Pallas' cats are native to the steppe regions of Central Asia where they inhabit elevations of up to 5,050 m (16,570 ft). They are found in the Transcaucasus and Transbaikal regions of Russia, and less frequently in the Altai, Tyva, and Buryatia Republics. They also inhabit Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Kashmir, and occur across much of western China, especially in the Tibetan Plateau. In 1997, they were reported for the first time as being present in the eastern Sayan Mountains.
The manul has long been hunted for its fur in relatively large numbers in China, Mongolia and Russia, although international trade in manul pelts has largely ceased since the late 1980s. There are approximately 1,000 hunters of Pallas's cats in Mongolia, with a mean estimated harvest of two cats per year. They are also shot because they can be mistaken for marmots, which are commonly hunted, and trapped incidentally in leghold traps set for wolves and foxes and snares set for marmot and hares. Their fat and organs are used as medicine in Mongolia and Russia, and they are killed by domestic dogs. While Mongolia has not recorded any trophy exports, skin exports have grown since 2000, with 143 reported exported in 2007.
Otocolobus manul is listed in CITES Appendix II. Hunting of this felid is prohibited in all range countries except Mongolia, where it has no legal protection despite being classified as Near Threatened in the country. Since 2009, the felid is legally protected in Afghanistan, banning all hunting and trade in its parts within the country.