10 wild cats

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key point

  • Feral cats are similar to domestic cats, only they are larger and more powerful.
  • Many plants thrive in both wet and dry environments around the world.
  • Feral cats are elusive and stealthy hunters.

Lions, tigers and jaguars are the most famous big cat species. However, most members of the feline family are small feral cats weighing less than 50 pounds. Many types of feral cats roam the forests, mountains and jungles of the world. They vary in size, habitat, and fur type, but they share many characteristics. These wild cats are as graceful and powerful as their larger cousins.

As of 2017, there are 41 recognized species of feral cats. Here are 10 of the world's most unusual and stunning feral cat species, along with some fun facts about each.

1. Ocelot: Spotted Beauty

Types of wild cat ocelot
Ocelot or Leopardus pardalis looking for prey. These feral cats are excellent swimmers, climbers and runners, making them almost perfect predators.

©Saad315/Shutterstock.com

The ocelot ( Leopardus pardalis ) is one of the most beautiful wild cats in the world. This medium-sized cat can weigh up to 33 pounds and measure about 3.5 feet long. It has a stunning thick coat with dark spots that give it the appearance of a miniature leopard. The ocelot has a wide range, extending from southwestern North America to South and Central America. Ocelots are excellent swimmers, climbers and runners, and nearly perfect predators.

As a nocturnal animal, ocelots tend to be shy and hide during the day. Their excellent eyesight allows them to hunt and stalk prey in the dark, and they communicate with other ocelots through their quiet meows. They prey primarily on small animals on the ground, but have also been known to attack monkeys, turtles, anteaters, and even smaller deer.

The deadliest cat species - the black-footed cat
Black-footed cat, a black-footed cat sitting on a tree. These feral cats are the deadliest cats in the world with a 60% kill success rate.

© slowmotiongli/Shutterstock.com

This adorable feline ( Felis nigripes ) is the smallest wild cat in Africa and one of the smallest in the world. In size and shape, it looks very much like a house cat. This black-footed cat has adapted to its habitat, and its furry feet protect it from the hot sand. Known for its ferocity, this cat is considered the most successful hunter of all cats. It is an excellent climber and can jump 5 feet in the air.

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3. Sandcat: Small Desert Dweller

Types of wild cats - sand cats
Sand cats, margarita cats, rocks in moderation. These feral cats may look like cute, cuddly house cats, but they thrive in their harsh desert habitat.

© iStock.com/slowmotiongli

The smallest of all big cats, the sand cat ( Felis margarita ) looks like a cute, cuddly house cat, but it thrives in its harsh desert habitat. Its average weight is 6 to 8 pounds. Like the fennec fox, the sand cat is a psammozoan , an animal that thrives in sand. It is native to the deserts, grasslands and rocky valleys of the Middle East and North Africa. Where it lives the temperature is extreme. During the day, they can reach 126 degrees Fahrenheit, but drop to 23 degrees at night.

4. Snow Leopard: Mountain Mystery

Types of Jaguar Cats - Snow Leopard
A snow leopard rests on a rock. These stunning feral cats are among the rarest big cats in the world.

© iStock.com/Rob Franklin

The snow leopard ( Pantera uncia ) is one of the most mysterious wild cats. These beautiful cats are known for their snowy white spotted fur and bright blue eyes. Because they are elusive felines that live high in remote mountains, we don't know as much about them as we do about other types of wild cats. Snow leopards live in the mountains of Central Asia at altitudes of 11,000 to 22,000 feet. It also hunts in low-elevation forests and grasslands.

5. Fishing cat: Skilled swimmer

Types of Feral Cats - Fishing Cats
The fishing cat stands out from other types of feral cats because it is a strong, skilled swimmer.

© Gemma Simpson/Shutterstock.com

The fishing cat ( Prionailurus viverrinus ) is native to Southeast Asia. The fishing cat stands out from other types of feral cats because it is a strong, skilled swimmer. It is 4 feet long and weighs 11 to 35 pounds. Fishing cats are named for their ability to swim. The fishing cat is easy to identify because of its partially webbed feet and thick, waterproof undercoat. These adaptations allow fishing cats to swim well, even underwater. Most of its diet is fish, but it also eats small rodents.

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6. Rust-spotted cat: The smallest of the big cats?

Types of Feral Cats - Rusty Spotted Cats
The rusty spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) is the smallest wild cat in the world.

© iStock.com/wrangel

This fierce little cat ( Prionailurus rubiginosu s) is native to India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. This nocturnal feline may be the smallest wild cat in the world. It is less than 2 feet long and looks like a small leopard with spots, a long tail and pointy ears. The identification of rusty spotted cats, as the name suggests, is from the rusty spots on the fur. With its huge eyes and tiny size, it looks downright cute, but this cat is a skilled predator.

7. Caracal: Exotic Beauty

Types of Feral Cats - Caracal
A raccoon descends a tree in the afternoon sun in South Africa. These feral cats are easy to spot because of their unusual ears with long, shaggy fur.

©iStock.com/StuPorts

This unusual feral cat ( Caracal caracal ) is easily recognizable because of its unusual ears with tufts of long, shaggy hair. This beautiful wildcat has a slender, elegant body and reddish golden fur. It is possibly the most beautiful breed of African big cats. Caracals are native to North Africa and Egypt. There is evidence that the caracal was of great cultural significance to the ancient Egyptians. Caracals stand about 1.5 to 2 feet tall and weigh from 20 to 45 pounds. Its preferred habitat is dry scrub and grassland, where it is a deadly predator.

8. Pallas the cat: small and fluffy

Types of Feral Cats - Pallas Cats
The Pallas cat, or Manuel, lives in the cold and arid steppes of Central Asia. These wild cats are also known as prairie cats or rock wild cats.

© iStock.com/kjekol

The Pallas cat ( Octolobus manual ) is native to the mountains of Asia. Also known as the steppe cat or rock wild cat, it has been found in Iran, Pakistan, northern India and China. Like the snow leopard, it has adapted to life at high altitudes and cold weather. However, Pallas cats are much smaller than leopards. It grows to 2 feet long and weighs about 10 pounds. This gorgeous wild cat has a stocky build and thick, shaggy fur. For smaller felines, it has a wide territory and can prey on pikas and other small mammals.

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9. Jaguarundi: Excellent jumper

Types of Feral Cats - Jaguarundi
Jaguarundi looked around, checking his surroundings. These feral cats are master jumpers and can leap more than 6 feet in the air to catch their prey.

©Ian Duffield/Shutterstock.com

The jaguar ( Herpailurus yaguarondi ) is slightly larger than the domestic cat. They are native to Mexico, Belize, and other countries in Central and South America. The jaguarundi are superb jumpers, capable of leaping more than 6 feet in the air to catch prey. It moves quickly and stays close to the ground, which allows it to prey on rabbits and small rodents. Jaguars weigh 8 to 16 pounds and have a solid brown or gray coat.

10. Iberian Lynx

Types of Feral Cats - Iberian Lynx
Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) among rocks in the Sierra Morena, Andalusia, Spain. These feral cats prey on rabbits, rodents, and other small mammals.

©tony mills/Shutterstock.com

This beautiful wild cat ( Lynx pardinus ) has long tufted ears and furry paws. It is native to the mountains of Spain, where it preys on rabbits, rodents, and other small mammals. The Iberian lynx was nearly extinct, but concerted conservation efforts reintroduced captive-bred lynx. It has a fawn-colored coat with dark spots and long legs. An Iberian lynx can weigh up to 35 pounds.

List of Feral Cat Species

  • ocelot
  • black footed cat
  • sand cat
  • snow leopard
  • fishing cat
  • rusty spotted cat
  • Caracal
  • pallas cat
  • jaguar
  • iberian lynx

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Types of Feral Cats

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about the author

heather ross


Heather Ross is a middle school English teacher and mother of 2 people, 2 tuxedo cats and a golden doodle. In between taking the kids to soccer practice and grading homework, she loves reading and writing about all things animals!

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

How many different types of feral cats are there?

There are 40 species of wild cats, most of which are small wild cats weighing less than 50 catties. These facts about feral cats may come as a surprise, but these kittens are just as graceful and powerful as their larger cousins.

What is the largest feral cat?

Tigers are the largest big cats in the world. The smallest are the black-footed, sandy and rusty-spotted cats.

How can a little wild cat be called a big cat?

There is no exact identification of what a big cat is. Some people think that only a cat that can roar can be a big cat. These cats are tigers, lions, jaguars and leopards. It is also said that all undomesticated wild cats are big cats. This assortment will include all the feral cats on this list, even the small sand cats. As the facts about feral cats show, they all have similar characteristics. They are carnivores and excellent predators that dominate their environment.

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