Cats in the Wild

Cats in the Wild

Origin, Evolution, and Adaptation

Ancestors of today’s wild cats go back 35 million years to the beginning of the Oligocene epoch. Even the cats were carnivores or meat-eaters. The most famous of these prehistoric predators is the Sabertooth Cat (Smilodon fatalis). It lived during the Pleistocene epoch, two million to 10,000 years ago. From its bones – found in gooey black tar at Rancho La Brea in Los Angeles, California – we can see the Sabertooth’s frightening, six-inch (152 mm) long teeth!

Today’s wild cats are descended from long-dead ancestors and have evolved in different ways. Some climb trees better, a few hunts by day instead of night, and others are really fast.

Kinds of wild cats

With their furry bodies and tails, even the wildest of wild cats still look like a cat. Some cats are faster, others are bigger, and a few have short, stubby tails. Some, like the 705-pound (320-kilogram) Tiger, are much bigger than the tiny Sand Cat, which weighs only 4.5 to 6.5 pounds (two or three kilograms). Both are members of the family Felidae.

There are 37 species of wild cats, and all are in the family Felidae (Fee-holiday). These cats are divided into three sub-families: Pantherinae (the big cats), Felinae(the small cats), and the Cheetahs, which are considered to be a sub-family all on their own. Cheetahs are the only wild cats without claws that can be pulled in; they lacked the sheathes (covers) that other cats have on their claws.

Where do wild cats live?

Wild cats are found all over the world, except on the continents of Antarctica and Australia, and some islands. Most cats are found on just one continent, but others, like the Leopard, can be seen in both Africa and Asia. The North American Lynx braves Canada’s cold climate, while the mighty Lion lives in the warmer climates of Africa, and parts of India. Wild cats can be found everywhere from swamps to deserts, and mountains to marshes!

What is not a wild cat?

Domestic cats are not “wild” cats, although they are descended from them. There are about 300 kinds of a domestic cats today. Sometimes people confuse wild cats with hyenas, raccoons, bears, and even dogs. This is because they are all members of the order Carnivora (meat eaters). Along with cats, there are about 200 different carnivores.

See more: Misconceptions