When people hear the term “wild cat”, they often think of tigers, lions, leopards, and other big cats that they’ve seen at the zoo. Surprisingly, there are a lot more species of wild cats than most people realize, with 37 species in total. The lesser-known small wild cat species actually make up a substantial proportion of all the wild cats in the world. They are shyer around people than the big cats, and many of them are nocturnal (active at night) or crepuscular (active at dusk and dawn), which is part of why they are difficult to spot in the wild.
Small wild cats may be lesser-known, but maintaining small wild cat populations is extremely important for preserving the ecological balance of natural habitats. These predators keep numbers of prey animals in check, preventing problems like over-exploitation of the habitat or overpopulation of rodents that could eventually start encroaching into human habitats. Unfortunately, like the big cats, small wild cats also face serious threats like being hunted for their fur or body parts, competition with humans for their prey, destruction of their habitats, and being killed by ranchers who are trying to prevent loss of their livestock. To learn more about small wild cats, click here.