Episode 99 – Pallas Cat: Mr. Whisples

And today we’re talking about a wide eyed and expressive cat! But more on that later!

They may look like your average domestic feline on the surface. But a closer look will reveal some odd features. Thick fur, short stubby ears, and rotund bodies, give away that this particular Himalayan cat isn’t your typical tabby. But there’s something else. Maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but they seem so… expressive. Their relatable facial expressions have made them internet sensations, but there’s a reason humans might look into these big yellow eyes and find them relatable. But what makes their faces so intriguing? Find out in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Measure Up

Welcome to Measure Up, leading candidate for best part of the show, a title to be officially determined by you on December 3rd on Twitter and Facebook. This is 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 have no new intros this week, so that means I get to play an animal sound and Carlos will guess what it is! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdGXhH9aDsk

Body length

  • 46 to 65 cm (18 to 26 in)
  • 26 inches
  • How many pallas cats go into the highest altitude (7,200 ft) in Khojir National Park in Iran, which is part of the pallas cat’s range?
  • Hint: The park has a number of unique species of flora including the persion pistachio tree and the wild almond.
  • Answer: 3,323 cats


  • 2.5 to 4.5 kg (5.5 to 9.9 lb)
  • 9 pounds
  • The world record for the most garlic cloves eaten in one sitting was achieved by Deepak Sharma Bajagain in 2009 in Kathmandu. How many units of the total weight of the garlic he ate go into a pallas cat?
  • Hint: Garlic cloves can range from 4 to 45 grams, but the average is around 16 grams.
  • Answer: 7 (He ate 34 cloves)

Major Fact

  • The Pallas’ cat has a pair of eyes that are different from your cat at home. 
  • Instead of the characteristic slitted pupils, their pupils are round.
  • These large round eyes may be what people find so interesting about their funny facial expressions on the internet. 
  • But why do these cats deviate from the ocular norm?
  • Pupils come in a variety of shapes in the animal kingdom.
    • Goats have square pupils, Crocodiles and jagged slits, and cuttlefish have wave pupils. 
    • In all of these cases, the pupil functions to allow light to enter eyes in order to help creatures see.
    • Iris’s can make the pupils larger and smaller depending on the amount of light around you.
    • There is a lot of debate as to the advantage of different pupil shapes.
    • But one thing seems to be clear, it’s based on lifestyle more than taxonomy.
    • Animals all over the kingdom have slit pupils including reptiles, cats, canines, and even birds.
    • Same with round vision.
  • So why do most cats have vertical slit pupils?
    • Many of the animals with slit pupils are nocturnal or crepuscular.
    • They are mostly predators, which means they end up hunting in the light of dusk to the dark of night.
    • These extremely variable light conditions need extremely variable eyes.
    • One theory is that slit vision allows pupils to expand larger and shrink smaller than round pupils. 
    • However, little weirdos like the tarsier, which are tiny primates, shows that round pupils can shrink and grow to extremes. Plus, they are the only completely carnivorous primates. So they fit the slit pupil lifestyle.
    • Another possibility is the way slit eyes allow animals to see more color in low light. 
    • Predators often rely on color to contrast prey with its environment.
    • But why doesn’t the tarsier or the pallas cat need low light color?
  • Well, the tarsier has something that slit pupil animals don’t have. An arboreal lifestyle.
    • Most slit pupil animals are small or low to the ground. House cats and foxes have slits and they are ground hunters. 
    • Crocodiles hunt by peering over the surface of the water to the banks of rivers. 
    • I mentioned a bird before, but it’s a specific type of bird that has slits: skimmers, that fly along coastlines and waterways picking fish off the surface of the water.
    • Tarsiers hop from tree to tree collecting bugs and lizards. They need to see far, and it turns out that slit eyes aren’t great for long vision.
    • Cats with round pupils include cheetahs and leopards. Their larger and chase down or stalk prey they spot in the distance.
    • Pallas cats are the same size as house cats. But they hunt on mountains and on rocky terrain. They also spend most of their time hunting during the day.
    • All this to say, the pallas’ cat’s unique environment and lifestyle has given us a unique little predator with an adorable face.