10 wild cats
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- 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
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.
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.
3. Sandcat: Small Desert Dweller
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
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
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.
6. Rust-spotted cat: The smallest of the big cats?
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
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
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.
9. Jaguarundi: Excellent jumper
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
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
- black footed cat
- sand cat
- snow leopard
- fishing cat
- rusty spotted cat
- pallas cat
- iberian lynx
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about the author
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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