Something we get asked a lot at FELIS is; which is the fastest cat or which is the smallest cat of the wild cat species, so here we look at some of the Small Wild Cat Olympic Winners!
WORLDS FASTEST SMALL CAT: SERVAL
Everyone knows the Cheetah is the fastest land mammal, however the Serval isn’t far behind. With the longest legs of any cat species compared to the rest of their body, these cats are built for speed and power. Servals have been known to reach speeds of 80kph or 50mph making them the FASTEST small wild cat.
BIGGEST VERTICAL JUMP: CARACAL
Caracals have been known to jump a massive 3 metres or 10 feet vertically up! It’s because of this that they were once used for bird hunting in Iran and India. They were put into an arena containing pigeons and bets were taken as to how many birds the Caracal would catch. This is the origin of the phrase ‘to put the cat amongst the pigeons’.
BIGGEST TEETH: CLOUDED LEOPARD
Often compared to the extinct Sabre-toothed Tiger or, to give it its correct name, the Smilodon, the Clouded Leopard has the largest teeth in comparison to skull size of any of the cats. Both Sabre-toothed Tigers and Clouded Leopards have an enormous gape – around 100 degrees – to allow for such large teeth; in contrast most other cats have a gape around 65 degrees. This suggests that Clouded Leopards may have similar hunting techniques to the Sabre-tooths who would bite their prey through the neck to sever the nerves and kill the prey instantly. Typically, cats use a throat or muzzle grip to suffocate their prey.
MOST SUCCESFULL HUNTER: BLACK FOOTED CAT
‘Small but deadly’ would be the best way to describe these cats. As cute as they look, Black Footed Cats are lethal hunters. Referred to locally as Ant-hill Tigers, these cats are known to walk up to 20km a night, catching between 10-14 birds or rodents every time. An incredible 60% of their hunts are successful and they consume around 20% of their own body weight each night. Not bad for a cat that’s only around 50 cm in length.
WIDEST GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION: ASIAN LEOPARD CAT
The Asian Leopard Cat’s range extends far and wide across Asia. From Russia to China, Indochina to western Pakistan and even to the Philippines and the islands of Indonesia. It’s gift is the ability to adapt. They have been found in tropical rainforests, coniferous forests and plantations at sea levels; they’ve even been recorded in Nepal’s Makalu-Barun National Park at an altitude of over 3,200m.
MOST ENDANGERED: IBERIAN LYNX
The award that no cat species wants goes to the Iberian Lynx. It is estimated there are only around 400 Iberian Lynx left. Whilst conservation efforts are in place and numbers have risen from just 100 individuals in 2002, Iberian Lynx are still endangered. The main threats to the Iberian Lynx are a decreasing food base, as endemics like Myxamatosis affect theirmain food source – rabbits. Illegal hunting, habitat loss and car accidents are also a factor in their decline.
If this cat goes extinct it will be the first cat species since the Sabre Tooth (Smilodon) to do so, some 10,000 years ago.