There are dozens of species of wild cats in the world, ranging from the well known big cats to small species no bigger than a domestic cat. Here we look at some facts and figures from the wonderful world of wild cats.
- Fastest: The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is the fastest land mammal with a top speed of an incredible 110 km/h (but more usually in sprints of up to 80km/h). It can maintain a top speed of 100km/h for about 200m.
- Largest: The Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) is the largest wild cat. Males can grow to 370cm long and weigh over 423 kg.
- Smallest: The Rusty-spotted Cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) from India and Sri Lanka is the smallest species of wild cat. It is about 40cm long with a tail length of 20cm.
- Longest Teeth: The Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) has the longest canine teeth relative to the body size of any cat alive today.
- Longest Coat: Pallas’ cat (Felis manul) from central Asia has the longest coat of any species of wild cat.
- Longest Tail: With a tail length of 80cm – 100cm, the Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia) has the longest tail of any cat. It wraps its tail around its head and body to protect it from the freezing temperatures and also uses the tail to help with balance while moving around on steep cliffs.
- Fish Eater: Although many cats include fish as part of their diet, the Fishing Cat (Prionailus viverrinus) is the only cat that eats mainly fish. They also eat some birds, small mammals such as rodents, reptiles, insects and shellfish.
- Highest Altitude: The Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia) can live at highest altitudes for any cat on earth. It is found up to 5000m.
- Most Endangered: The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is the most endangered species of cat in the world. Studies conducted in 2005 estimated the number of surviving Iberian lynx to be as few as 100.
So how many species of wild cats are there in the world? There is ongoing debate among taxonomists the number of species (mainly because it is hard to agree what is a species and what is a subspecies). The number of species varies between about 36 and 41 depending on which classification you refer to. Asia with twenty one species has the most, 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 in more than one continent).