Episode 321 – Clouded Leopard: Paws for Effect

“…and today we are talking about the banshee of Bhutan, the Specter of Sikkim. But more on that later.”

It’s cloudy with a chance of leopards here in the jungle, so you’d better have an umbrella and keep your eyes on the skies. The clouded leopard is at home in the trees, and with good reason – it’s the best darn climber in the climbing business. Most, if not all cats can climb, but this cloudy boy has some special adaptations that make him an arboreal acrobat. But playing a nonstop game of “the floor is lava” is one way to get the jump on your enemies here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Description of the Clouded Leopard

The Clouded Leopard has a striking coat pattern of large “cloud-like” spots and irregular blotches on a backdrop of pale yellow or gray. Like most cats, its fur pattern helps it to camouflage in its environment. 

Clouded Leopards have a robust, stocky build with relatively short legs compared to their body size. They also have a distinctive, long tail that is often as long as or longer than their body.

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words Measure Up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We do have a new Measure Up intro!


Male Length

  • 81 to 108 cm (32 to 43 in) without the tail
  • How many clouded leopards go into the height of cirrocumulus clouds?
  • Hint: Cirrocumulus clouds are one of the three main types of cloud. Of the three, it has the highest altitude. They are the kind that look like wispy white cotton blanketing large sections of sky.
  • 5,581 cats. Cirrocumulus clouds are 6,000 meters (20,000 feet) above the Earth.


  • 25 to 50 pounds (11 to 23 kilograms).
  • If Kasiani’s hymns were each ten pounds, how many clouded leopards would go into her hymnography?
  • Hint: Kassiani, also known as Kassia, was a Byzantine poet, composer, and hymnographer who lived in the 9th century. Kassiani is best known for her contributions to Byzantine liturgical music, and she is remembered for her hymns and poetry.
  • 10 cats. There are around fifty surviving hymns, though some might not be hers and there may be more we don’t know about.

Fast Facts about the Clouded Leopard

Clouded Leopards are found in forested habitats in Southeast Asia, including rainforests, dry forests, and mangrove swamps. They are known to inhabit countries such as Nepal, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and parts of China.

Despite being widespread in their range, Clouded Leopards are elusive, which makes them difficult to study in the wild. Their secretive nature and preference for dense forested habitats make them less visible compared to some other big cat species.

Like most cats they are carnivores and they primarily prey on various mammals, including deer, pigs, and smaller mammals like squirrels and monkeys.

Clouded leopards are primarily nocturnal, and they’re generally solitary animals. They mark their territories with scent markings. They have large home ranges in the wild to ensure access to their prey. 

Major Fact: Paws for Effect

Leopards spend a good deal of their time in trees, but clouded leopards take this to an extreme.

They are some of the most skilled feline climbers in the world.

For one, their tails are almost as long as they are and are used for balance while climbing.

They can also jump almost 4 feet into the air, which helps getting to lower branches.

But the real secret is in the paws, which are large for its size.

The clouded leopard has paws that can rotate up to 180 degrees, allowing it to perform supination, a fancy way of saying it can face its paws toward its face rather than just at the ground like most cats. Pronation is having your hands face down (or prone) like you’re playing piano.Supination is having them face up (supine) like you’re worshiping at a megachurch.

This is similar to how monkeys and humans can rotate their hands around, which allows the former to climb really well. The latter doesn’t have the balance, relative strength, or the tail to be a great climber.

So armed with these arms, the clouded leopard can grab nearly any surface along a tree’s trunk.

It can even climb straight down head first by gripping smaller trunks with its back legs and shimmying. It can also hang, drop, and catch itself easily, allowing it to jump from tree to tree quickly.

Ending: So blend in with your environment, stay elusive, and keep your hand on a swivel like the clouded leopard here in LDT.