- Tigers (Panthera tigris)
- Snow Leopard
- Pampas Cat (Oncifelis colocolo)
- Ocelot (leopardus pardalis)
- Clouded Leopards
- Mountain Lion (Cougar Felis concolor)
- Margay (Leopardus wiedi)
- Leopards (Panthera pardus)
- Jaguars (Panthera onca)
- Jaguarundi (Felis yagouaroundi)
- Black Panther
- African Wild Cat
Cat Facts Essays
Did you know?
- Tigers are the biggest of all the species of cats. Male Amur tigers can weigh 700 lbs. and can be 15 feet long from head to tail.
- Tigers and Lions are the only two types of cats that have a larger, stronger front area then back area of their body.
- All tigers have their own individual strip pattern, just as each person has their own finger prints.
- They are very good swimmers. The Indo-Chinese tiger can swim 8 miles in the open ocean to get to other islands.
- There were 8 different sub-species of tigers, currently there are only 4 sub-species left in the wild.
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Did you know?
- Snow leopards have a tail as long as their body.
- They live in the high cold mountains of the Himalayas to the hot Gobi Desert.
- Snow leopards have a very long outer fur coat and a short fur under coat that keeps them warm and dry in the cold.
- They use the long tail for balance when jumping from rock to rock and like a scarf for their body in the cold snow.
- Their favorite food is blue sheep and ibex.
- They can live on slopes of 30 degrees and sometimes steeper.
- Snow leopards are faster then the the blue sheep going down rocky slopes but the sheep are faster going up slope.
- They has the best long distance jump of all the cats, which can be 40 feet.
Snow leopards live in some of the most remote habitat in the world. They call the Himalayan Mountains home, from Myanmar moving west through China, Nepal, India, Pakistan and back east again through Kazakstan, Mongolia and the Gobi Desert. Total area of distribution is about 1,900,000 square kilometers. Estimates run from 6,000 to 14,000 snow leopards left in the wild. It is very difficult to get a good estimates of how many snow leopards are left in the wild because of the large area they can be found and the remoteness of that same area.
Currently the scientific community believes there are only one sub-species of snow leopard. In the most simple type of classification the snow leopards are one of three cats that biologist have a difficult time classifying the genera as a big cat or small cat. The big cats are considered Panthera and the small cats Felis. The snow leopard does not fit very well in either classification and are classified Uncia.
The snow leopard primary prey species are the sheep and goat native to the reign, (blue sheep, ibex, markhor, and argali). They have also been know to prey on the smaller mammals and birds in the area.
Snow leopards are listed in CITES as Appendix 1 animals. They are protected over most of their range but are still killed by sheep ranchers because of the losses snow leopards inflect on livestock. The Snow Leopard Stewardship Project was developed to address those predator-livestock issues. Visit our friends at the Snow Leopard Conservancy for more information.
Did you know?
- Pampas cats are named after the pampas grassland formations found in South America.
- In Argentina, 78,000 pampas cats furs were exported in a three year period between 1976-1979.
- They can be found at high altitudes in the Andean Mountains to low lands of central Brazil.
Did you know?
- that ocelot fossils have been discovered in Florida.
- the state of Texas has the only population group of ocelots in the United States.
- that it is probably the best known of the small cats because of its beautiful coat and popularity in the pet trade in years past.
- that it is found in every country South of the U.S. except Chile.
- that ocelots are excellent swimmers.
The ocelot, one of the most beautiful wild cats, has short golden fur marked with black or dark brown rosettes and spots which tend to run in chainlike rows along the sides of the body. The rather large head has two black cheek stripes on each side surrounding an almost white area, topped by black rounded ears with a white spot in the center. The eyes are brown or golden. The ocelot’s stomach is snowy white with black spots, while the tail is ringed with black on top and white underneath.
Ocelots are nocturnal, solitary and territorial. Females defend a territory of about fourteen square km, while males maintain a territory twice as large which overlaps that of several females. Ocelots feed on a wide variety of small and medium sized mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects. They also consume a large amount of grass, up to twenty percent of their daily food. They are excellent swimmers and climbers.
Ocelots have one or two kittens in a den within a dense thicket after a 70-80 day gestation. A female ocelot reaches maturity a about a year and a half, while the males are mature at two and a half years. They breed year round in the tropics but show a fall breeding peak in their more northern habitats. The lifespan of an ocelot is usually 7-10 years, although they can live to be 20 years old.
Ocelots have been held in many zoo collections with a fairly good breeding record. But because of unregulated breeding many zoos have an overabundance of ocelots of unknown lineage. Many ocelots are also owned by private breeders for sale as pets.
Ocelots are found in every country south of the United States, except Chile. At one time they ranged across much of the southern United States, including Florida, where ocelot fossils have been found. They inhabit a wide variety of habitats from humid tropical forests to dry scrub, savannas and swamp forests. Requiring dense cover, ocelots completely avoid open country. It is one of the few small cats to be studied in several habitats.
During the l970’s and 80’s, the ocelot was the spotted cat most hunted for its fur. As many as 200,000 ocelots were killed for their fur each year, almost destroying ocelot populations in some areas such as Venezuela. Although it is now protected in most of its range, Ecuador, El Salvador and Guyana still allow hunting. Some ocelot populations are increasing in protected areas. Protection status is CITES appendix I.
Primary Problems for the Wild Population of Ocelots
Although the ocelot has been labeled “one of the most successful forms of mammalian life in the Amazon region” for its tolerance of disturbed habitat, its population is declining because of the effects of hunting, habitat destruction and the resulting loss of prey species. As the wild populations of ocelots continues to fall, zoos are faced with unwanted cast-off pets, inbred animals and offspring of unknown lineage.
Did you know?
- Clouded leopards are one the most acrobatic cats in trees, and are considered arboreal. (arboreal means “living in trees”)
- They have some of the longest canine teeth of all the cats. The teeth can reach lengths of 2 1/2 inches.
- These cats can hang from their back feet from tree branches, but can not hang from their tail as a monkey does.
- The name “clouded” come from the fact that their spots look like clouds in the sky.
- Clouded leopards can swim well and are found on some small islands in Southeast Asia.
- Their main prey is reported to consist of monkeys, birds and small mammals. Because of their long teeth, they also able to prey on larger mammals like deer and boar.
- They are one of the few cats that can be green in color.
Clouded leopards range from India in the West, across the South and East of China and South all the way to the islands of Borneo and Samatra. They are thought to be only associated with the tropical rain forest areas but studies have shown they take advantage of other types of habitats as well.
Not much is known of the population status because of lack of study and the secretiveness of these animals. It is very difficult to study these cats because of their arboreal nature and the denseness of the forests they live in. It is thought one of the strongest populations of cats are found in Borneo because of the lack of tigers and leopards.
Clouded Leopards are listed as Appendix 1 cats under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). This is the most protected status and animal can have under current world wide treaties. They are still hunted for their coats and teeth. Clouded leopard pelts are the most common of all the cat pelts found on the black market
Although thought to live exclusively in tropical evergreen forests and be strictly nocturnal in activity, clouded leopards in Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary have been camera-trapped in dry hill evergreen forest and during mid-day and early afternoon hours. Clouded leopards are unique first and formost for their arboreal skills. Although CL spend more time on the ground then previously thought, their remarkable climbing abilities and balance make this cat special as Asia’s most arboreal. (The smaller and similarly patterned marbled cat may be as arboreal, but unfortunantly no ecological data exists on this cat in the wild.) Besides the importance of the cat from an ecological standpoint, the unparralled beauty of clouded leopards truly make this species a coveted member of Asia’s carnivore community.
Did you know?
- The mountain lion has many different common names such as; cougar, puma, catamount, painter cat, screamer cat and Florida panther
- They have the largest distribution of any of the cats of the Americas from Canada to Argentina.
- The cougar is more closely related to small cats even though it is the 4th largest of the cat species.
- They can purr like a house cat.
- Catamounts are well known for their calls in mating season and it is likened to the sound of a woman screaming.
- The cubs of a puma have spots like a leopard till they get be about a year old.
- These cats live in a broad range of habitats, from the deserts to the tropical rainforest and from coast lines to the high mountains.
Did you know?
- that margays can run straight down trees like a squirrel
- that they can hang from a tree branch by one foot
- that a margay’s tail is 70% as long as its body
- that in some areas, margays hunt, sleep and maybe even have their babies in trees
- that margays use to be a popular exotic pet in the USA years ago.
The margay, easily confused with the ocelot, has plush fur patterned with black-ringed rosettes and long blotches on a brownish-yellow background. It has two dark cheek stripes on each side of the face. The tail is 70% of the body length and marked with wide rings and a black tip. Its large, rounded ears are black with a white spot in the middle. As it is mostly nocturnal, the margay has enormous dark-brown eyes. Adult margays weigh 9-20 pounds (3-9 kg) and reach a length between 34-52″ (86-130 cm).
Margays are found in humid tropical forests from northern Argentina to Mexico. A mainly tree dwelling animal, it uses its broad, soft feet and mobile toes to hang from tree limbs by one hind foot and can rotate its foot 180 degrees. The long, heavy tail helps with balance when moving from tree to tree. When descending a tree, the margay walks straight down with its head first. Their prey items consist of small, tree dwelling rodents, opossums, squirrels, sloths, monkeys, porcupines, birds, insects, and occasionally fruit. Little is known of their social system in the wild. After a gestation period of about 85 days, margays give birth to a single kitten once a year. The kittens open their eyes after about two weeks and are darker than their parents. Mature at about two years, margays have been known to live for thirteen years in captivity. However, these shy cats do not breed well in zoos and almost half of the kittens don’t survive.
Although the margay use to be found as far north as Texas, it’s current range is from Mexico to northern Argentina in evergreen and deciduous forest habitats below 1200 meters in elevation.. It often hunts on the edge of a forest and may be found in nearby savannah habits as well. Little is known about the margay’s status and numbers across its range, although it is most common in the Amazon Basin. A margay’s home range appears to be eleven to sixteen square miles.
Primary Problems for the Wild Populations of Margays
The margay was one of the four most heavily exploited cats for the fur trade until trade restrictions in the 1980’s, although illegal hunting continues to be a problem in some areas. However, loss of its habitat from deforestation is now the greatest danger to the remaining margays. Margays are unable to adjust to logged areas of the forest because they are unwilling to cross cleared sections. They are then restricted to small patches of forest, where inbreeding is a problem. Over hunting for their fur, capture for the pet trade and logging of the forests have almost destroyed wild populations of this beautiful little cat. Margays are legally protected over most of their range. However, they have no protection in Ecuador, Guyana and El Salvador. CITES has placed then on Appendix I.
Did you know?
- Leopards are thought to be 7 times stronger than a human being, pound for pound.
- People have observed leopards hauling a carcass 2-3 times their weight, 20 feet up a tree.
- Each leopard has its own spot pattern, just as people have different finger prints.
- There are three different species of cats called “leopard”: Leopard (Panthera pardus), Clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) and the Snow leopard (Uncia uncia).
- There are many different subspecies of leopard from various parts of the world, such as the Persian (Panthera pardus saxicolor)or Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis). Just how many subspecies there are is still widely debated.
- Leopards are found in the wild from South Africa to the far East of Russia. They have the widest distribution of all the wild cats.
- Generally leopards are most active between sunset and sunrise, but sometimes they will hunt or travel in the daytime.
- Most leopard cubs stay with their mother for 13 to 18 months before becoming independent.
- The average life span for a leopard in the wild ranges from 10-15 years. In captivity they have been known to live 20 years.
Did you know?
- that jaguars lived in California until the 1860’s?
- that they are the largest cat in the Americas and weigh up to 300lbs or more, over twice as much as a leopard?
- that jaguars has one of the strongest jaws of all the species of cats.
- they are one of the few species of cats that likes the water. In the wild jaguars are often found near or in the water and are considered very good swimmers.
- that there’s relatively few in U.S. zoos. As of the middle of 2001 only eight have a known background traced back to the wild.
- that experts disagree over how many subspecies there are? Some say eight while others some only two? (Not sure what ‘subspecies’ means? Link to our ‘Subspecies’ page which explains…)
The jaguar is the third largest of all the cats. It is the largest cat in the Americas and the master of its domain. The jaguar has no natural enemy except for man. It is said to be strongest of all the cats. The jaw can crush the scull of almost any animal and can pierce the shell of a turtle. I have seen a jaguar put ¼ inch deep groves in the hard case of a bowling ball with his teeth. The jaguar is often mistaken for leopards in zoos. Both have spots, but that is where most similarities end. The jaguar has a large rounded head and a stocky body. It has legs that are shorter and bulkier then that of the leopard. A football analogy of both cats would make the leopard the wide receiver and the jaguar a lineman. The jaguar has larger rosettes (spots) with dots in the middle of the rosettes on their back. Jaguars are great swimmers and like water. Most often when seen in the wild, it is near or in the water. The dark color gene or melanism is found in jaguars as well in leopards. The term “Black Panther” is commonly use for those cats because their coat appear to look black but this is not the correct terminology for two reasons. First, both the jaguar and the leopard can appear to look black but the coat is actually dark brown and has black rosettes (spots) like the yellow version. Second, a leopard and jaguar are different species of cat. It would not be correct to use the same name for different species because of their color.
The jaguar is the largest cat in the Americas. Historically the cats ranged from the Southwestern parts of the United States to Northern Argentina. In California the last jaguar was killed in the 1860’s. In Arizona the last jaguar was seen in the late 1980’s. In New Mexico a jaguar was seen in 1998. It is thought the cat is a transit animal that ranged out of Mexico. They now believe that the population base for these cats coming to the United States is located about 130 miles South of the Mexican border. The jaguar is disappearing from countries in Central America due to human encroachment. Although some countries like Belize have set up National Parks for the jaguar. The largest densities of jaguars are thought to be in areas of Brazil. The Amazon seems to have the highest populations. Other areas such as the Pantanal in Western Brazil and the Chaco region of Northern Paraguay are thought to have high densities of jaguars.
Regional Studbook for Jaguar Subspecies classification and range:
- Panthera onca arizonensis: Southern U.S. to Northwest Mexico
- Panthera onca veraecruscis: Chiapas to Texas and Louisiana
- Panthera onca hernandesii: Western coastlands of Mexico
- Panthera onca goldmani: Southwest Yucatan, Northern Guatemala
- Panthera onca centralis: Central America, Columbia
- Panthera onca peruvianus: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia
- Panthera onca onca: Forests of Orinoco and Amazon Basin
- Panthera onca palustris: Southern Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina
Listed on Appendix 1 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
Listed as endangered Mexico Southward by US Fish and Wildlife Service
Listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Primary Problems for the wild populations of jaguar
Loss of habitat: Many of areas that the jaguar now lives are being loss due to encroachment by people. The jungles are being destroyed a alarming rates in Central and South America. Areas are being cleared for farming and logging. Exploring and mining for natural resources at times take a great toll on the habitat of the jaguar.
Killing of jaguars because they pose a threat to livestock is the greatest problem the cat faces. In the last 3 years, 40 jaguars have been killed in Iguacu Nation Park, Brazil. (Dr. Ronaldo Morato 1999) Studies by Brazilian Biologist are under way to determine what the exact loss of livestock is due to jaguar predation. Some guess the losses to be around 28%. We need to try and solve the problems that jaguars create. It is the only way to save them.
People in some areas compete for the same prey (Jorgenson and Redford 1993). Because of this competition the jaguars natural prey is lost and people will kill jaguars to eliminate their opposition.
Commercial hunting and trapping of jaguars for their pelts declined drastically since the mid-1970. CITES controls have progressively shut down the international markets that sold furs. (IUCN cat)
Did you know?
- They are sometimes called otter cats because look somewhat like an otter when they move.
- They are found to have 4 basic color coats; Red, Brown, Silver and Black. You will find the color of their coats in all phases of those basic four colors.
- They are still found in the south west states of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
- Scientist think they are most closely related to the mountain lion.
The jaguarundi is a small non striped or spotted cat found in the Americas. They can be found in the South West parts of the United States, down through Central and South America. They range in size from 8 to 20 pounds. Very little study has been conducted on this species of cat.
Did you know?
- The word “caracal” comes from the Turkish word “karakulak” that means black ears.
- The caracal was displayed in the royal courts of Egypt in the days of the Pharos.
- Caracals are the quickest cat. Cheetahs are the fastest
- Royalty in the Middle East use to gamble on the amount of birds a caracal can take down in one pass. A good caracal can take down 7 to 12 birds before they can fly away.
- They are called by the name ‘Desert Lynx’ even though they do not live in the true deserts of Africa or the Middle East.
Is Bagheera really a Panther?
Years ago scientists used to think that there was a black species of cat called a panther. Rudyard Kipling wrote about a famous one called Bagheera, the black panther who saved Mowgli in ‘Jungle Book’. Even today you can still see the word ‘panther’ used in books, and hear it on television.
But ‘panther’ is not an accurate word! It is used to describe many different animals. Have you heard of the Florida Panther? That is the name of the smallest and rarest cougar in the United States, and it is not black!
In the Americas there are black jaguars and in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, there are black leopards. These wild cats are very different from one another! So, to be accurate, we can not call all of them panthers. We should call them by their real names of black leopards or black jaguars.
But why are these cats black? Why do they look so different from yellow leopards and jaguars? Are they really the same cats?
The color is rather like blue eyes in people. Once in awhile a person is born with blue eyes. Most people have brown or green eyes. (Blue eyes come from what is called a ‘recessive gene’).
In the same way the black color in cats is also very rare, and also the result of a recessive gene. A black cub can be born in the same litter as yellow brothers and sisters. We say that the black ones are ‘melanistic’. This is the scientific word which means ‘dark in color’.
Now, are you ready for a big suprise? Did you know that these black cats do have spots? They are just very hard to see. If you are lucky, and look closely at their fur in the sunlight, at just the right angle, you might see that they’re really a dark chocolate brown with black spots!
Here’s some more suprising facts:
- The offspring of black cats can be born the more common yellowish color.
- They are not stronger than their spotted brothers or sisters.
- Unlike even rarer white cats they have a good chance of survival because their black color is great camoflage. Black cats are most often found in the rainforests of the world where they seem to melt into the shadows. They can hide and hunt as well as other wild cats.
Did you know?
- that the African wildcat looks a lot like a tabby house cat
- that the African wildcat often eats scorpions
- that this cat is one of the ancestor of the domestic house cat
- that this cat like most cats lives a solitary life
The African wildcat of the lybica group is very similar to the domestic cat. The background color of its coat ranges from reddish to sandy yellow to tawny brown to gray, and is typically marked with faint tabby stripes and spots. The backs of the ears are reddish or rusty-brown and it has relatively long legs. In southern Africa, males weigh an average of 5 kg while females are approximately 4 kg in weight.
Wildcats are mainly nocturnal, especially in very hot climates or near settled areas, but are also active in early morning and late afternoon. Rodents are their preferred prey, but they also hunt birds, reptiles, amphibians, as well as other mammals such as young antelope. Insects, spiders and even scorpions are also often eaten. They seldom scavenge on carrion.
During the summer in southern Africa, wildcats give birth to two to five kittens after a gestation period of 56-63 days. They become mature at about eleven months of age and can live up to fifteen years. The African wildcat is generally recognized as the ancestor of the domestic cat. Although feral domestic cats often live together in groups, the wildcats prefer to live most of their lives alone. The process of domestication may be the reason for the greater sociality of the feral cats.
The African wildcat lives across a broad range of habitats. The tropical rain forest appears to be the only habitat in which it does not live. It is thinly distributed throughout the Nubian, Saharan, and Arabian deserts, where it most frequently is found in the mountains and dry watercourses. They range up to 3,000 meters in altitude in Kenya, Ethiopia and Algeria. The home range varies from one square kilometer to a little over four square kilometers, depending on the amount of available prey.
Primary Problems for the Wild Populations of African Wildcats
The African wildcats are the most abundant of the wild cats and are not protected over most of its range. Hunting is prohibited in Algeria, Israel, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria and Tunisia. They are listed as CITES Appendix II.
The primary threat facing the African wildcat throughout its range is hybridization with domestic cats. Hybridization has been taking place over a long period of time. Male feral cats are larger than male wildcats and occur in greater numbers, thus giving them an advantage in breeding with wildcat females. Distinctive characteristics of the wildcat, such as long legs and reddish-backed ears, disappear with hybridization. It is likely that pure strains of African wildcat will be found only in protected areas remote from human habitation. Several breeding programs have been started to conserve pure strains of wildcat in captivity, but the best hope for survival in the wild lies in controlling the numbers of feral cats in remote protected areas.