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Small Cats (Felinae): O - S
Small Cats (A - E) | Small Cats (F - M) | Small Cats (O - S) | Big Cats | How Cats Purr
Image Common Name Scientific Name Distribution
Small Cats (A - E) | Small Cats (F - M) | Small Cats (O - S) | Big Cats | How Cats Purr
Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)
Ocelot Leopardus pardalis North America, South America
The Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) is also known as the Painted Leopard, McKenney's Wildcat or Manigordo (in Costa Rica). It is grouped, along with the Margay, Tiger Cat into the sub-genus Leopardus. The ocelot is mainly found over South and Central America and Mexico, but has been reported to be found as far north as Texas and in Trinidad and in the Caribbean. They are known to inhabit a variety of different types of habitats that can range from dense thorn scrub in the Rio Grande Valley to the tropical forests of the Amazon.

The ocelot is about twice the size of a house cat. It can measure slightly over 3 ft (1 m) in length, with an additional (1.5 ft) (45 cm) tail length. It weighs about 20 - 33 lb) (10 - 15 kg), making it the largest of the generally dimmunitive Leopardus wild cat genus. Its fur has dark brown irregular shaped spots and rosettes, edged with black on a tawny to reddish-brown background. The undersides tend to be lighter or white in color. They have a single, white spot on the back of each ear and some white markings around their eyes and mouth. Two black lines run the length of either side of their face and the tail is marked with black bands.

The ocelot is primarily nocturnal, but may hunt during the day in areas where prey may be diurnal (active during the day) or in areas where there is little to no contact with humans. It primarily hunts on the ground for such prey as rabbits, rodents, young peccaries and iguanas. It will also hunt in trees for tree lizards, monkeys and birds. They're also very good swimmers, so they'll sometimes also hunt for amphibians, fish and aquatic crustaceans.
Tiger Cat (Oncilla) (Leopardus tigrina) Oncilla (Tiger Cat) Leopardus tigrina South America
The Oncilla is one of the smallest wild cats in South America, weighing just 5 - 10 lbs (2 - 3 kg). Adults have a body length of about 18-24" (40-50 cm) and a tail length of about 10-20" (30-40 cm). The oncilla is just slightly larger than a standard domestic cat. It is a close relative of the Ocelot and the Margay. The oncilla ranges from Costa Rica south to northern Argentina and possibly north Peru in cloud and humid lowland forest in elevations as high as about 14,763 feet (4500 meters) in altitude. The oncilla's beautiful coat is typically tan to tawny with symmetrical spotted patterns with brown spots fading to black in coloring. The underparts are lighter with solitary black spots. Its markings have given the Oncilla the common names of Tigrina, Little Spotted Cat and Tiger Cat by the local people. The Oncilla has rounded eyes with gold to brown irises.

Oncillas are good climbers and very agile in trees, but they don't walk down tree trunks in a headfirst position as do margays. Large oncillas and small margays are about the same size and share the same habitats, but oncillas generally take smaller prey. This allows oncillas to share home ranges with margays and ocelots with little competition for food. Little is known about this rare species. The limited information available on their diets suggests that they eat rodents, small primates, birds, insects, and reptiles. It is also believed that they are nocturnal and solitary, except for when they are mating.
Pallas's Cat (Manul) (Felis manul) Pallas' Cat (Manul) Otocolobus manul Central Asia
The Pallas' Cat (Otocolobus manul), also known as a Manul, is named after German naturalist Pyotr Simon Pallas (1741-1811). It is a small wild cat that is distributed throughout Central Asia, from western Iran to western China, in grassland, temperate grassland and tundra habitats, including the Asian steppes with altitudes of up to heights of 13,000 ft (4000 m). It is about the size of a large domestic cat at 24 in (60 cm) long, int including its 10 in (25 cm) tail, and average weight of about 8 lbs (3.6 kg). It hunts at night for rodents, pikas and birds.

The Pallas' cat is covered with the longest fur of any species of cat. The fur is coarse and sandy to grey in base color with white tips on the guard hairs. The underparts are nearly white. The fur changes between the seasons--the winter coat is greyer and less patterned. They have small black spots over their body and head, and two black bars on the sides of their face. The Pallas' cat's legs are short and stumpy compared to the overall body size. Its small, broad head has high-set eyes, low-set hair covered ears and a striped facial ruff. The tail is tipped with black and has darker rings toward the end. Similar dark markings can also be faintly seen across the side of its back.

The Pallas' cat is unique among cats in the respect that it is missing the front pre-molar teeth, giving it 28 teeth instead of 30, as in most felids. It also has round pupils, like big cats instead of being linear (slitted) like most other small cats.
Pampas Cat (Leopardus pajeros) Pampas Cat Leopardus pajeros South America
Until recently, the Pampas cat was considered a subspecies of the Colocolos. Now, it is considered its own species. The Pampas cat resembles the European wildcat (Felis silvestris) with its broad face and pointed ears, and it is more robust looking than other small South American cats. The fur is long, up to 2.5 inches (7 cm) in length, with coloration that varies from yellowish white to greyish brown. Fur texture can vary from thick and soft in colder areas to thin and straw-like in warmer climate. Pampas cats have pink noses. Darker individuals have been seen which have red areas or spots and some which are almost unpatterned. Melanistic or all black specimens have also been recorded. They have broad faces, pointed ears, long hair, a small mane down their backs and bushy tails. When frightened, they fluff up their manes and tails to make themselves look larger.

As their name implies, they inhabit open grassland (pampas) but they also take range in humid forests, open woodlands, savannas, mangrove swamp areas as well as dry thorn scrub along the southwestern (but not coastal) area of Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina and Patagonia in South America. They prey on guinea pigs and ground-dwelling birds and will take poultry.
Puma (Felis concolor)
Puma (Cougar, Mountain Lion) Puma concolor North America, South America
The puma is known by many names including, cougar, mountain lion, catamount, panther, painter (because of its black tail tip) and mountain screamer. The puma has the wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere, extending from Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes of South America. Even though it is as big as the big cats in the subfamily Pantherinae, the puma is categorized as the largest of the small cats because it can't roar. Instead, pumas vocalize like domestic cats, with low-pitched hisses, growls, and purrs, as well as chirps and whistles. The cougar was originally thought to belong in Felis, the genus which includes the domestic cat, but it is now placed in Puma along with the jaguarundi, a cat just a little more than a tenth its weight.

The puma is a slender and agile cat. Adults stand about about 2 - 2.7 feet (60 - 80 cm) at the shoulder. Males are larger than females. Adult males can measure around 8 feet (2.4 m) long with an average weight of 115 - 160 lb (53 to 72 kg). Female average between 5 and 7 ft (1.5 and 2.13 m) long and 75 and 105 lb (34 and 48 kg) in weight. The puma has a round head with erect ears. The puma's coat is typically tawny, but ranges to silvery-grey or reddish, with lighter patches on the under body including the jaws, chin, and throat. Infants are spotted and born with blue eyes and rings on their tails. Juveniles are pale, with dark spots remaining on their flanks.

Pumas will eat any animal they can catch, from insects to large ungulates (hoofed animals). Its powerful forequarters, neck, and jaw serve to grasp and hold large prey. It has five retractable claws on its forepaws (one a dewclaw) and four on its hind paws. The larger front feet and claws are adaptations for clutching prey. And, combined with what are considered proportionally the largest hind legs in Cats, the large large paws facilitate its well reputed short-sprint and leaping ability. The puma can run up to 35 mph (55 km/h) and leave up to 18 feet (5.4 m) vertically and anywhere from 20 - 40 feet (6 - 12 m) horizontally.
Rusty-Spotted Cat (Prionailurus rubiginosa) Rusty-Spotted Cat Prionailurus rubiginosa Asia
The rusty-spotted cat is one of the smallest wild cats in the world. Since adult females can weigh as little as 2.2 lbs (1 kg) or less, it's about as small as the black-footed cat. The average size is 14-17 in (35-48 cm) in length, plus a tail length of 6-10 in (15-25 cm). Their weight ranges from 2.2 - 3.3 lb (1 - 1.5 kg). Males are larger than females. Similar in overall appearance to the leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), its greyish fur is marked with the reddish spots which is how it got its name. The rusty-spotted cat's fur fur is grey, with rusty spots all over the back and the flanks. The underbelly is white with large dark spots. The tail is darker in color than the body and the spots are less distinct. It is thick and about half the length of the body. The soles of the feet are black.

The rusty-spotted cat can be found mainly in the tropical dry forests and dry grasslands in India and in the rainforests in Sri Lanka at elevation over 2,100 metres in low scrub and arid coastal belts. Primarily nocturnal, rusty-spotted cats rest in dense cover during the day. Rusty-colored cats are excellent climbers and are both arboreal and terrestrial, meaning that they are found in trees and on the ground. It eats rodents, birds, lizards, insects, reptiles and frogs. They are also known to make a meal of domestic poultry when the opportunity arises.
Sand Cat (Felis margarita) Sand Cat Felis margarita Africa, Asia
The sand cat lives in the arid regions in the Middle East (the Sahara, the Arabian Desert, and the deserts of Iran and Pakistan) that are too hot and dry even for the desert cat. In the daytime the sand cat hides under rocks. At night it hunts for rodents, lizards and insects. The sand cat obtains all the fluid it needs from eating its prey, so it doesn't go near water.

Sand cats are small, short-legged cats. They average about 20 inches (50 cm) in length, plus a tail length of 12 inches (30 cm). They weigh about 6 lbs (2.7 kg). Sand cats have broad heads with large, pointed ears and sandy yellow fur with pallid bars, which are sometimes hardly visible. The fur on the tip of the tail is black. The paws are covered thickly furred to protect the skin against the hot sand. Sand cats are hearty animals that can withstand temperatures anywwhere from 25°F (-5°C) to 125.5°F (52°C).
Serval (Leptailurus serval) Serval Leptailurus serval Africa
The serval is one of seven species African wild cat. Its name is Swahili for "wildcat". The serval is a medium-sized cat that is closely related to the African Golden Cat and the Caracal. It weighs 29 - 41 pounds (13.5 - 19kg) and has a body length of 27 - 39 inches (70 - 100 cm) with an added tail length of about 13 - 17 inches (35 - 40 cm). The serval stands about 23 inches (60 cm) at the shoulder. Males are slightly larger than females.

The serval has a long neck and relatively small head with huge rounded ears set on top of the head and almost touching each other at their bases. It is slenderly built with long legs, although the back legs are longer than the front legs. The serval's coat is yellowish tan with black spots, bands and stripes. The short tail has black rings and its underside is white or light tan. Each individual serval has a different coat pattern, similar to how each tiger has different stripes.

The serval can be found in the savanna and forests of Algeria and Morocco, central and southern Africa (excluding the southern-most tip and the rainforest belt in central Africa). It needs water, so it's not found in semi-desert or dry steppes. Black servals are sometimes found in Kenya's high country, provided there is a water source nearby. The shy, elusive serval leads a solitary life and is mainly nocturnal. If in areas where it isn't disturbed by humans, the serval will also be active at dawn and dark (crepuscular). It can climb, but seldom does. The serval is a successful predator that mainly hunts by sight and sound. With its large ears, it can locate prey that is moving underground. Then, it will quietly approach, leap and pounce on the prey. Servals eat a wide variety of prey, which includes rodents, small ungulates, birds, lizards, frogs and insects. They require fresh kills and will eat carrion only under extreme circumstances. Servals communicate in a variety of ways that include snarling, growling, spitting, purring and a high pitched cry used to call other servals.