15 Wild Exotic Cats That Can Be Kept As Pets

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wild exotic cats

The wild exotic cats have A lot of animal lovers would love to keep tigers and lions as pets, but with stricter laws and regulations it is nearly impossible to even consider this option. However, for wild cat lovers there are numerous exotic and wild cat options, which can be considered pets. Exotic pets are not restricted to cats only, but include fish and Bengal tigers. The fact remains that there are a large number of small and exotic cats species that make reasonably good pets only if you know how to take care of them.

Exotic cats refer to wild cat species that can be kept as pets or domesticated and these cats are extremely attractive and interesting species. Most people are used to domesticated dogs and cats and understand their behavior pattern very well, but with these wild and exotic cats species the whole process of petting can be a bit challenging.

If know the legal aspects of keeping these exotic wild cats as domesticated pets, then the process can be less difficult. Other than the legal permits you also have to loosen your purse strings if you have to keep one of these animals as pets. An exotic cats owner should have ample space and the right living conditions to accommodate these cats.

Living with one of these species can be an amazing experience as these cats have the same loving and affectionate nature as the domestic cats, but there are a few challenges that are quite different from the regular domestic cat. The owner of an exotic wild cats has to be calm, responsible and dedicated. It is a huge commitment that will alter your regular lifestyle. These are not for everyone.

MUST READ Points to consider before getting an Exotic wild cat home

Now that you have made the decision to get an exotic cats home as a pet, make sure you are aware of certain rules and regulations regarding these wild cats. Ask a few questions to yourself about how it will work out financially, will the cat be happy with you and how much time can you spend for your prized pet. The following are a few pertinent questions you need to find an answer to before you make this very important decision that will alter your life.

Lifetime Commitment

Wild cats have a good lifespan. Most of them live for a minimum of 20 years and you have to remain a good companion to them for their lifetime.

Legality

If you are thinking of getting a wild cat, be aware of laws regarding the domestication of exotic cats in your state, city or federal.

Difficulty in re-homing Wild cats

Large exotic cats are difficult to shift to new homes compared to the small exotic wild cats. Shifting them to a shelter home for adoption can be very difficult as most of them don’t accept large cats. Even you may find it difficult to get people for adopting these cats. These are territorial animals and don’t like moving to new spaces or to a new owner.

Licenses or Permits

Most wild cats need licenses to keep them at home as domestic pets. These permits are different for each type of animal and city. If the cat you decide to keep home is on an endangered list, then obtaining permits can be extremely difficult.

Good Breeder

Make sure you do proper research about the breeder before you decide to get your loving exotic cats. The breeder should be recognized, well-known and possess good knowledge about the species.

Veterinarian

Make sure there is a good vet in your locality. He should be trained to treat large wild cats and agree to treat your exotic cats.

Special Diet

Large exotic cats need special nutritious food. Their dietary requirements are different from the regular domesticated cats. It can be difficult to find food that meets these requirements at most of the commercial pet food stores.

Exotic Wild Cat Species

The following are some of the famous and exotic wild cats species that can be kept as pets at home only if you are ready to consider the above restrictions associated with wild cats.

1. Serval

Serval is one of the most popular exotic wild cat species in the United States. They have their origins in Africa. Serval is three to four feet long wild cat, believed to be the ancestor of both the cheetah and the lion. It is found in the African savannah, the region where you find lions and cheetahs in abundance.

This is not the regular housecat, but people still love these beautiful animals. The tall grass of the African savannah is a good hiding ground for this tall cat, making it easier for them to hunt. Lots of people in the urban areas have labeled it as a “Cheetah” because of their close resemblance to their cousins.

Physical Characteristics

Serval has large pointy ears similar to that of a fox, but shorter than a large cat. They have small head and long legs that are suitable for hunting and chasing down their prey in the tall grass. The tail is comparatively smaller in size. The coat is light brown with dark colored spots, black ears with white spots and a black tipped tail.

Personality

Serval is highly active at nights like most cats. They are very shy and try to stay away from humans. They are not known to attack humans, but it would be advisable to stay away from them. Bite from Serval should be avoided as it can be pretty lethal. Wild cats will attack only if they feel threatened or cornered. These cats are easy to confine as they are not great climbers.

They are often used for educational purposes as they can be walked on a leash and can demonstrate their jumping ability. These are highly intelligent species and use their strong hearing and seeing ability to hunt down prey. Serval can make different varieties of noises or vocalizations to communicate with other Servals.

Diet

In the wild environment Serval will eat anything from rodents, small deer, reptiles and lizards. Serval in a domestic environment will need whole prey to meet the different protein requirements. A feline supplement called Mazuri’s Carnivore Supplement for whole prey should be given as food. Formulated pelleted diet can also be provided as diet, but should constitute the major bulk of its meal.

Housing a Serval is a daunting task. They are great jumpers and diggers with sharp incisors. They can easily dig the ground under the fence and even jump out of the enclosure. They are active and agile at night. The enclosure for this special species will have to be covered from all sides and should be dug very deep into the ground so that it can’t easily escape. A simple dog type enclosure will not do for this kind of animal. You can get one of the special harnesses that are available in the market, as it will help you with walking.

Servals are wild cats and there is always a risk associated with owning these kinds of species. You have to provide proper care, attention, food, space and be ready to spend a lot more on these. If you are not able to provide any of these, it would be wise to not get a Serval home. Domesticating these cats can take a lot of time and energy; it is not simple as getting a Persian. Most states do not grant permission to domesticate Serval, so make sure you are aware of these rules before you decide to get one home.

2. Caracal

Caracal cat looking
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The name Caracal has been derived from a Turkish word “Karakulak”, which means “black ear”. Caracal is often called as the Desert Lynx as they have their origins in Southwest Asia and North Africa. In India and Iran, Caracals were often trained for hunting birds. These exotic wild cats were put into a cage full of pigeons and wagers were made as to how many Pigeons the cat can take down. This led to the birth of the famous expression “to put a cat amongst the pigeons” In one go, Caracal can leap into the air and bring down 10 to 12 birds.

Physical Attributes

The Caracal has a distinctive North American look as if a cougar has been interbred with a Lynx. Even though the Caracal is called the desert Lynx, it doesn’t share the physical attributes of the Lynx. It is the tuft that the Caracals share with the Lynx and nothing else. Caracals are the largest member of the African small cats. It is a tall and slim cat.

When fully grown they can reach a height of 16-17 inches and weigh about 30-50 pounds. The coat is short and dense with a tawny brown to brick red color and black markings. The back of the ears are black and topped with long black tufts about 1.75 inches long. In captivity these wild cats can live for 20 years.

Habitat

Caracals live in the drier regions of the Savannah, woodland regions of the Sub-Saharan Africa preferring the rough and dry habitat. They are even found on mountainous forest and the evergreen areas, but never in the tropical rainforests. They are found in the Middle East, South west Asia, Central Africa, West Africa and the South Africa.

Personality

Caracal is a solitary animal with limited social interactions. They communicate through purr, hiss, calls, growls and snarls. They are more mannered than the Serval possessing the traditional characteristics of a regular cat. They will interact with their owners only on their terms and do not expect a lot of affection from them. When Caracals play they can be pretty destructive inside the house.

Diet

Caracals will eat anything from rodents, rabbits, antelopes, and hyraxes. Unlike other small wild cats, the Caracal will not hesitate to hunt down prey that is bigger than its size. Just like the leopards, the Caracal also stores its kill on trees to hide from other predators.

Reproduction

The gestation period of a Caracal is approximately 78-81 days with females giving birth to a minimum average of 1-2 kittens. The kittens are weaned at 10 weeks and will continue to stay with their mother for a year. They attain sexual maturity at 12 months and breed only once a year.

Caracals are found in abundance in the wild, but are rarely kept as pets. These are exotic wild cats and there are strict laws in place for each state, so make sure you are aware of them before you take any decision.

3. Sand cat

sand cat and cub
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Sand cat has the distinction of being one of the most difficult cats to research in the wild. At first look you will mistaken a sand cat for a cute little domestic cat because of its big eyes, fluffy ears and tiny cute nose. Even though, they share a few physical traits with the domestic cats, the sand cat is a champion wild cat of the harsh desert environment.

Sand cat is the only cat that belongs to the desert. Their bodies have easily adapted to the hot and arid weather conditions of the deserts of North Africa and Israel. The unique coat color of the sand cat allows it to blend completely with the habitat. Sand cat is a threatened species with hunting prohibited in many countries.

Physical Traits

Sand cat has the size of a domestic cat with thick long fur. They weigh 4-8pounds and reach lengths of 29-36 inches and heights of 10-12 inches. The coat is furry, dense and soft with pale sand color on top making it easier for them to hide in the desert. They have broad head, large ears and a red colored streak that runs from its eyes across its cheeks.

These cats have reddish brown ears with black tip. The tail has two to three black colored rings that run towards the black tip. For easier movement on the extreme cold and hot sand, this exotic cats is equipped with thick wiry layer of black hair on the feet that works like insulation and for easy movement on the sand. Their claws are not very sharp, but are great diggers and live in burrow.

Personality

Sand cats are solitary animals with very limited population. They pair up only for mating. They have loud mating calls that resemble the sound of a barking dog. They vocalize through hiss, spitting, growling, meowing, screaming and purring. Even though sand cats are small cats, they are wild by nature and are not suitable for domestication. They are fierce predators and can run as fast as 25mph.

Diet

Since they are nocturnal animals they hunt by digging. With their strong sense of hearing these little wild cats can detect their prey hidden underground as well. They feed on arthropods, reptiles and birds. These cats even though looks small in size are good at hunting snakes. They cover up their prey with sand and return later to feed. Sand cats can survive for days together without drinking water and get the required moisture from their prey.

The loss of habitat has led to a decrease in prey and is one of the greatest threats for the sand cat’s existence. Conservation efforts and laws preventing the hunting of these cats have helped in the increase of sand cat’s population.

4. Bobcat

Bobcat is the most common exotic cats species in the North America. This cat is named after its short and bobbed tail. Bobcats are elusive cats that venture out after dusk hence is rarely sighted by the humans. These cats can easily adapt to the diverse environmental conditions like the swamps, forests, suburbs and even the deserts. This wild cat is double the size of the average housecat. These are medium sized cats very similar in appearance to their cousin Lynx.

Physical Traits

Bob cats are twice the size of an average housecat. The average height of a bobcat is 14-15 inches. Males weigh 16 to 30 pounds while the females average 20 pounds. Bobcat has a lifespan of 12-13 years. These are stocky medium sized cats with a powerful body frame, short, but sturdy legs, and a very small tail.

The head of a bobcat is fairly large with sharp pointy ears, tufted in some of the subspecies. The color of the fur ranges from grayish brown to tawny to dark reddish brown and lighter on the underside. They also have dark spots on the coat and dark lines on the forelegs. The lithe body is extremely suitable for climbing, attacking and for quick acceleration. The eyes are yellow with black elongated pupils.

Personality

These are solitary and territorial animals with females not sharing a territory with another. The Bobcat is an excellent hunter with great ability to patiently stalk their prey. Because of their elusive nature Bobcats are rarely found in the company of humans. Bobcats are great companion cats among the list of wild cats, but these cats also have the brute strength to kill an adult human, though no such incidents have been reported so far.

This cat species are known to bring down a full-grown deer in the wild, which has led to experts to believe that they can even easily attack a human. If you have a Bobcat at home you will have to keep him under your supervision, especially if kids are around the house. In captivity these wild cats are known to be lovable when you raise them from kitten. They have a good equation with dogs, but they can also have their aggressive moment that needs to be monitored to prevent any accidents.

Diet

Bobcats are good hunters and will hunt down prey like rabbits, rodents, hares, birds, deer, poultry, lamb and even pigs.

Reproduction

They mate throughout the year with the pregnancy period lasting for 50-70 days. The average litter size is 1-6 kittens. By 8 to 10 months the young ones start to leave their mother and make their own territory.

Bobcats are considered sheep predators and hence are always hunted down by farmers. They are hunted for their fur throughout their habitat. The ever expanding human settlement and destruction of their habitat, has threatened their existence considerably.

5. Fishing Cat

fishing cat on log
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The Fishing cat is larger than the regular housecat and is well adapted to catching fish, which is this cat’s primary prey. As the name implies this cat loves water and are not commonly kept as pets in households. The fishing cat is native to south and South East Asia, where it is found near water bodies.

These are great swimmers as compared to other cats in the cat family. It is listed as an endangered species because most of the wetlands are being destroyed for human settlements and also it is hunted in few other countries.

Fishing cats are one of the rare cat species that love swimming and contradicts the fact that cats hate water. They can swim underwater over long distances for hunting down their prey. Fishing cats is one such wild exotic cats species that swim, wade through water bodies to catch fish either being fully immersed in water, by plunging their head in water, or even scooping out fish from the water with their paws.

Physical Traits

The fishing cat has a short and stocky body with expertise in swimming. Their paws have special webbing between their toes that helps it to swim and walk comfortably on marshy wetlands. The tail is half the length of their body and has an olive gray coat with black spots and stripes. The fishing cat has two layer furs; one is short and dense to keep its skin warm after it gets wet in the water and guard hair to give the cat a color pattern. Their unique color pattern works like a camouflage.

The coat is light brown with dark and irregular brown colored spots that turns white at the underneath. Females are smaller than the males. These cats weigh between 11-35 pounds. The fishing cats body measure about 28 inches long. In a domestic environment, the fishing cats can live until their late teens, but in the wild it is slightly shorter.

Reproduction

Fishing cats tend to mark their territory and breeding status by spraying urine that is extremely strong smelling. The female cats give birth to offspring in the spring season with an average of two kittens in the litter. Once the breeding time is over, the male cats leave the territory. The young ones learn to catch fish by observing their mothers and start hunting on their own once they reach 10 months of age.

Personality

The personality of a fishing cat is unknown since they are solitary species. Very little is known about these cats and their interactions with humans. There are some unconfirmed reports that the male fishing cats may help in care and supervision of their young ones.

Diet

As the name suggests, fishing cats love their fish and they are expert at catching fish with their sharp long claws that work like a fishing hook. They also hunt down small animals like lizards, birds, amphibians and mammals. They are even known to attack and kill domestic livestock like sheep, calves and dogs.

In captivity or in a domestic environment the fishing cats are known to take their food to water and retrieving it from the water source and then eating it. This behavior was observed when they were offered live prey.

Fishing cat is an endangered species and their greatest threat to their population is the destruction of their wetlands and excessive hunting. Even rapid increase in fishing has led to a decrease in the fishing stock, which has made their lives miserable. Poaching and hunting for fur has also brought down their overall population.

6. Jungle Cat

Jungle cat also known as the swamp lynx is a medium sized wild exotic cats species. It has the distinction of being the largest remaining species of the wild cat genus Felis. The jungle cat is the most common wild cat species found in India, South Asia, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Southeast Asia and the West and Central Asia.

They are found in the tropical dry forests, savannah, and along the riverbeds and lakes. This wild cat species is used to produce hybrids with domesticated cats. They live in altitudes of 8,200 ft, but are very commonly found in the lowlands. They are active at day and night and often roam around near human settlements.

Physical Traits

Jungle cats are medium size cats with long legs, long and close set eyes, round ears, with characteristic small black tufts of hair on their tips. The face is long and slim with a white muzzle and a white marking above and below their eyes. They have dark spots near their eyes and nose. The color of their coat ranges from yellowish grey to reddish brown. The coat is plain without any spotting or markings. The pointy ears of the jungle cat give them an appearance of a small Lynx.

Personality

Jungle cats have a nervous personality. They are fragile cats requiring some privacy in a quite household. They can be kept in an outdoor enclosure for most of the time. They are not an endangered species, but their population has seen a decline in the last few years.

Reproduction

During the mating season the male Jungle cat barks like a large dog. Females reach sexual maturity as soon as they reach 11 months of age. They give birth twice a year with a litter size of 1-6 kittens. The gestation period lasts for 64-66 days, which is short for an animal of this size. Males do not participate in raising their young ones, but in captivity they are known to take care of their kittens. In captivity these cats can live for 10-12 years, while in the wild these cats are known to live for 20 years.

Diet

Small rodents are their main prey, but jungle cats are known to feed on a wide variety of prey species. According to research in India, these cats can catch and eat 3-4 rats each day. They also enjoy birds. These wild cats are seen scavenging on the kills of other large sized predators. These are excellent swimmers and known to jump into water with a lot of ease to hunt down fish. They use abandoned borrows of other animals like foxes, and badgers as their den sites.

In India local tribesmen easily identify the Jungle cat and consider them as a wild meat diet. It is a delicacy and is regularly found on the menu as compared to the other wild cats in the area. These are well adaptable cat species that can do well in cultivated landscapes and in forest wetlands. The Jungle cat can easily survive on man-made reservoirs and ponds.

7. Geoffroy’s Cat

baby Geoffroy’s cat
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Geoffroy’s cat is a small wild cat species found in South America. They occupy a large variety of habitat that ranges from the Pampas grasslands to the arid Chaco shrubs, woodlands and right up to the saline deserts of the Alps. These wild cats are not seen in the tropical rainforests and the open regions.

The major regions where these exotic cats varieties of cats are found include Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. These small sized cats are of the same size of the domestic housecat. This cat has a strange sounding name derived from a French naturalist Etienne Geoffroy St Hilaire, who in the beginning of the 19th century identified this as a distinct cat species.

Physical Traits

Geoffroy’s cat is one of the smallest wild cat species in the world. This small cat weighs 4-15 pounds once they are fully grown. These small cats are no threat to humans. Male cats are larger and heavier than the females and like any usual housecat they stand 6 to 10 inches in height.

These spotted wild cats have a coat that ranges from bright ochre in the north of the range to silvery grey as you reach south and a few more other shades as you travel to other parts of the Geoffroy’s region. The fur of this cat makes it very vulnerable. They are killed in large number by humans in South America. After suffering a huge setback, these wild cats are now protected by strict laws restricting the sale of any products made from cat fur.

The small black spots on their fur merge into striped markings around the neck, face and chest. The tail is covered with black bands with a black colored tip.

Personality

Geoffroy’s cat is a solitary animal living in the wild. They are energetic and highly mobile creatures and spend a large amount of time jumping and running at very full speeds. They can be trained to use the litter box or even walk on a leash. So if you keep this cat at home as a pet, make sure you remove all the expensive stuff from their visibility.

A domesticated Geoffroy’s cat can get attached to people, but will have special affection to one or two people in the house. They don’t get along well with new people and taking care of them can be a challenge if you are away for a long holiday. These are rather timid and overall less social, which makes it a poor pet choice as they prefer privacy and less noise.

Diet

The main diet of the Geoffroy’s cat is rodents, birds, fish, reptiles, hares and small mammals.

Reproduction

As compared to the regular domestic cat the Geoffroy’s cat takes more time to attain sexual maturity and these wild cats can live for 18 years. Females attain sexual maturity at 18 months while males take 24 months. The gestation period lasts for 72-78 days with one or four kittens born in a litter. The kittens are weaned in eight to ten weeks.

The fur trade has drastically affected the population of the Geoffroy’s cat as they are the second most commonly sold cat pelt in this market. With stricter laws and regulations the population of Geoffroy’s cat has seen a marked improvement worldwide. Other than for fur, the Geoffroy’s cat is captured and bred with domestic cats to produce hybrid cats known as the “safari cats”.

8. Ocelot Cat

Ocelot cat looking
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Ocelot cat is the best known wild cat species from South America for their pelts being the mainstay of the fur trade industry. Ocelot cats are also kept at homes as pets after they undergo a lot of alteration to suit the pet industry needs. In the 80s the Ocelot cat fur were sold for $40,000 and live animals were sold for $800 in the market. It was the time when more than 200,000 Ocelot cats were killed for their coat. With stricter laws the trade of Ocelot cat fur has been restricted.

Physical Traits

Ocelot cat is a medium-sized cat with a nice lithe body, long and powerful legs and a short tail. They have nice large glassy eyes with beautiful markings, which make it very appealing for cat lovers wanting them to keep this wild cat as pet. The coat of this exotic cats is soft and smooth yellow with attractive centre spotted rosettes of black with soft brown color inside the rosette.

These rosettes are joined together to form a chain. The color of the head is bold with black spots and bars. The tail is heavily ringed with a black tip. The underside of the body is white and the back of the ear are black in color with a yellow spot at the center.

Ocelot is a much larger than their cousins Oncilla and the Margay, but they all share a very striking resemblance. The Ocelot cat weighs 17-24 pounds and stands 20 inches tall and reaches the length of 48-65inches. In the wild they can live for 7-10years while in captivity they are known to survive for 20 years.

Habitat

Ocelot cat can be found in a range of habitats including the montane forest, rainforests, thick bush, coastal marshy areas, semi-deserts and along the riverbanks. They are never found in the open. They are found in southern Texas and every country in the South America except Chile.

Diet

The Ocelot cat is a terrestrial hunter mostly active at night. They are rarely seen in the day. These wild cats feed on rodents, rice rats, cane rats, opossums and armadillos. The Ocelot cat is also known to bring down large prey like squirrel monkeys, deer, anteaters and land tortoises. During the wet season they are known to feast on fish and land crabs that are found in abundance. Occasionally, they feed on birds and reptiles.

Reproduction

Ocelot cat has a small sized litter with one of the longest gestations. They have the highest mortality rates. With deforestation and destruction of their habitat, the existence of this beautiful wild cat’s species is difficult. This cat has been hunted down to near extinction in the above countries for their pelt, in spite of them being protected by laws in these countries.

9. Asian Leopard Cat

asian leopard cat walking
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The Asian Leopard cat is just as large as the regular domestic cat, but there can be certain regional differences. In Amur region this wild cat is larger as compared to the ones found in Indonesia. This small exotic cats is native to Southeast Asia. It can be found in the forests of Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, China, Taiwan, Philippines and Taiwan. They are also found in Pakistan, Korea, India and some regions of Russia.

The Asian Leopard cats are skilful tree climbers and are able to swim, but are rarely seen doing it. This is a nocturnal animal rarely seen during the day. They spend their day in dens, hollow trees and even in caves. They venture out in the areas where there is no human population during the day.

Physical traits

The Asian Leopard cat is the same size of a domestic cat with the average body size equal to 18 inches with an 8 inches tail in Indonesia. In the Amur region their body size reaches 24 inches with a 16 inch tail. They have an average shoulder height of 16 inches and weight that could be anywhere between 10-15 pounds, which is similar to that of a domestic cat.

The color of the fur also changes according to the regions; in the south it is yellow and silver grey in the northern regions. The lower part of the head and the chest is white in color. The leopard cat has black markings depending upon their subspecies.

Habitat

The Asian Leopard cats are the most widely found exotic cats species in Asia. Their habitat ranges from the Amur regions of Russia to Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Korea, Thailand, Myanmar, China and the Philippines. They can be found in the tropical evergreen forests, plantations at sea level, coniferous forests at the foothills of the Himalayas and the subtropical deciduous forests. These wild cats can even be found at sugar cane plantations and are able to tolerate different landscapes. They are known to live near water bodies.

Diet

Asian Leopard cats are nocturnal and usually hunt during the nights. They are great hunters and have the ability to pounce and kill their prey at one go with a lot of ease. These cats are equally at ease on trees and on land. These wild cats feed on rodents, insects, fish, small birds, reptiles, eggs, amphibians, and small sized mammals like deer. Unlike many other cat species this exotic cats does not play with their food, but maintains a tight grip over their prey until it is dead.

Personality

Asian Leopard cats are solitary animals, except during the mating season. They produce the same kind of sounds and vocalizations as the domestic cat. In captivity they are known to be less aggressive. According to an archeological study the first cat species to be domesticated in the Neolithic China was the Leopard cat, almost 5000 years ago.

The Asian Leopard cat has been used for the breeding program to produce hybrids like the Bengal Cats. The Bengal cat is an offspring of a leopard cat along with the domestic cat. This hybrid can be kept as a pet at home without any license. There are legal restrictions to keeping the Leopard cat at home.

Reproduction

In Hong Kong this wild cat is a protected species. The breeding season for the Asian Leopard cat can vary depending upon the season. The gestation period will last for 60-70 days and the litter size is mostly one or two kittens. Females reach maturity by a year and have their first litter by 13 -14 months. In captivity these cats can live for thirteen years.

10. Canadian Lynx

Canadian Lynx is a medium sized cat with characteristic long ear tufts, flared facial ruff and a short bobbed tail. This wild cat has large paws that allow it to walk on thick snow. The Canadian Lynx looks very similar to the Bobcat with slight distinctive features. The Lynx is found along the Canadian border or in the hilly regions, while the Bobcat can be found all over the 48 states. Like other forest hunters, the Lynx plays a very crucial ecological role.

The Lynx targets small size preys that reproduce quickly and need a habitat that is a mix of young forest for hunting and old forest for denning purposes. Indirectly by protecting the Canadian Lynx we are also protecting the dwindling and rare habitats that form the remaining wilderness of the United States.

Physical Traits

The Canadian Lynx is medium-sized cat with long ear tufts. It resembles a Bobtail Cat with some distinctive features. The Lynx has a dense and silver brown coat, a ruffed face and long tufted ears. The Lynx size is between 90-100 cms and stand 19-22 inches tall. This wild cat weighs about 11-40 pounds. The tail is short with a black tip.

The large paws act as snowshoes and allow them to easily walk on the deep snow of the region. The body is covered with thick fur to protect from the cold weather. The legs are longer as compared to the Bobtail with the hind legs longer than the front legs giving it a stooped appearance.

Personality

These are solitary animals. They travel and hunt alone with high-level of activity at nights. They hunt by actively chasing the prey. They have ample patience to wait for their prey and when they come close, these wild cats give them a chase.

Diet

The Canadian Lynx is a solitary hunter and rarely contest its prey if they are confronted by other carnivores. The prey varies from rodents, small deer and the favorite snowshoe hare. In the winter and the autumn months this wild cat is often seen scavenging on the carcasses of large animals who have been hunted down or have died due to the harsh winters.

Habitat

As the name suggests the Canadian Lynx is found in the snowy dense forests where there is high chance of getting prey. They can be found in scrub land and Tundra regions of the North. This is the most commonly sighted wild cat species in Canada. The Lynx uses the young forest for hunting down their prey and the old mature forests for denning.

They can be easily found throughout Alaska, mountains, Southern Rockies, Great Lakes States and the Northeast. In the lower 48 states they have sustained breeding populations in Maine, Minnesota, and Washington and in Montana. They have been also introduced in several other states, but their population status is not known.

Reproduction

The Canadian Lynx mate during the winter season and the females give birth only once a year. These wild cats hide their kittens under thick vegetation, which is very difficult to locate. The kittens stay for year with their mothers and females give birth during the season when the hare population is high. The litter size consists of 4 kittens when there is abundance of food; otherwise the litter size is two.

Extensive hunting of the Lynx for their fur had affected their population, but with new federal laws the Lynx population and its habitat has been protected. Even now their population has not fully recovered and still remains at risk.

11. Iberian Lynx

Iberian Lynx  on sand
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The Iberian Lynx is the most endangered cat species in the world. Conservation efforts have helped in improving their population to about 400 now. In 2002, the Iberian Lynx were just 100, but with improved conservation efforts these wild cats have seen a small increase in their population. A new and ambitious conservation project by the name LIFE Iberlince is helping in improving their population in territories like Spain and Portugal where these cats where almost extinct. These exotic cats are closely related to the Eurasian Lynx.

Physical Characteristics

The Iberian Lynx is a heavily spotted wild cat’s species. They weigh half the size of their relative Eurasian Lynx. They have long legs and a very short tail with a black colored tip. The coat is tawny with dark spots. They have a typical lynx look. These wild cats have a strange looking beard like growth around its face and prominent black ear tufts. The head is small with tufted ears and facial whiskers, which is called as ruff. Iberian Lynx weighs between 10-13kgs and have a height of 88-100cm.

Diet

The Iberian Lynx is a wild cat species that depends mostly on wild rabbits to feed. During certain specific seasons, the rabbit population tends to be low and at such times these wild cats feed on young deer, duck and partridges. An adult Iberian Lynx cat eats a minimum of one rabbit a day while the mother cat will need at least 3 rabbits a day to meet its calorie requirements.

Personality

The Iberian Lynx is a solitary animal and prefers to hunt alone. It will stalk its prey and lie behind the rocks or bushes and wait patiently until the catch is close to pounce. The female Lynx will roam widely if she has to feed its young ones and their territory will depend on the availability of food.

Habitat

In the early part of the 19th century the Iberian Lynx was easily found in Portugal, Spain and the parts of South France. In the 20th century their population started dwindling and it was only in the 2000s, two isolated breeding programs in Spain and Portugal helped in improving their population by a great extent. The program consists of only 25 breeding females. With joint efforts from different organizations like the WWF, Spanish national schemes and the European Union via their Life projects, the population of this species improved considerably after becoming almost extinct.

The survey conducted in 2015 shows there are 404 adult Iberian Lynx, which has shown some signs of hope, though the future of this species still remains fragile. Habitat loss, illegal hunting, road accidents and decrease in food have all contributed to the loss of this beautiful species.

Reproduction

Females give birth usually during March and April months. The average size of the litter is 3 with only 2 surviving until the weaning period. The kittens will leave their mother when they are between 8-23 months. There is very high rate of mortality during this period.

12. Cougar

Cougar Puma sitting
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The Cougar Puma concolor is the second largest wild cat species in America. Cougars are found throughout Washington where there is ample food and cover. The Cougar has the largest range compared to other cats in the Western hemisphere. These are solitary and secretive animals. These cats are master of camouflage. They are rarely seen in the wild. The Cougars are also known as mountain lions or puma and are well-known for their strength, endurance and agility. They have a nice ability to jump high in the air.

Physical Traits

Cougar has a muscular, lithe and compact body structure. They have a deep chested body with a round short head and highly visible whiskers. The Cougar has large set of eyes with round pupils that are well suited for their nocturnal habits. Another unique characteristic of the Cougar is its long tail, which measures up to a meter. It helps in maintaining good balance. This unique feature separates the cougar from the Bobtail.

The weight and size of the Cougar will vary according to the range where it is found. The cougars of North America are larger and heavier than the ones found in South America. Males typically weigh more than the females. The males weigh 71kgs while the females weigh 41 kg.

Cougars in North America have short fur that ranges in color from grayish, reddish or tawny to dark brown. There are black markings on their face and on the tip of their tail. The kittens are born with spots, but lose these spots once they reach a year old. The cougar body is well adapted to grasp and cut their prey with strong forequarters and neck. The strong muscular jaws and long canines can hold and cut down their prey with a lot of ease.

Personality

Cougars like many other wild cats are solitary animals. They discourage other cougars from entering their territory by leaving scratches or piles of leaves and dirt covered with urine and feces. They are known to leave claw marks on the trees at the edge of their territory.

Habitat

A cougar occupies a large area of vegetation. It is found in areas that are suitable for mule deer, white-tailed deer; the preferred diet of the cougar. They are found in Western Canada and inhibit forested fragments of foothills, interior plateau and mountains. Thick vegetation is the preferred habitat for the cougar as it helps them in stalking the prey.

Adult cougars tend to roam extensively, covering a wide range of vegetation. The male adult’s home range will usually overlap with those of three or four females. Female home range is much smaller than the males, but there is an overlap in the female territory. The female territory is often next to their mothers, while the males prefer to be away from their birthplace.

Diet

Cougars tend to be active from dusk to dawn. They do travel during the day and hunt extensively. Cougars prey on deer, moose, mountain deer, elk and wild sheep, which are their preferred prey. Young cougars prey on raccoons, rabbits, hares, rodents, livestock and pets. Cougars found in the mountains kill elk or deer every 10 days and eats up to 20 pounds a day and bury the rest for later.

Reproduction

Cougars can breed throughout the year. The most preferred time for breeding is winter and early spring season. Several females may breed with the resident male whose home range overlaps theirs. The gestation period lasts for 91-97 days and the litter size is one to four. Male cougar has no role in raising the young ones and the kittens tend to stay with their mothers for 12 months, before they venture out on their own. In the wild the males live for 10-12 years while females tend to live longer than the males.

13. Margay

Margay cat
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Of all the wild cat species the Margay is the most adapted for the true arboreal life. The Margay is the only cat with an ability to rotate their hind legs 180 degrees. This enables this wild cat to run head first down the trees like squirrels. These exotic cats have the ability to hang from one branch by their hind foot.

The Margays are very beautiful cats with a lot of mystery because of their spots. These cats are smaller than the Ocelot and the Oncilla cat. The Margay is primarily a tree dwelling animal and are restricted to the forest habitat and the dense lowland forests.

Physical Appearance

The Margay is almost always confused with their close relatives the Ocelot and the Oncilla cat. They share the same similar coat. The Margay has a tawny background patterned with black ringed rosettes and long blotches. The fur is thick and plush and has a long tail, which is 70% of the length of its body and head.

The Margay has two dark cheek stripes on each side of their face. The long tail aids as a counter weight for balance. The Margay weighs between 9-20 pounds and reaches lengths of 32-55 inches. The large set of eyes helps in excellent viewing at nights. In captivity the Margays can live for 20 years.

Habitat

Margay is a tree dwelling animal and are found in the forest habitat and in the dense lowlands of the forest. They are found in the humid, tropical, evergreen and deciduous forests, wet and swampy savannahs and occasionally in coffee and cocoa plantations. To the north they are found in Mexico, in Central and South America and extend up to Argentina.

They avoid converted landscapes except for certain plantations. A study also found Margays in parks and other protected areas due to the high incidence of Ocelot cat. These wild cats are found in Mexico, the Amazon Basin, Uruguay, and Argentina and Brazil. These cats are extinct in Texas.

Diet

The main diet of this wild cat is small arboreal mammals like squirrels, the big eared climbing rats, opossums, porcupines, squirrels, small sized birds, capuchins, tree-toed sloths, and fruits. The terrestrial diet consists of cavies and rats.

Reproduction

Margays are solitary animals except when they have kittens around. Their gestation period lasts for 75-85 days. The litter size consists of a single kitten a year and very rarely there are two. Unlike other exotic cats species, the Margays have only one pair of mammary glands and can ovulate spontaneously. The weaning takes place at 2 months and reaches sexual maturity by two years.

Personality

The Margays are nocturnal animals and in some regions they are known to hunt during the day. They like spending time on trees and travel on ground only when they are searching for their prey. The adult cats meet only for mating.

14. African Golden Cat

African Golden cat walking
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The African Golden cat is a forest dependent cat species found in the equatorial Africa. High deforestation and bush meat hunting has threatened the population of this wild cat. This is a wild cat that is endemic to the rainforests of central and West Africa. The African Golden cat is a close relative of the Caracal and the Serval.

Physical Characteristics

The African Golden cat is twice the size of the domestic cat. This wild cat is not always golden as the name suggests. This cat is robustly built with a short tail. Despite the golden name, the fur of this wild cat ranges from marmalade orange to red to sepia grey with spots all over or without any spots. Some are in between. Captive cats are known to change their coat color from grey to red and vice-versa, this may even occur in the wild. The chest, throat, and the undersides are white in color.

The belly is marked with dark and bold spots or blotches. The African Golden cat has a round face with a heavy muzzle and small un-tufted black ears. The locals call this cat the leopard’s brother as they believe it follows the leopard. The male cats are heavier than the female cats.

Habitat

The African Golden cat is found in tropical rainforest regions of equatorial Africa that ranges from Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Liberia and to the west to the Central African Republic and to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Uganda and Kenya. They are found mostly in lowlands, moist forests, along the rivers and the bamboo forests.

Diet

The African Golden cat is a nocturnal and terrestrial hunter rarely seen hunting during the day. These wild cats feed on a variety of mammals like the rats, hyraxes, antelopes, birds, and even monkeys. They are known to raid chicken coops and kill domestic goats and sheep.

Personality

Due to their reclusive behavior, very little is known about this wild cat. They are nocturnal animals preferring to hunt during the nights, but depending on the habits of their prey, it is known to hunt during the day too.

Reproduction

The information on the productive habits of the African Golden cats is based on the captive species. The gestation period lasts for 75 days and the litter size is one or two kittens. The kittens of this species grow and develop quickly as compared to other cat species. One kitten was seen climbing a 40-cm wall at 16 days of birth, which says a lot about their quick growth and agility.

Females reach sexual maturity at 11 months while males take more than 18 months of time. Their lifespan in the wild is not known, but in captivity they can survive for 12 years.

Extensive deforestation, bush meat hunting, mining activities and road building have endangered their lives to a large extent.

15. KodKod Cat

kok kod cat standing
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The KodKod cat is the smallest wild cat, even smaller than the housecat. It is a tiny tree dwelling wild cat living exclusively in the southern part of the Coastal Andes. They look very similar to the Geoffroy’s cat with which they share the habitat in Argentina. Overall they are very small with small face and a thick tail.

The word KodKod is derived from the Araucanian Indian name, but the locals call them Guina. It is found in Central and southern Chile and little bit in Argentina. Their range is smaller compared to other South American wild cats. This wild cat has been listed in the vulnerable cat species according to the IUCN red list. Their population is threatened due to loss of habitat and scarcity of prey.

Physical Characteristics

Everything about this wild cat is small. The KodKod has a small head, thick tail and large feet. A fully grown adult weighs 4.4 to 6 pounds with a length of 15 to 20 inches. The coat of a KodKod ranges from brownish-yellow to grey-brown. The coat is marked with small round black spots.

There are a few narrow black bands on the crown and the neck and the under parts are white in color. The head is small with distinct lines above the eyes and on the cheeks. The ears are large and rounded. Their legs are short and the foot pads are large with black spots. The tail is busy and grows thick towards the tip.

The type of KodKod cat found in central Chile is plain in color with no spots on their feet and larger than the ones found in the southern part of the range. The KodKod found in the southern part are brightly colored with spots on their feet.

Habitat

KodKod cat has the smallest range among wild cats in the Americas. They occur only in central and southern Chile with small population in Argentina. In Chile they share the range with the Geoffroy’s cat hence are found less. They are found in the moist temperate forests of the Andean and Coastal ranges. KodKod prefer dense scrubs away from the roads and the protected forest patches. Study has found that there are around 2000 KodKod population. In Chile their population is more secure due to less human intervention and large protected areas.

Diet

The KodKod feed primarily on small sized mammals like rodents, birds, small marsupials and reptiles.

Personality

KodKod cat is highly active during the day as well as in the night. In the open terrains they tend to venture out only after dusk. During the day they rest under thick vegetation or on trees. They are excellent climbers and can climb high without any effort.

Reproduction

Very little information is available about the reproductive activity of the KodKod cats. The gestation ranges from 72-78 days with one to three kittens in a litter. A female cat reaches sexual maturity by 24 months and has a lifespan of 11 years in captivity.

Important Note

Large small or wild cats have a lot of limitations and restrictions. Firstly they are expensive to maintain, with various costs associated with medical care, housing, feeding and of course, these cats are not cheap to purchase. The smaller cats may be a bit easier to care than the larger ones. There are many considerations and responsibility you need to take into account before you take this life changing decision. Once you decide to take on this responsibility be committed to the task.