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18 Wild Cat Species & Where to Find Them (With Pictures)

caracal cat up close

There are dozens and dozens of wild cat species around the world. Most people know the larger species, such as lions, tigers, and leopards. However, there are many others.

These species are spread throughout the world, from South America to Asia. Most of them have similar characteristics — they are all cats, after all.

Here, we listed the most common and prominent wild cat species.

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The Top 18 Wild Cat Species

1. Tiger

tiger in the forest
Image Credit: Pixabay

The tiger is endangered, and their population is decreasing every day. There are actually many different tiger subspecies spread throughout the world. However, most of them are in decline.

The South China tiger has decreased to only 20 individuals in the wild, for instance.

You can find these tigers spread throughout Asia. Many subspecies are now extinct. Currently, only five remain, and most of those aren’t doing that well.

Most of today’s remaining tigers are located in India and belong to the Bengal subspecies.

2. Lion

lion and cub in the fields
Image Credit: Pixabay

Just like the tiger, there are various subspecies of lions. The species as a whole is labeled as vulnerable, but different subspecies have their own ratings.

You can find most Southern and Eastern African lions across African safaris. On the other hand, the Northern lion is more difficult to locate. The Asiatic lion is only located in the Gir National Park.

3. Jaguar

jaguar on the move
Image Credit: Pixabay

The jaguar is another prominent large cat. They spend much of their time in the branches of jungles, but they are also one of the few water-loving cats out there.

Unlike other big cats, there are no subspecies of jaguar. These cats have large ranges. Therefore, larger swaths of land need to be protected to preserve them as a species.

The main locations of the jaguar are the Amazon and some parts of Brazil. Many jaguars are spotted in the Pantanal, as this area is more easily accessible to humans.

4. Leopard

leopard in the woods
Image Credit: Pixabay

This big cat has an extremely large range. However, they have lost over 75% of their historic range, and their species are in decline today.

Currently, the best place to spot leopards is in parts of Africa. Sir Lanka also has leopard sightings.

There are a few subspecies of leopards, with some being extremely endangered. However, the species itself is labeled as vulnerable.

5. Snow Leopard

snow leopard
Image Credit: Pixabay

Snow Leopards are known for their extremely large tail and their reclusive nature. It is difficult to spot a snow leopard. People search for months for these animals, only to never see one.

This species is currently listed as vulnerable. However, no one really knows how accurate this is, simply because snow leopards are so hard to locate!

Currently, these cats live in the high mountain ranges of Central Asia. However, finding one typically involves camping out in -20-degree-Fahrenheit weather and scanning the mountains continuously for hours.

6. Clouded Leopard

clouded leopard up close
Image Credit: Pixabay

The clouded leopard is technically a “big cat.” However, they are the smallest big cat. They also have unique anatomy that enables them to climb better than any other cat on this list. Their ankle joints can turn all the way around, allowing them to climb down head-first.

They are also the only big cat that can purr.

Like all other big cats, the clouded leopard is endangered. However, we don’t know exactly how endangered. They are extremely difficult to find in the wild. Therefore, there is not an accurate report of their population out there.

It is possible to find them on safaris in India. However, their range is across Southeast Asia.

7. Sunda Clouded Leopard

Sunda Clouded Leopard
Image Credit: studio382.net, Shutterstock

While this species was originally considered part of the clouded leopard species, genetic testing has shown that they are truly their own species. They diverged from the clouded leopard about 1.5 million years ago.

The Sunda clouded leopard is found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Therefore, the only place to spot them is on these islands. Currently, the Deramakot Forest Reserve is the most popular place to see these elusive cats.

8. Marbled Cat

Marbled Cat
Image Credit: Thawatchai Suttikarn, Shutterstock

This smaller breed of cat is found in the Himalayan foothills and throughout Malaysia. They also live on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. They spend most of their life in trees, so if you’re looking for one, you should look up!

This cat can also be spotted in the Deramakot Forest Reserve. In fact, they aren’t too difficult to find if you know what you’re looking for.

9. Serval

serval cat resting
Image Credit: Pixabay

The serval is one of the most prominent breeds of small cat. They are quite unusual looking, with a black nose and extremely large ears. You’ll know a serval when you see one.

These cats spend most of their time in tall grasses and plains areas.

They live throughout South Africa. You can find them in Tanzania, particularly in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. They are also found in the small town of Secunda, South Africa, where their prey preferences are populous and other big predators are absent.

10. Caracal

caracal cat in the tree
Image Credit: Pixabay

The caracal is often misidentified as a bobcat due to the tufts on their ears. However, they are not closely related to the bobcat at all.

They have a wide range that covers much of Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and India. These cats are quite difficult to find, but their large range does mean that you can find them in many different areas.

Typically, you’ll want to travel to one of South Africa’s parks to see one in person.

11. Ocelot

ocelot in the wild
Image Credit: Pixabay

Ocelots occur throughout South America and Central America. You can even find them in the southern areas of Texas.

These cats are not that difficult to find. You can see them in Brazil. Their population is also dense on the Barro Colorado Islands in Panama.

12. Colocolo

This small cat is extremely odd. They are brown and quite fuzzy, probably not resembling what you think of when you picture a wild cat.

They are located throughout much of South America. They are not extremely endangered and can be spotted throughout much of their range.

13. Geoffroy’s Cat

Geoffroy's cat in the tree
Image Credit: Martin Mecnarowski, Shutterstock

This feline is rather common in the range from Southern Bolivia to the Straits of Magellan. They are the only known species of wildcat that can stand on their back legs, using their tail as a balance.

They prefer dense habitats, which makes them somewhat difficult to spot. However, they are not exactly rare and can be seen throughout much of their range. El Palmar National Park is often a suggested location to find them.

14. Canada Lynx

Canada Lynx in the snow
Image Credit: Warren Metcalf, Shutterstock

The Canada Lynx is the Northernmost species of lynx. They are found throughout Canada and certain upper portions of the United States, including Alaska. They have extremely large paws, which serve a similar purpose as snowshoes.

They can be spotted throughout much of their range, as they are quite common. In the United States, there are many sightings around Lake Superior.

15. Eurasian Lynx

Eurasian Lynx
Image Credit: Pixabay

The Eurasian Lynx is not threatened, but they can be quite tricky to spot in the wild. They are elusive and tend to have large ranges, so there isn’t one particular spot that they are commonly seen.

Most people see them completely by accident.

16. Bobcat

bobcat in the forest
Image Credit: Pixabay

The bobcat has an extremely large range that extends from southern Canada to central Mexico. They are quite small, only growing to about twice the size of a domestic cat.

This species is extremely common and can be seen throughout much of the United States.

17. Puma

puma close up
Image Credit: Pixabay

The puma is a rather large feline, though it technically falls into the “small cat” category. They are also referred to as cougars or mountain lions, depending on the region.

They can be found throughout both North and South America, though they are absent in the colder reaches of Canada. You can see them throughout many nature reserves in these areas.

18. Cheetah

cheetah in the forest
Image Credit: Pixabay

This wildcat is the fastest animal on earth. They are also nimble enough to turn and run around fast prey.

These cats live throughout much of Africa. However, they are vulnerable and not as common as they once were. Still, you can spot them somewhat easily on safaris over South and East Africa.

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Final Thoughts

There are many species of large cats spread throughout the world. From whole continents to small islands, each cat species has its own range.

Generally, the best place to see any species is at natural reserves in their territory. Since wild animals are protected in these areas, their populations tend to be denser. Plus, you can take advantage of the knowledge of tour guides.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay