The clouded leopard is named after the distinctive ‘clouds’ on its coat — ellipses partially edged in black, with the insides a darker colour than the pale yellow/brown background colour of the pelt. The clouded leopard, despite its name, is not closely related to the other Panthera cats. It is sufficiently distinct from other members of the Felidae family, due mainly to the unique shape of its skull, to be placed in a separate genus — Neofelis. And molecular studies suggest that the clouded lepoard appeared much earlier during evolution than the Panthera cats. The undersides and short, stout legs are usually spotted and the head and neck streaked with black/dark brown. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of clouded leopards is that, in proportion to their body size, they possess the largest canines of all the cats.
It is an extremely agile climber, aided by the balancing effect of its exceptionally long tail, often equivalent to the body length, and supple ankle joints. In captivity the clouded leopard has been observed hanging from overhanging branches by its rear legs. A survey team in Sabah and Sarawak, in 1986, concluded that it is not truly arboreal, but used trees in primary forest as daytime rest sites. It travels mostly on the ground they think, as movement on the ground is faster and more efficient.
The diet of the clouded leopard is thought to include a variety of arboreal and terrestrial vertebrates, such as orang utan, young sambar deer, barking deer, mouse deer, bearded pig, palm civet, gray leaf monkey, and porcupine. Fish, birds and poultry are sometimes taken. Although it is generally considered to be primarily nocturnal, it is sometimes also active during the daytime. The clouded leopard swims well and has been found on small offshore islands. Clouded leopards are believed to be solitary animals except during the breeding season.