About Small Cats

33 of the 40 species of the world’s wild cats are classified as small cats. Scientists still know very little about most of these diminutive felines. In 2018, Panthera launched our Small Cats Program to create targeted conservation strategies for the world’s most threatened small cat species by understanding their unique ecological needs and threats. From Borneo to Brazil and around the globe, we are on the ground studying and protecting small cats.

Small but Plentiful

33 of the 40 species of the world’s wild cats are classified as small cats.

© Gregory Breton

Widespread Range

Small cat species inhabit 5 of the world’s 7 continents in nearly every habitat.

© Nick Garbutt

Need More Info

The lack of data on small cats can significantly hamper conservation action.

© Sebastian Kennerknecht

It's Dangerous to be Small

12 of the world’s 18 most threatened wild cat species are small cats.

© Christian Sperka
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small cat species directly studied or protected through programs we lead or support

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wild cats captured on camera in Malaysian Borneo during a large-scale survey

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conducting a range-wide study of African golden cats

Our Impact

Where Do Small Cats Live?

Small cat species inhabit five of the world’s seven continents in diverse habitats ranging from deserts to tundra to mountains to rainforests. Many of them live in overlapping ranges with the planet’s seven more well-known big cat species.

  • Historic Small Cats Range
  • Current Small Cats Range

Small Cats FAQs


How is my house cat related to small wild cats?


The wildcat is the closest relative to domestic cats. The species began to be domesticated around 10,000 years ago on the Fertile Crescent with the rise of agriculture. While technically considered to be the same species by most scientists, the genetic differences between the wildcat and the domestic cat are enough to classify them as separate subspecies.


Why is it important to study small cats?


Only a handful of studies have investigated the ecology of small cats, so there are huge knowledge gaps about species population sizes, threats and more. This lack of data can significantly hamper conservation action and make many highly threatened small cat species appear as low priorities on the conservation agenda.


Can small cats roar?


Unlike many of the big cat species such as lions and tigers, small cats lack the specialized stretching ligament in their hyoid bone that would allow them to roar.


What are the threats facing small cats?


Small cats face many of the same issues as big cats, including habitat loss, legal and illegal hunting of them and their prey and conflict between humans and cats, usually due to attacks on small livestock. Other threats include disease, hybridization and the illegal pet trade.


How can we save small cats?


With our Small Cats Program, Panthera is expanding our focus in wild cat conservation to bring increasingly threatened small cat species to the world’s attention and enact science-based conservation actions on their behalf.

Ensure their tomorrow with your gift today.

© Nitish Madan