Pardofelis is a genus of the cat family Felidae, which includes three species native to Southeast Asia: the Marbled cat, the Bay cat and the Asian golden cat. Inhabiting the forest environment of Southeast Asia, these cats have typically reddish brown color. The word Pardofelis is composed of two Latin words pardus = pard (leopard or panther) and felis = cat in allusion to the spots of the type species, the Marbled cat.
The word Pardofelis was first proposed as generic name by Nikolai Severtzov, a Russian naturalist and explorer, in 1858. It comprises of single species, the marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata), occurring in tropical Asia. In 1917 a renowned British zoologist Reginald Innes Pocock recognized the taxonomic classification of Pardofelisas comprising of not only the marbled cat but also the Borneo bay cat (Pardofelis badia), due to similarities in the shape of their skulls. In 1939, he described Pardofelis marmorata on the basis of its skins and skulls, which were taken from Sumatra, Java, Darjeeling and Sikkim (both in India). In the latter half of the 20th century, both Bay Cat and the Asian Golden Cat were placed under the genus Catopuma.
The classification of Pardofelis as a monotypic genus remained widely accepted till 2006. Genetic analysis carried out at the turn of the century uncovered a close genetic relationship between the Borneo bay cat (Pardofelis badia, syn. Catopuma badia) and the Asian golden cat (Pardofelis temminckii, syn. Catopuma temminckii). It also revealed that all of them had branched out from other felids about 9.4 million years ago, and have therefore been recommended to be placed in the genus Pardofelis. Both bay cat and the Asian golden cat separated from one another between 4.9 and 5.3 million years ago, long before Borneo broke away from the neighboring islands. This taxonomic re-classification has meanwhile been accepted by members of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group.
On the feline family tree, the relationship between this branch and others has also become clearer. Species belonging to the genus Pardofelis do not stem from the Pantherinae subfamily but belong to the other main branch of mostly smaller species, the Felinae. They share a more recent common ancestor with African golden cats, servals and caracals than with any other existing cat genus.
Cats belonging to the genus Pardofelis are smaller in size with long tails, shorter heads and rounded ears. They are distinguishable from the members of Prionailurus genus and other related Oriental genera by the skull higher and more rounded, with the mesopterygoid fossa lanceolate in front and provided with thickened margins or a better developed external crest. Their skulls are short, broad, strongly convex in dorsal profile, not comparatively long and low. The nasal branch of the premaxilla is thin, not expanded, the summit of the muzzle is not compressed above, the maxilla is not expanded where it abuts against the nasal bone, and develops no excrescence outside the suborbital foramen.