats in the world.”
The kittens are absurdly cute too. We hope more people become aware of these cats and, like all wild cats, give them the room they deserve to live free as undisturbed as much as possible. Certainly, the Pallas Cats can tell you as much with one glance.
Here’s a cute video about the “original Grump Cat” below by Animalogic:
Image: Screenshots via YouTube/Animalogic