Types of felines - Characteristics and examples

Commonly, we know as felines the members of the felidae family (Felidae). These striking animals can be found all over the world, except in the polar regions and the southwestern part of Oceania. This, of course, is only true if we exclude the domestic cat (Felis catus) that has been distributed all over the world with the help of human beings.

The felidae family includes 14 genera and 41 described species. ¿Do you want to know them? If so, don't miss this AnimalWised article about the different types of felines, their features and some examples.

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  1. Characteristics of felines
  2. Cat classes
  3. Types of true felines
  4. Types of panterine felines
  5. Extinct felines

Characteristics of felines

All types of felines or felines have a series of characteristics in common that allows them to be grouped. These are some of them:

  • Mammals placental: they have the body covered with hair, they give birth to their young already formed and feed them with the milk secreted by their breasts.
  • Carnivores: Within mammals, felines belong to the order Carnivora. Like the rest of the members of this order, felines feed on other animals.
  • Slim body: all felines have a very similar body shape that allows them to run at high speed. They have powerful muscles and a tail that provides great balance. Its head features a short snout and sharp fangs..
  • Big claws: they have strong and elongated nails that are inside a sheath. They only take them out when they use them.
  • Very variable size: the different types of cats can weigh from 1 kg, in the case of the rubiginous cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus), up to 300 kg, in the case of the tiger (Panthera tigris).
  • Predators: all these animals are very good hunters. They catch their prey by stalking or chasing them.

Cat classes

Currently, there are only two subfamilies of felids:

  • Felinos true (subfamily Felinae): includes small and medium-sized species that cannot roar.
  • Pantecedents (subfamily Pantherinae): includes big cats. The structure of their muzzle strings allows them to emit roars.

Throughout this article, we review all the types of felines found in each of these groups..

Types of true felines

The members of the subfamily Felinidae are known as true felines. Is about 34 species of small or medium size. Its main difference with the panterine felines is in its phonation. Their vocal cords are simpler than those of Panthers, so they can't really roar. Yet they can purr.

Within this group we can find different types of felines or lineages. Their grouping is based on their genetic kinship. They are as follows:

  • Cats
  • Leopard cats
  • Cougar and relatives
  • Indomalayan cats
  • Lynxes
  • Leopards or tigrillos
  • Caracal and relatives

Cats (Felis spp.)

Cats form the genus Felis, which includes some of the species smaller of all types of felines. For this reason, they feed on small animals, such as rodents, birds, reptiles and amphibians. They also tend to eat large insects, such as grasshoppers..

All types of wild cats are characterized by stalk and hunt at night, thanks to a highly developed night vision. They are distributed throughout Eurasia and Africa, with the exception of the domestic cat (Felis catus), a feline that was selected by humans from the African wild cat (F. lybica). Since then, it has accompanied our species during its travels throughout all continents and islands..

The gender Felis It is made up 6 species:

  • Jungle or swamp cat (F. bye)
  • Black-and-white catF. nigripes)
  • Sand cat or Sahara (F. margarita)
  • Biet's cat (F. bieti)
  • European wildcat (F. sylvestris)
  • African wild cat (F. lybica)
  • Domestic catF. catus)

Leopard cats

Leopard cats are species of the genus Prionailurus, except for the manul catOtocolobus manul). All are distributed by Southeast Asia and the Malay Archipelago.

These cats also have nocturnal habits, although they have a very variable size and behavior. Among them is the kind of smallest feline in the world, known as the rubiginous catP. rubiginosus). It measures only 40 centimeters. The fishing cat also stands out (P. viverrinus), the only feline that bases its diet on the consumption of fish.

In the group of leopard cats we can find the following species:

  • Manul or Pallas cat (Otocolobus manul)
  • Rubiginous or reddish cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus)
  • Big-headed cat (P. planiceps)
  • Fisher cat (P. viverrinus)
  • Bengali cat (P. bengalensis)
  • Sunda Islands cat (P. javanensis)

Cougar and relatives

In this group there are 3 species that, despite appearances, are closely related genetically:

  • Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)
  • Moorish cat or yaguarundí (Herpailurus yagouaroundi)
  • Cougar (Puma concolor)

These three species are one of the largest types of felines. They are very agile predators of daytime habits. The cheetah prefers arid and dry environments, where it waits for its prey, very close to water sources. The puma, however, is more common in the high mountains.

If these types of felines stand out for something, it is because of the speed they can reach, thanks to their elongated and slim body. The fastest animal in the world is the cheetah, which easily surpasses 100 km / h. This allows it to hunt its prey by chasing.

Indomalayan cats

These cats are one of the most unknown types of felines due to their scarcity. They inhabit the Indomalayan region of Southeast Asia and are characterized by their unique beauty and golden colors. Their color patterns allow them to blend in with the litter on the ground and the bark of trees..

In this group we find 3 species or types of felines:

  • Marbled catPardofelis marmorata)
  • Borneo red cat (Catopuma badia)
  • Asian golden cat (C. temminckii)


The lynxes (Lynx spp.) are medium-sized felids with black specks on their bodies. They are characterized, above all, by have a short tail. In addition, they have large, pointed ears, ending in a black plume. This gives them great hearing that they use to detect their prey. They feed mainly on medium-sized mammals, such as rabbits or lagomorphs.

In this type of felines are included 4 species:

  • American bobcat (L. rufus)
  • Canada Lynx (L. canadensis)
  • Eurasian lynx (L. lynx)
  • Iberian lynx (L. pardinus)

Leopards or tigrillos

Commonly, we know as tigrillos the felines of the genus Leopardus. They are distributed throughout southern and central America, except for the ocelot, which has populations in southern North America..

These types of felines are characterized by having dark spots on a yellowish brown background. They are medium in size and feed on animals such as possums and small monkeys.

In this group we can find the following species:

  • Andean cat or chinchay (L. jacobita)
  • Ocelot (L. pardalis)
  • Tigrillo or margay (L. wiedii)
  • Pajero or Pampa cat (L. placed it)
  • South Tigrillo (L. guttulus)
  • Northern tigrillo (L. tigrinus)
  • Mato cat (L. geoffroyi)
  • Wink (L. guigna)

Caracal and relatives

This group of felines includes 3 species genetically related:

  • Serval (Leptailurus serval)
  • African golden cat (Caracal aurata)
  • Caracal (C. caracal)

All of these types of cats live in Africa, except for the caracal, which is also found in Southwest Asia. This and the serval prefer arid and semi-desert areas, while the African golden cat lives in fairly closed forests. They are all known to be stealth predators of medium-sized animals, especially birds and large rodents.

Types of panterine felines

Pantherinae are members of the Pantherinae subfamily. These carnivorous animals differ from other types of felines that exist by having long, thick and strong vocal cords. Its structure allows them emit real roars. Although it is its main characteristic, some of the species that we are going to see cannot roar.

This subfamily of felines is less diverse than the previous one, since most of its species have become extinct. Currently, we can only find two lineages:

  • Panthers
  • Big felines


Although they are commonly known as panthers, these animals do not belong to the genus Panthera, but to Neofelis. Like many of the felines we have seen, panthers live in South Asia and the Indomalayan islands..

This type of feline can reach a fairly large size, although not as large as its closest relatives. They are fundamentally arboreal. They climb the trees to hunt primates, or, they jump from them to catch medium-sized land animals.

The gender Neofelis It includes 2 species known:

  • Continental Nebula Panther (N. nebula)
  • Sunda's Clouded Panther (N. diardi)
Image: Panther Continental Nebula

Big felines

The members of the genre Panthera are the types of felines biggest in the world. Their robust bodies, sharp teeth, and powerful claws allow them to feed on large animals such as deer, wild pigs, and even crocodiles. The fights between the latter and the tiger are very famous (P. tigris), which is the largest feline in the world and can reach 300 kilograms.

Almost all big cats live in Africa and South Asia, where they live in the savannah or the jungle. The only exception is the jaguar (P. onca): the largest feline in America. They are all well-known animals, except the snow leopard (P. uncia) that lives in the most remote mountainous areas of Central Asia. This is the reason for its particular white color, which serves to camouflage itself in the snow..

Within the genre Panthera we can find 5 species:

  • Tiger (Panthera tigris)
  • Panther or snow leopard (Panthera uncia)
  • Jaguar (P. onca)
  • Leon (P. leo).
  • Leopard or Panther (P. pardus)

Extinct felines

It seems that today there are many types of felines, however, in the past there were many more species. In this section we will tell you a little more about the extinct feline species.

Saber tooth tigers

Saber-toothed tigers are the best known of all the extinct feline types. Despite their name, these animals are not related to today's tigers. In fact, they constitute their own group: the Machairodontinae subfamily. All of them were characterized by having very large teeth that protruded from their mouths.

Saber teeth were distributed almost all over the globe. The last species became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene, only about 10,000 years ago. Like modern felines, these animals had very variable sizes, although some species could have reached 400 kg. It is the case of Smilodon populator, a South American saber tooth.

Other examples of macairodontine felines are:

  • Machairodus aphanistus
  • Megantereon cultridens
  • Homotherium latidens
  • Smilodon fatalis

Other extinct felines

In addition to the macairodontins, there were many other types of felines that became extinct. Here are some of them:

  • Short-faced cat (Pratifelis martini)
  • Martellis Cat (Felis lunensis)
  • European jaguar (Panthera gombaszoegensis)
  • American cheetah (Miracinonyx trumani)
  • Giant cheetah (Acinonyx pardinensis)
  • Owen's Panther (Brown cougar)
  • Tuscan lion (Tuscan Panthera)
  • Longdan tiger (Panthera. zdanskyi)

Many subspecies or varieties of felids that exist today are also extinct. This is the case of the American lion (Panthera leo atrox) or the Javanese tiger (Panthera tigris probeica). Some of them have extinct in recent decades as a consequence of the loss of their habitat and indiscriminate hunting by humans. Because of this, many subspecies and current species are also in danger.

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