Wild Cats of North America – List With Pictures & Facts

The bobcat, puma (also known as the mountain lion or cougar), Canada lynx, ocelot, jaguarundi, and jaguar are the six wild cats native to North America.

The domestic cat, Felis catus, may be found throughout North America. As a result, seven of the 41 cat species recognized today are found on the continent.

Wild Cats Of North America List

  • Bobcat
  • Canada Lynx
  • Puma / Mountain Lion / Cougar
  • Ocelot
  • Jaguarundi
  • Jaguar

Further reading on each of the wild cats of North America (or simply click on a species name in the table above to go directly to information on that animal) may be found here.

About North American Wild Cats

The Felidae family of cats belongs to the Carnivora order, which includes all mammals. Canidae, the dog family, and Ursidae, the bear family, are two other families in Carnivora.

Carnivora has a common progenitor, which is thought to be a little, weasel-like species that lived some 55 million years ago. All members of Carnivora descended from this creature

Cats are skilled ambush hunters who stalk their prey before leaping on them. The claws on cats are retractable, and they are excellent climbers and jumpers. They often have a nocturnal, solitary lifestyle.

Only the jaguar is of genus Panthera, and thus is classified as a “big cat,” out of the six wild cats discovered in North America.

While the puma (also known as the mountain lion or cougar) is a member of the small cat subfamily, Felinae, it is considered to be a “small cat” because of its size (it is actually larger than the leopard, a “real” big cat).

Only the bobcat, puma, and Canada lynx are found in substantial numbers in the United States and Canada, out of the six North American cats listed below.


  • Scientific name: Lynx rufus
  • Number of subspecies: 2
  • Maximum weight male: 40.3 lb / 18.3 kg ; female: 33.7 lb / 15.3 kg
  • Where found: southern Canada, United States, Mexico
  • Typical habitat: boreal forest, mixed forest, scrubland, grassland, desert
  • Conservation status: Least Concern
  • Population trend: Stable

The bobcat, which may be found across the United States and Mexico as well as in southern Canada, is a mid-sized wild cat. The other species in the Lynx genus native to North America is Canada lynx (see below), and it is one of two. Both the Eurasian and Iberian lynx are native to Europe, as is the other two lynx species.

Bobcats are the most common wild cats of North America, with a population in the United States alone of about 2.3 to 3.5 million.

The bobcat’s name comes from its tail, which has a short, bobbed appearance. It has tufted ears and a thick, furry ruff beneath its cheeks, like other lynxes. A white spot on the back of each ear may assist kittens locate their mother at night.

The Canada lynx is around half the size of this North American wild cat, which is roughly twice the size of a domestic cat and, on average, somewhat smaller. Northern variants of the species are generally bigger than southern variants.

Bobcat ears are shorter, legs are shorter, and tail is longer than those of its close relative, the Canada lynx. The bobcat’s tip is black with white bottom, whereas the Canada lynx’s tip is entirely black.

The bobcat has a spotted and varied coat that ranges from orange-red to black gray in color. In comparison to Canada lynxes, bobcats are typically more colorful.

The bobcat can sprint at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour (48.3 km/h) and is a superb climber. It feeds on a wide range of small and medium-small animals, with cottontails being the most common species prey.

Canada Lynx

  • Scientific name: Lynx canadensis
  • Number of subspecies: 1
  • Maximum weight male: 37.5 lb / 17 kg ; female: 26.5 lb / 12 kg
  • Where found: Canada, Alaska and northern contiguous United States
  • Typical habitat: boreal forest
  • Conservation status: Least Concern
  • Population trend: Stable

The Canada lynx belongs to the same genus as the bobcat, Lynx. Eurasian lynxes arrived in North America via the Bering Land Bridge and evolved into both of the North American lynxes.

In the frigid boreal woodlands of Alaska and Canada, where the Canada lynx may be found, snow covers the ground for much of the year. For life in this harsh environment, the species has a number of adaptations. For walking through snow, they have long legs and broad paws.

To keep the cat from sinking into the snow, the Canada lynx’s paws are covered in thick hair for insulation and may expand up to 3.9 in (10 cm) wide.

The Canada lynx has a faint grey-brown coat that does not have the bobcat’s prominent markings.

The snowshoe hare is the primary food of Canada lynx. Between 60 and 97% of the cat’s diet is made up of this fast-paced creature.

While snowshoe hares are plentiful, Canada lynxes are more likely to breed and their population grows; when snowshoe hares are scarce, the populations of both animals are linked in a predator/prey relationship. Lynx populations decrease when snowshoe hares are scarce.

Puma / Mountain Lion / Cougar

  • Scientific name: Puma concolor
  • Number of subspecies: 2
  • Maximum weight male: 220.4 lb / 100 kg ; female: 141.1 lb / 64 kg
  • Where found: North America; South America
  • Typical habitat: forest; grassland
  • Conservation status: Least Concern
  • Population trend: Decreasing

The puma (also known as the mountain lion, or cougar) is not considered a genuine big cat since it is not a member of the genus Panthera despite being the world’s fourth-largest species of cat.

Only the jaguar (which is usually found in South America) is bigger than the puma, which is North America’s second-largest wild cat.

The puma’s range stretches from Yukon, Canada, to southern Chile, making it the largest of any North American wild cat. This versatile species may be found in woods, meadows, and deserts across a broad range of environments.

The jaguarundi (see below) is the puma’s closest cousin in the Americas. The cheetah is a common ancestor for both species.

The jaguarundi (see below) is the puma’s nearest relative in the Americas. The cheetah is the closest relative to both species.

A member of a group of pumas that live in South Florida is referred to as a “Florida panther.” In the eastern United States, Florida panthers are the only mountain lions.


  • Scientific name: Leopardus pardalis
  • Number of subspecies: 2
  • Maximum weight male: 34.1 lb / 15.5 kg ; female: 26 lb / 12 kg
  • Where found: South & Central America
  • Typical habitat: forest; scrubland
  • Conservation status: Least Concern
  • Population trend: Decreasing

The ocelot is a wild cat that may be found in both South and North America, ranging in size from tiny to mid-sized. In both Arizona and Texas, the species is present in small numbers.

The coat of the ocelot is medium yellow-gold with black solid outlines on many dark rings and spots. This “mini-jaguar” is around the size of a domestic cat, but smaller than both the bobcat and the Canada lynx on average.

Tropical rainforests and mangrove swamps are typical habitats for the ocelot. Marshlands and grasslands are also home to the species, though in lower numbers.

An expert climber, the ocelot will often be found resting in the branches during the day. It will also seek refuge from predators by escaping up a tree.

The ocelot feeds on a wide range of tiny creatures, the majority of which weigh less than 2 pounds (1 kg). At night, it is most active.

Although the ocelot’s population is believed to be declining, primarily due to habitat destruction, it is currently classified as Least Concern.


  • Scientific name: Herpailurus yagouaroundi
  • Number of subspecies: 1
  • Maximum weight male: 15.4 lb / 7 kg ; females are slightly smaller than males
  • Where found: South America; Central America
  • Typical habitat: scrubland; grassland; forest
  • Conservation status: Least Concern
  • Population trend: Decreasing

The jaguarundi is a South and Central American wild cat that is medium-sized. In Texas and Florida, sightings are occasionally reported.

The jaguarundi is the smallest North American wild cat, despite being significantly larger than the average domestic cat.

With a long body, short legs, and a tiny head, the jaguarundi has a distinctive “weasel-like” body shape. It might be one of two basic hues: dark grey or golden-red, with no markings on its coat. Coats can be of any color and may belong to siblings.

The puma is the jaguarundi’s closest relative. The cheetah is a member of the same cat family as both the jaguarundi and the puma.

The jaguarundi can be found in forests, savannas, and grasslands throughout its wide range of lowland habitats. It is mostly active during the day, which is unusual for a cat. Rodents, birds, and reptiles are among the species’ prey.

The jaguarundi’s population is declining, despite the fact that it is classified as Least Concern. Habitat loss is the biggest threat to the species.


  • Scientific name: Panthera onca
  • Number of subspecies: 1
  • Maximum weight male: 211.6 lb / 96 kg ; female: 172 lb / 78 kg
  • Where found: southern North America; northern and central South America
  • Typical habitat: forest, grasslands, wetlands
  • Conservation status: Near Threatened
  • Population trend: Decreasing

Only the tiger and lion are larger than the jaguar, which is the biggest cat found in North America. The only large cat species is the one in question. The Americas are home to the genus Panthera member.

Although most jaguars are found in South America, this large cat can also be found in North America, particularly in the Amazon Basin’s rainforests. Jaguar sightings have been recorded in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, indicating that its range extends northward into Central America and even the southwestern United States.

Although jaguars are predominantly found in South America, this big cat can be found in North America as well. Jaguar sightings have been documented in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas on rare occasions. It has a wide range that stretches north from Central America through Central America and even into the southwest United States.

When the jaguar moves through dense woodland, its rosettes provide camouflage, breaking up the cat’s physique form.

After the tiger and lion, this North American wild cat has the third strongest biting force of any cat in the world. The shell of a turtle can be pierced by its jaws.

The jaguar, which sits at the pinnacle of the food chain and may eat creatures as big as common caimans, is an apex hunters. Wild boar, deer, and capybara are some of the other common prey animals.

The conservation status of the jaguar is classified as “Near Threatened.” Habitat loss caused by deforestation is the species’ most serious threat.

Wild Cats of North America: Conclusion and Further Reading

We hope that you have enjoyed discovering the wild cats found in North America.

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