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6 Types of Wild Cats in North America

Wild cats are among the most amazing animals on the planet. There are only 38 wild cat species worldwide, and you can find some of these wild cats in North America. These creatures are typically solitary animals that hunt prey using their keen senses. They’re also well-known for their agility, which enables them to jump high and run quickly.

We’ll discuss these wild cats found in North America, as well as some information about them that’ll help you understand these felines better.

About North American Wild Cats

The Felidae family is a large group of mammals, including cat species. Cats are carnivores that can catch and kill their prey in a variety of ways. They have sharp teeth and retractable claws that they use to catch and hold their prey, as well as good hearing, vision, and smell.

Wild cats can be found on almost every continent and differ in size greatly. Some adults can weigh 3 pounds, while others can weigh 600 pounds.

There are six wild cats found in North America, including two big cats and four smaller cats. You can also find these animals in North American forests and mountains.

6 Wild cats in North America

1. Jaguar

A jaguar
A jaguar | Image by Stan Petersen from Pixabay

Scientific Name: Panthera onca 

Jaguars are among the world’s most beautiful and powerful cats. They have sleek bodies with tawny fur and distinctive black rosettes all over.

While you can find jaguars in a variety of habitats, they prefer bodies of water such as rivers and lakes. Half of these species are found in Brazil, with the rest scattered across the countries bordering the Amazon rainforest.

Jaguars have been known to mate at any time of year. Cubs typically stay with their mothers for up to two years before reaching sexual maturity. These animals can live up to 16 years and reproduce every two years.

2. Bobcat

Bobcat sleeping
Bobcat sleeping | image by Heather Paul via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific Name: Lynx rufus

The Bobcat is a North American animal that can be found from Canada to Mexico. It’s a wild cat that can be found in a variety of habitats, such as forests, swamplands, deserts, and grasslands.

Their length ranges from 19 to 47 inches, and they weigh between 33 and 40 pounds. This species resembles the Canadian lynx in appearance, but you can tell them apart by their smaller size, their brown coats with more black spots, and their barefoot soles.

Bobcats mate in February and begin searching for female scent when they’re in heat. The cubs will stay with their mothers for 12 months after birth, learning all the skills they’ll need to survive as adults.These small cats are nocturnal but are also active at dawn and dusk.

They can also run at speeds of up to 30 mph, but these animals are quiet hunters who usually stalk their prey. Bobcats hunt by climbing trees and leaping on prey, killing them with a single bite.

3. Puma

Mountain lion on top
Mountain lion on top

Scientific Name: Puma concolor

Pumas, also known as Mountain Lions, Cougars, and Panthers, are large, solitary cats native to the Americas. It’s most common in the mountains of South America and Canada.

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Typically, this animal hunts by itself in the early morning and early evening, stalking its prey while hiding behind rocks and bushes. Pumas usually jump on their prey and attack their neck, killing them instantly. They also have a good sense of sight and can see clearly in the dark.

These large cats are also referred to as the world’s fourth largest cats. They weigh between 60 and 100 kg and stand between 60 and 90 cm tall.

4. Ocelot

Leopardus pardalis - ocelot
Ocelot | Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay

Scientific Name: Leopardus pardalis

Ocelots are small, spotted cats that live in North and South American forests, including the Caribbean. These cats live in tropical forests, sleeping in dense vegetation on the ground at night and resting above the trees during the day.

These animals make loud noises during mating season, similar to cats in heat. Every two years, females give birth to one to two kittens, who stay with their mothers for about a year.

Ocelots hunt primarily at night and are excellent climbers and swimmers. These abilities are used for hunting prey, such as reptiles, fish, and rodents.

5. Canadian Lynx

Canadian lynx mom and kitten
Canadian lynx mom and kitten | image by Eric Kilby via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Lynx canadensis

The Canadian lynx is a wild cat with yellowish-brown fur and black spots on its back. These animals are known to be solitary and very territorial.

They use their scents to mark their territories, and when they meet other members of their species, they fight for dominance. These lynx hunt for prey at night, and because of their keen hearing and vision, these animals are able to do so effectively.

Snowshoe hares are such an important part of their diet that when the population of this prey declines, the population of Canadian lynx in some areas also declines. However, they’ll also consume other species like rodents, birds, and deer for food.

6. Jaguarundi

Jaguarundi with open mouth
Jaguarundi with open mouth | image by Alena Houšková via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientific Name: Puma yagouaroundi

The jaguarundi is a small cat that has been spotted from Texas to Arizona and as far north as Argentina. Early zoologists dubbed them “weasel cats” due to their elongated bodies. They’re slightly larger than domestic cats and come in grayish-black and reddish colors.

These animals are very secretive and are only seen with other jaguarundis during mating season, which occurs in November and December. The jaguarundi is a very vocal cat with 13 distinct calls, each serving a different purpose.

Like other wild cats, they hunt their prey by climbing and jumping on trees. They also have excellent hearing, sight, and smell.

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