From the 2 lb rusty spotted wild cat to the tiger, there are 40 species of feral cats. Most people are unaware that little cats comprise most of the Felidae Family. Wild cat conservation requires education and awareness.
History Of Wild Cats
The European wild cat (Felis silvestris) and the African wild cat are two small wild cat species that make up the wild cat species complex.
The European wild cat can be found in forests across Europe, Anatolia, and the Caucasus.
On the other hand, the African wild cat prefers semi-arid landscapes and steppes in Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia, as well as parts of western India and western China.
Wild cat species vary in their fur pattern, tail characteristics, and size. For instance, the European wild cat is known for its long fur and a bushy tail that ends in a rounded tip.
On the other hand, the smaller African wild cat has fainter stripes, short sandy-gray fur, and a tail that tapers towards the end.
Additionally, the Asiatic wild cat is recognized for its spotted fur pattern.
The wild cat and other cat family members share a common ancestor that lived approximately 10-15 million years ago.
The European wild cat traced its lineage back to Felis lunensis and underwent evolutionary changes during the Cromerian Stage about 866,000 to 478,000 years ago.
The silvestris and lybica lineages are believed to have diverged about 173,000 years ago.
The key points are as follows:
- Wild cats exhibit similarities to domestic cats, with the notable distinctions of being larger and possessing greater strength.
- Many organisms thrive in both wet and dry environments across the globe.
- Wild cats possess elusive and stealthy hunting abilities.
The best-known giant cat breeds are lions, tigers, and jaguars. However, the majority of members in the Felid family are small wild cats that typically weigh less than 50 pounds.
Numerous species of wild cats roam the forests, mountains, and jungles across the globe. Although they differ in terms of size, habitat, and fur type, these creatures possess numerous common characteristics.
The smaller wild felines have the same level of grace and strength as their larger counterparts.
Types Of Wild Cat
As of 2017, there are 41 officially recognized species of wild cats. Presented here are ten of the world’s most extraordinary and breathtaking wild cats, accompanied by intriguing facts about each of them.
Ocelot, the Spotted Beauty
The ocelot is widely regarded as one of the most stunning wild cats on the planet. This cat, which is of medium size, can weigh up to 33 pounds and grow to a length of about 3 ½ feet.
The animal possesses a breathtakingly beautiful, dense fur coat adorned with dark spots, making it a miniature leopard.
The ocelot spans a wide range from the southwestern part of North America to South and Central America.
The ocelot is an almost perfect predator, excelling in swimming, climbing, and running.
Ocelots, being nocturnal animals, are naturally shy and tend to hide away during the day.
Ocelots possess exceptional eyesight, enabling them to hunt and track prey even in low-light conditions effectively.
Additionally, they communicate with their fellow ocelots using soft meowing sounds.
Jaguars primarily hunt small animals on the ground but have also been observed attacking monkeys, turtles, anteaters, and even smaller deer.
The Black-Footed Cat: A Formidable Fighter
The African black-footed cat is not only a charming feline but also holds the distinction of being the smallest wild cat in Africa and one of the smallest in the world.
The size and shape of the object closely resemble that of a domestic cat.
The black-footed cat has developed a unique adaptation to its habitat by having furry feet, which serve as protection against the scorching hot sand.
This particular cat is widely known for its fierce nature and is regarded as the most accomplished hunter among all feline species.
The animal is a skilled climber and has the ability to jump up to 5 feet in the air.
Sand Cat: A tiny desert dweller
Despite being one of the smallest among big cat breeds, the sand cat may appear cute and cuddly like a domestic cat. However, it is well adapted to survive in the challenging conditions of a harsh desert habitat.
The average weight of it is 6 to 8 pounds. Similar to the fennec fox, the sand cat is a psammophile, meaning it is an animal that thrives in sandy environments.
This species is indigenous to the deserts, grasslands, and rocky valleys of the Middle East and North Africa. The place where it lives experiences extreme temperatures.
During the day, the temperature can reach as high as 126 degrees Fahrenheit, while at night, it drops down to 23 degrees.
Snow Leopard: A Mountain Mystery
The snow leopard is widely regarded as one of the most enigmatic species among wild cats. These beautiful cats are renowned for their stunning snowy, spotted coats and vibrant blue eyes.
Due to their elusive nature and habitat in remote mountainous regions, our knowledge about these wild cats is comparatively limited when compared to other types of wild cats.
The snow leopard inhabits the mountainous regions of Central Asia, specifically at elevations ranging from 11,000 to 22,000 feet.
Additionally, it engages in hunting activities within forests and grasslands found at lower elevations.
Fishing Cat: Expert Swimmer
The fishing cat, scientifically known as Prionailurus viverrinus, is naturally found in Southeast Asia. The fishing cat is notable among other wild cats due to its exceptional swimming abilities and strength.
It can grow up to 4 feet in length and weigh between 11 and 35 pounds. The fishing cat is named for its exceptional swimming ability.
Identifying a fishing cat is made easy by its distinctive features, such as partially webbed feet and a thick, waterproof undercoat.
The fishing cat is able to swim proficiently, including underwater, due to these adaptations.
The main component of its diet consists of fish, although it also consumes small rodents.
The Rusty-Spotted Cat: The Smallest Big Cat Breed?
The Prionailurus rubiginosus, also known as the rusty-spotted cat, is a small and feisty feline species that is indigenous to India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.
The smallest wild cat in the world is this nocturnal feline. With a length of less than 2 feet, this creature resembles a miniature leopard with distinctive spots, elongated tail, and pointed ears.
The rust-spotted cat gets its name from the rust-colored spots on its fur, which are used to identify it. With its large eyes and small stature, this cat appears incredibly cute.
However, it possesses impressive predatory skills.
The Caracal: A Beautiful Exotic Creature
The Caracal caracal, an uncommon wild cat, is easily recognizable due to its distinctive ears adorned with long, hairy tufts.
The wild cat possesses a graceful and slender physique, adorned with a stunning coat of reddish-golden fur. The African big cat breed may be considered the most beautiful.
Caracals are indigenous to North Africa and Egypt. There is evidence suggesting that the caracal held cultural significance for the ancient Egyptians.
The caracal is approximately 1 ½ to 2 feet tall and has a weight range of 20 to 45 pounds.
The deadly predator prefers to inhabit dry scrubland and grassland as its habitat.
Pallas Cat: Fluffy and Small
The Pallas cat, scientifically known as Octolobus manual, is naturally found in the Asian mountains. The animal, commonly referred to as the steppe cat or rock wild cat has been observed in various regions, including Iran, Pakistan, northern India, and China.
Similar to the snow leopard, it has successfully adapted to the challenges of high altitudes and harsh winter conditions. However, the Pallas cat is significantly smaller than a leopard.
It can reach a length of up to 2 feet and has an average weight of around 10 pounds.
The wild cat is stunning, with a sturdy physique and a dense, plush coat.
Despite its small size, the cat has a vast territory in which it hunts pikas and other small mammals.
Jaguarundi: Excellent Jumper
The jaguarundi, scientifically known as Herpailurus yaguarondi, is slightly larger compared to a domestic cat. They are indigenous to Mexico, Belize, and various other countries in Central and South America.
The jaguarundi is an exceptional jumper, capable of leaping over 6 feet in the air to capture its prey.
The animal moves swiftly and stays close to the ground, enabling it to hunt rabbits and small rodents effectively.
The jaguarundi is a small wild cat that typically weighs between 8 and 16 pounds. It is known for its distinctive coat, which is either solid brown or gray.
The Lynx pardinus, a stunning wild cat, is known for its long, tufted ears and fluffy paws. The animal is indigenous to the mountains of Spain, where it hunts rabbits, rodents, and other small mammals.
The Iberian lynx was on the brink of extinction, but thanks to a dedicated conservation effort, lynxes bred in captivity were successfully reintroduced.
The animal has a coat that is fawn-colored, adorned with dark spots, and it also possesses long legs. The weight of an Iberian lynx can reach up to 35 pounds.