List of the Wild Cat Species of the World

Updated on May 9th, 2017 to reflect new taxonomic decisions made by the IUCN Cat Specialist Group’s Cat Classification Task Force.

Wild Cat Species Silhouettes

So how many different species of wild cats are there in the world? That depends on who you ask. The answer ranges from 37 to 42 species. The reason for this is that cat taxonomy is incredibly difficult and genetic analysis is still shedding light on the matter. Just in early 2017, the Sunda Leopard Cat was determined to be its own species from the Leopard Cat — now called the Mainland Leopard Cat. So, to clear things up, I put together the most accepted list of the 40 wild cat species in the world. This list will undoubtedly change in the future, especially as genetic analysis reveals that current species are actually multiple different species, but I’ll be sure to update it when that happens. The list is organized by the eight different feline lineages. Finally, the underlined common names are links to pictures I have of that species.

Common Name Latin Name Lineage
1. Lion Panthera leo
2. Leopard Panthera pardus
3. Jaguar Panthera onca
4. Tiger Panthera tigris Panthera Lineage
5. Snow Leopard Panthera uncia
6. Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa
7. Sunda Clouded Leopard Neofelis diardi
8. Asiatic Golden Cat Catopuma temminckii
9. Borneo Bay Cat Catopuma badia Bay Cat Lineage
10. Marbled Cat Pardofelis marmorata
11. Caracal Caracal caracal
12. African Golden Cat Caracal aurata Caracal Lineage
13. Serval Leptailurus serval
14. Geoffroy’s Cat Leopardus geoffroyi
15. Guiña Leopardus guigna
16. Southern Oncilla Leopardus guttulus
17. Northern Oncilla Leopardus tigrinus Ocelot Lineage
18. Andean Cat Leopardus jacobita
19. Colocolo Leopardus colocola
20. Margay Leopardus wiedii
21. Ocelot Leopardus pardalis
22. Iberian Lynx Lynx pardinus
23. Eurasian Lynx Lynx lynx Lynx Lineage
24. Canada Lynx Lynx canadensis
25. Bobcat Lynx rufus
26. Mountain Lion Puma concolor
27. Jaguarundi Herpailurus yagouaroundi Puma Lineage
28. Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus
29. Mainland Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis
30. Sunda Leopard Cat Prionailurus javanensis
31. Fishing Cat Prionailurus viverrinus
32. Flat-headed Cat Prionailurus planiceps Leopard Cat Lineage
33. Rusty-spotted Cat Prionailurus rubiginosus
34. Pallas Cat Otocolobus manul
35. European Wild Cat Felis silvestris
36. African Wild Cat Felis lybica
37. Chinese Mountain Cat Felis bieti
38. Sand Cat Felis margarita Domestic Cat Lineage
39. Black-footed Cat Felis nigripes
40. Jungle Cat Felis chaus

The currently listed subspecies that are sometimes listed as their own species.

Common Name Latin Name Sometimes Classified As
Pampas Cat Leopardus colocolo pajeros Leopardus pajeros
Pantanal Cat Leopardus colocolo braccatus Leopardus braccatus
Iriomote Cat Prionailurus bengalensis iriomotensis Prionailurus iriomotensis

 

Project Puma: How Cougars are Better for our Health

How can a wild animal like a mountain lion be better for our health? We have all heard about the web of life, how all things are connected, and that there is a natural balance within an ecosystem. Pumas show us how removing part of that system shifts that balance and creates a system that is more detrimental to us people.

Let’s first look at the web of life that a puma lives in:

The web of life for a Puma (very simplified)

The web of life for a Puma (very simplified)

In this very simplified (though accurate) system, pumas feed primarily on deer, which in turn feed on grass. Besides mountain lions, deer only have humans as predators (and sometimes the odd coyote), but are parasitised by lots of organisms including ticks. The mountain lions keep deer numbers in check, which in turn keeps tick numbers in check, as does it keep grass from being under-abundant. (If you are a school teacher and would like to incorporate this concept into your curriculum, contact Felidae Conservation Fund for their CAT Aware Program).

Let’s look at this same system on the east coast of the United States, where Cougars are no longer found.

Web of life without the Puma

Web of life without the Puma

Without the pumas, deer numbers have grown tremendously, these animals in turn feed on the local vegetation, which leads to overgrazing since their numbers are too large. More importantly for us people, because there are more deer, there are more ticks that feed on those deer.

This is where the health aspect comes in. Ticks carry disease, including Lyme disease. With more ticks present, there may not be a larger percentage of ticks that carry Lyme disease but there will be a larger number of individuals that are vectors of it. Due to the fact that cougars are not controlling deer numbers on the east coast, more Lyme disease carrying ticks are around, which leads to a higher rate of incidence for the disease in the area.

Let me illustrate the point with some maps.

Tick species ranges that carry Lyme disease in the US

Tick species ranges that carry Lyme disease in the US

In the US, both the Black-legged Tick (Ixodes scapularis)  and the Western Black-legged Tick (Ixodes pacificus) carry and transmit Lyme disease.

This is the area in which Lyme disease has the highest incidence rate (or, where it happens the most):

The fifteen states with the highest incidence rate of Lyme disease in the US

The fifteen states with the highest incidence rate of Lyme disease in the US (see Lyme Disease Association Analysis) — the darker the red the higher the number of incidences

As you can clearly see, the highest chance of infection is limited to the east Coast.

Now let’s look where Pumas currently live in accordance with the above data:

Mountain Lion presence and their relation to Lyme disease infection

Mountain Lion presence and their relation to Lyme disease infection

Even though Lyme disease and their vectors are present on the west coast of the US, mountain lions keep the tick numbers low (by keeping the deer numbers lower), therefore creating an overall healthier system for people. More mountain lions eventually means a lower chance of getting Lyme disease.

Historically, cougars used to occupy the east coast where Lyme disease is so prevalent now, but they were extirpated from the region in the early 1900’s. Could a case be made for re-introducing cougars to the east coast, now that they have been gone from the region for hundreds of years? Is there even space for them? Even though the western United States has greater areas of fully protected land, the eastern states still have plenty of habitat for pumas as well.

US population density - Copyright Ian Offord

US population density – Copyright Ian Offord

The population density map shows that cougars have no space left on the eastern coast, nor would you want them to wander into New York City or Boston, but once you are more inland, the population density is low enough where you can have successful co-existence between these cats and people. Having an action plan would help of course but even naturally, pumas are moving more and more east as time passes. Maybe sooner than later, Lyme disease will be less of an issue in the States, and all due to a wild cat.