Facts about cats from the world of wild cats

There are dozens of species of wild cats in the world, ranging from the familiar big cats to small species no bigger than a domestic cat. Here we take a look at some facts and figures from the wonderful world of feral cats.

  1. Fastest: The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is the fastest land mammal with a top speed of an incredible 110 km/h (but more generally running up to 80 km/h). It can maintain a top speed of 100km/h for about 200m.
  2. Largest: The Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) is the largest wild cat. Males can grow up to 370 cm long and weigh more than 423 kg.
  3. Smallest: The Rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) of India and Sri Lanka is the smallest species of wild cat. It is about 40 cm long with a tail length of 20 cm.
  4. Longest Teeth: The clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) has the longest canine teeth relative to body size of any cat alive today.
  5. Longest Fur: The Central Asian Pallas’s cat (Felis manul) has the longest fur of any wild cat species.
  6. Longest tail: With a tail length of 80 cm to 100 cm, the snow leopard (Uncia uncia) has the longest tail of all cats. It wraps its tail around its head and body to protect it from freezing temperatures and also uses its tail for balance while moving up steep cliffs.
  7. Fish Eater – Although many cats include fish as part of their diet, the fishing cat (Prionailus viverrinus) is the only cat that eats primarily fish. They also eat some birds, small mammals such as rodents, reptiles, insects, and shellfish.
  8. Highest Altitude – The snow leopard (Uncia uncia) can live at the highest altitudes for any cat on earth. It is found up to 5000m.
  9. Most Endangered: The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is the most endangered cat species in the world. Surveys conducted in 2005 estimated the number of surviving Iberian lynxes to be as low as 100.

So how many species of wild cats are there in the world? There is an ongoing debate among taxonomists about the number of species (mainly because it is difficult to agree on what is a species and what is a subspecies). The number of species varies between 36 and 41 depending on the classification to which it refers. Asia has the most with twenty-one species, followed by South America with twelve species, Africa with nine species, North America with seven species, and Europe with three species. (The numbers add up to more than 41 because the same species can be found on more than one continent.)

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