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Big Cats of India: 15 Wild Cat Species and Their Elusive Lives

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India has the most diverse range of wild cats in the world. Wild cats are found throughout the country’s various biospheres, which include rainforests, deserts, lowland forests, and dense jungles. The country currently has 15 species of wild cats, accounting for roughly 40% of the total number of wildcat species on the planet. In India, there are five large cats, eight medium-sized wild cats, and two small cats. India is the only country in the world where the lion, leopard, and tiger can be found.

Tiger of Bengal

Panthera tigris tigris is the scientific name for the royal Bengal tiger, also known as the Indian tiger or Bengal tiger. The majority of royal Bengal tigers are concentrated within India’s borders. Smaller subspecies groups can also be found in Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. The tiger lives in tropical rainforests, tall grasslands, and marshes. The animal is one of nature’s most effective hunters. This solitary carnivore approaches unsuspecting prey using stealth and camouflage before launching a surprise attack. Water buffalo, gaur, sambar, mottled deer, wild boar, and chital make up their diet. Bengal tigers are also known to attack domestic livestock and smaller prey such as porcupines and rabbits on occasion. The species is listed as endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Asian Lion

Asiatic lions, also known as Indian lions or the Panthera Leo Leo subspecies of lions, are found only in India. The IUCN Red List describes them as Panthera leo persica, which is their former scientific name. Asiatic lions once roamed vast areas of the Middle East and Asia, as well as parts of Europe such as Greece. Today, approximately 600 lions are restricted to Gir National Park and a few other areas of Gujarat state in India. The lions’ habitat is limited to the remnant forests of the Ginar and Gir hill systems, which contain the state’s primary tropical and subtropical forests, thorn forest, and savannah. Girnar Sanctuary, Mitiyala Sanctuary, Gir National Park, Gir Sanctuary, and Pania Sanctuary are the five areas where the Asiatic lion is currently protected. In the Gir forest, Asiatic lions eat chital, nilgai, sambar, buffalo, wild boar, and cattle. The IUCN has listed them as an endangered species.


The Indian Leopard, Panthera pardus fusca, is primarily found in the Indian Subcontinent. Populations of Indian leopards can also be found in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Pakistan, Nepal, and China. Leopards are frequently spotted in environments ranging from deserts to rainforests. They can be found in almost every part of India, including protected and even inhabited areas. The Indian leopard inhabits deciduous forests, tropical rainforests, northern coniferous forests, and temperate forests. Humans can be found in areas inhabited by up to five people per 38.6 square miles in western India. They are frequently involved in conflicts with humans because they are the most common big cat around human settlements. They are solitary carnivores that eat sambar, chital, langur, spotted deer, wild pig, nilgai, porcupine, cattle, and dogs. It’s worth noting that black panthers are technically leopards with a rare mutation known as melanism. Panthera pardus is currently classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

The Snow Leopard

The snow leopard, also known as Ounce and Panthera uncia scientifically, lives in the mountain ranges of South and Central Asia. The species can be found in North India’s Himalayan regions, including Hemis National Park, Gangotri National Park, and Khangchendzonga National Park. Snow leopards can be found in forests at elevations ranging from 3,900 to 6,600 feet in the winter and in mountainous meadows and rocky areas at elevations ranging from 8,900 to 19,700 feet in the summer. Their main sources of nutrition are wild goats, argali, Himalayan blue sheep, and Himalayan tahr. The snow leopard is currently listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of endangered species, with a global population of less than 10,000 adult leopards estimated to exist.

Clouded Leopard

Neofelis nebulosa is the scientific name for the clouded leopard. It can be found in Southeast Asia’s Himalayan foothills and parts of mainland China. They are found in tropical evergreen forests and, on rare occasions, in dry and secondary logged forests. They can be found in the subtropical forests of Meghalaya, Sikkim, Assam, Mizoram, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland in India. Indian hog deer, Bengal slow loris, Asiatic brush-tailed porcupine, and southern pig-tailed macaque are among their prey. The IUCN red list classifies the clouded leopard as vulnerable.

The Jungle Cat

The swamp cat, or jungle cat, is native to South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, and southern China. Felis chaus is its scientific name. Jungle cats are thought to be efficient hunters that thrive in a variety of environments. They are found in densely vegetated areas with plenty of water, such as wetlands, swamps, grasslands, and riparian areas. Jungle cats are also found in agricultural areas like sugarcane fields. Hares, gerbils, rodents, birds, fish, insects, and frogs are their favorite foods. The IUCN red list classifies jungle cats as least concern.

Fishing Cat

The fishing cat, scientifically known as Prionailurus viverrinus, is found in wetland areas. Swamps, oxbow lakes, along rivers and streams, and mangroves are among the other habitats. They are widely distributed in South and Southeast Asia. They have been reported in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, among other places. They are good swimmers, and fish make up the majority of their diet. Fishing cats will eat amphibians, rodents, and carrion. The IUCN has classified the species as endangered.

Pallas’s Cat

Pallas’ cat, also known as manul, is a small wild cat with a shaggy appearance. Otocolobus manul is the scientific name for this species. They can be found in the Central Asian montane steppes and grasslands of India, Iran, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Pakistan. They prey on rodents and birds. The IUCN Red List classifies the wild cat as near threatened. The species’ main threat is habitat degradation.

Desert Cat

The Indian desert cat is found in western India, southern Mongolia, western China, and the eastern Caspian Sea region. It is also known as the Asiatic wildcat or Asian steppe wild cat. Felis lybica ornate is the scientific name for this species. They live in low-lying deserts, scrub deserts, and semideserts. Birds, lizards, insects, Afghan voles, red-tailed gerbils, and Tolai hares are all prey for desert cats. The desert cat is currently ranked as the least endangered species on the IUCN Red List.

Eurasian Lynx

 Lynx lynx is the scientific name for the Eurasian lynx. Central Asia, Siberia, the Himalayas, the Tibetan Plateau, and Central, Eastern, and Northern Europe are all home to the species. They can be found in rocky steppe, montane forest, boreal forest, and mixed forest-steppe landscapes. Marmots, hares, squirrels, grouse, wild boar, roe deer, chamois, and rodents make up their diet. The IUCN has classified the Eurasian lynx as least concern.

Asian Golden Cat

Catopuma temminckii is the scientific name for the Asian golden cat. It is a solitary cat native to the northeastern Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Tropical rainforests and dry deciduous subtropical evergreen forests are its natural habitat. They prefer forests with rocky outcroppings. Asian golden cats have been observed hunting hares, birds, rodents, sambar deer calves, and water buffalo calves. On the IUCN Red List, the Asian golden cat is classified as near threatened.


The caracal, scientifically known as Caracal caracal, is a species native to the Middle East, Africa, India, and Central Asia. Birds, rodents, and small mammals are prey for the species. They can be found in a variety of habitats, including savannas, forests, marshy lowlands, scrub forests, semideserts, and montane areas.

Leopard Cat

The leopard cat is a small wild cat found in South and Southeast Asia, including the Amur region, China, the Indian Subcontinent, the Korean Peninsula, and Russia’s Far East. Prionailurus bengalensis is its scientific name. The IUCN Red List classifies leopard cats as least concern. On the Himalayan foothills, they live in tropical evergreen forests, plantations, coniferous forests, and deciduous forests. Small mammals, birds, lizards, insects, and amphibians are all prey for leopard cats.

Rusty-Spotted Cat

Prionailurus rubiginosusis is the scientific name for the rusty-spotted cat, which is native to Sri Lanka and India. They are mostly found in grasslands, moist and dry deciduous forests, and scrubland. Birds, rodents, frogs, insects, and lizards are common prey for rusty-spotted cats. The IUCN Red List classifies rusty-spotted cats as near threatened.
Cat with Marbles

The scientific name for the marbled cat is Pardofelis marmorata. Marbled cats are native to the eastern Himalayas and Southeast Asia, where they live in forested areas at elevations of around 8,200 feet. They eat rodents, snakes, and birds. The IUCN Red List classifies marbled cats as near threatened.


The conservation efforts of wild cats in India are admirable. The recovery of tiger and Asiatic lion populations highlights the country’s efforts. Asiatic lions have been hunted to extinction across the region over the years. Only 20 lions remained in Western India by the 1900s. Since then, conservation efforts at the Gir Conservation Area have resulted in an estimated 600 Asiatic lions. The government and conservation organizations such as the Wildlife Conservation Trust, Gujarat State Lion Conservation Society, Wildcats Conservation Alliance, and the Wildlife Protection Society of India, among others, work together to conserve wildcats in the country.