Here at thebigcats.com, we care about small cats too! Small wild cats include cats that are smaller than a housecat, and cats we might consider big, like the cougar.
What Makes a Wild Cat Small?
Zoologists place cats in big and small categories based on characteristics other than physical size. I’ll touch on a few characteristics below: throat structure, eyes, and nose.
Small cats’ throats are designed so that they can purr continuously, but not roar. Big cats, on the other hand, can roar but not purr continuously. Purring and roaring each have specific purposes – look for a future blog entry on how each of these behaviors especially suit the cats to whom they were assigned!
Eye design also differs between big and small cats. Big cats’ pupils close to a circle, while most small cats’ pupils close to a slit. (If you spend time around housecats, you are familiar with this characteristic.)
As far as the nose goes, small cats have a strip of leathery skin across their nose, with no or very little fur there to speak of. Big cats’ noses are covered in fur above the cold, wet tip.
Threats to Small Wild Cats
Like big cats, small cat species need protection. Several issues threaten their survival, but two pose the greatest danger: the fur trade and loss of habitat.
The fur trade: Penalties for hunting big cats have increased, which means better protection for big cats. As wonderful as this is, there is a major downside: now more people are hunting smaller cats for their fur. And because it takes more small cat pelts to make whatever humans are using them for, this is a greater devastation to the small cat population. We need a solution that will protect big and small cats alike!
Loss of habitat: Small cats are losing their habitats due to the development of towns, cities, and farms. Once humans invade their living space, small cats are viewed as threats to livestock, pets, and humans – so small cats are killed. We must remember though that they are valuable contributors to our environment, and that they help control the population of pests such as rodents and insects. They must be protected.
About Small Wild Cats
These creatures have been challenging for zoologists to study for a number of reasons. Sightings can be rare – not only are many of them small in size, but they’re also elusive and shy by nature. Many small cats are nocturnal, especially when humans are around, and are very good at finding remote hiding places. In spite of all this, zoologists have been able to gather a bit of information on these intriguing cats. A few small wild cats are listed below, with tidbits of information on each one. Consider this just an overview – look for future blog entries spotlighting these and more small wild cats!
Bornean Bay Cat
This cat lives on the small island of Borneo in the Indonesian islands, and is considered one of the rarest and most elusive cats in the world. It was not studied in the wild until the late 1990s. Before then, it was the stuff of legends - natives had only heard of it in stories!
This cat lives on the Japanese island of Iriomote, near Taiwan. Iriomote cats are very good swimmers. Japan has declared this cat a national treasure, and has set up feeding and monitoring programs in hopes to increase the Iriomote cat population.
If you haven’t already, consider donating time/money/resources to aid in the recovery effort for Japan.
Margays live in Central and South America. They can run headfirst down tree trunks, and hang upside down by their feet! They are mainly tree dwellers, and their large eyes were created especially so they could function mainly at night. These cats thrive in tropical forested environments.
This cat could be mistaken for a housecat, but black-footed cats are actually quite tenacious and unsociable. They are fearless hunters, and will attack prey almost four times their size. They make their home in Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia. This creature is among the few small wild cats that have a Species Survival Plan (plans implemented by zoos that help protect endangered species).
This fluffy kitty looks very, very plump – but it actually is all fur! These guys have an outer coat of thick, soft fur, and a dark, wooly, long underfur. They need every bit of all that warmth to stay comfortable in the cold deserts & rocky country of central Asia. Their tail also acts as a muffler that they can wrap up in to stay cozy. Since their fur is so luxurious, they are especially at risk because of the fur trade.
Even though the sand cat looks like a cute, cuddly kitten, it is really just a very small cat – adults range in size from 4-8 lbs. The sand cat’s habitat ranges from northern Africa to southern Asia. It was created to thrive in its desert home. Its sandy-colored fur helps it stay hidden, and it doesn’t need much water since it comes out mainly at night and sleeps most of the day. Sand cats are poor jumpers and climbers, but are excellent diggers. They dig to build and improve burrows, and to hunt sand-dwelling prey.
Check out the links below for more info on small wild cats – smaller than lions and tigers, but no less precious!
Photos, videos, and info courtesy of
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