Where to see Wild Cats
There are 36 species of Wild Cats in the world and below we will discuss the different types of wild cats, some of the beautiful African wild cats, as well as some of their key physical characteristics and the amazing diversity of the family of Felidae to which they belong.
The family Felidae consists of well-known big cats such as Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, Tigers, Pumas, and Jaguars. The large cats can roar but not purr unlike small cats – such as Eurasian Lynx, Fishing Cat, Serval and Ocelot – which are the opposite. Generally, they have round heads, with ‘flat’ faces and large canine teeth for the efficient killing of their prey. Most are solitary animals apart from during mating season and bringing up their families and they hunt by stealth at night. Wild Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need to eat meat to survive.
Several wild cat species are critically endangered due to poaching for the illegal pet trade, revenge killing by local farmers, habitat loss, and in some cases inbreeding from domestic cats, such as with the Scottish wild cat. We encourage those interested to visit the ICUN Red list website for an up-to-date status on individual species.
Where to see Wild Cats in Africa
There are 10 species of African wild cats varying in size from the mighty African Lion with a top weight of around 270kg to the Black-footed cat weighing a minuscule 1 to 2 kg. Many people on African wildlife holidays will have a good chance to see Lions, Leopards, and Cheetahs if they stay in the best National Parks for a good length of time, but the smaller African wild cats such as Serval, Black-footed cat, and Caracal are much more difficult to see and photograph. Partly this is because they are more nocturnal in their behaviour and also because they are often found in different habitats from their larger, more visible big cat
Where to see Wild Cats in Asia and India
There are an astonishing 20 types of wild cats in Asia and the diversity of colours and adaptations to their habitats is equally stunning. From the beautiful Snow Leopards – the Grey Ghost of the Himalayas – stalking its prey at 5000m to the Flat-headed cat searching for its aquatic prey in the freshwater habitats of Borneo. India is the best place to see wild cats, it is home to big cats like leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards, lions and tigers, as well as small wild cats like Caracal, Rusty-spotted cat, and Leopard Cat. Our clients have also been lucky enough to see the mid-size wild cats in India, such as Fishing and Jungle cats. The best place to see the Black Panther is Nagerhole in south India and our small group wildlife holiday has enjoyed great success in seeing this beautiful male melanistic Leopard.
Where to see Wild Cats in Europe
There are 3 types of wild cats found in Europe, which are the Eurasian Lynx, Iberian Lynx, and European wild cat. Because Europe is not home to one of the charismatic big cats it can sometimes receive less attention from wildlife photographers and animal lovers. However, these 3 cats are absolute beauties and with careful destination planning, we can organise wild cat safaris in countries like Spain, Scotland and Romania to give you a genuine chance to see and photograph them. Scottish wildcats are descendants of European wildcats, which became separated by the English Channel more than 9000 years ago after the retreat of the last ice age.
The Iberian Lynx which has small populations in both Spain and Portugal after successful reintroduction initiatives is still classed as critically endangered, but using a combination of expert local guides and in some cases superb hide placement, we have a great chance to get some stunning ‘close up’ photos of this charismatic medium-sized wild cat, which specialises in hunting rabbits
Where to see Wild Cats in North America
Amongst the six types of wild cats found on the North American continent, there are some fascinating stories around conservation successes and natural reintroduction of species across land borders. One of the most interesting is the arrival of Jaguars into the North American state of Arizona. These jaguars have come from a significant population in the state of Sonero, Mexico; but a lot has to happen around habitat protection and controlling hunting to enable a breeding population to become established.
Generally, big cats in North America are not easily seen despite substantial populations in British Columbia and many Northwest states of America. In fact, the popular holiday destination of Vancouver Island has one of the highest densities of Cougars (Mountain Lions) in the world, but due to their secretive behaviour and a preference for densely wooded and remote rocky habitats; they are rarely seen. Most conflicts occur between humans and cougars due to building ranches and other buildings in their habitat or backcountry hikers occasionally surprising a mother with young.
Other famous types of wild cats found in Canada and the US are Lynx, Bobcat, Ocelot, and Jaguarundi.
Where to see Wild Cats in South America
There are eleven different types of wild cats found in South America. The largest and most powerful cat in the Americas – is the Jaguar – which is also the most visible and relatively easy to see because of its love for water and increasing diurnal behaviour in the famous wetlands of the Pantanal in Brazil. We have been organising Jaguar safaris in the Pantanal since 2007 and you can click here to see our bespoke Brazil wildlife holidays.
As well as the South American big cats such as Pumas and Jaguars, you also can find and photograph some lesser wild cats with exquisite markings, such as Ocelot, Margay, Oncilla and the incredibly rare and highly endangered Andean Mountain cat.
Our Clients Say About Us
We went to Alaska, which Wildlife Trails sorted out for us. I chose Wildlife Trails because Allan was more knowledgeable than others I emailed, and more helpful. We went to Anchorage, Seward, er, Nikiski, Kodiak and Katmai. At Nikiski we stayed at Daniels Lake Lodge B&B in a log cabin by the lake. It was an amazing place and was the wildest and most remote of our journey. We saw a black bear and 3 coyote on the road. Had a great day out with Alaska West Air near there. We had bears right beside our boat at Big River Lakes near Wolverine Creek, saw bald eagles and plenty of salmon in the river. They gave us a scenic flight on the way back flying right over double glacier and its ice field - so close we almost landed on it. Really breath-taking. We booked up Juneau Mendenhall Glacier Ice Adventure Tour ourselves through Alaska Shore Excursions - local tour operator was Liquid Alaska Tours. This was excellent. We did canoeing, went in an ice cave under the glacier and used crampons to climb on top of it. A fantastic day out. Would recommend these. Also had a great day out at Brooks Falls watching the bears catching the salmon that were jumping up the waterfall. Well worth the trip. Wouldn't recommend Jayleen's Alaska whale watching trip. We didn't see anything but a lighthouse for most of the morning. Cost us a fortune for 6 hours when we saw more on the 2 hour cruise with Alaska Tales for a fraction of the cost. These are a new company. We didn't have many on the boat so didn't have to fight the crowds to see the whales and they took us straight to them so didn't waste any of our time. To see black bears close up we went to AnAn Bear observatory. A mother and cub came very close to where we were standing on a platform. At the other places we saw brown bears. A great trip all in all. As I stated above Wildlife Trails are very knowledgeable and helpful. They always replied quickly to any emails I sent asking them a lot of questions (some I should have been able to work out myself). When we had problems they were always contactable to help us sort them out. The ferry they booked for us went on strike but Wildlife Trails had sorted us out a flight in its place before we even knew there was a problem, so the holiday ran very smoothly. I would recommend Wildlife Trails to anyone and I have already booked another trip with them next year.
We had a two week holiday on Vancouver Island.. we went on a whale watching tour and saw Orcas, Humpbacks, Dahl porpoises, white striped Dolphins, seals and Sea lions. We then did a Grizzly bear r and saw lots of Grizzlies as well as loads of Black Bears. The highlight of the holiday was a three day kayaking trip which was fantastic. Kayaking with Orcas and Humpback whales was incredible Our holiday was completely organised by Wildlife Trails, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.. everything was planned to perfection and they made the entire holiday exactly what we asked for
We had a 13 day tour to India, mostly wildlife as this was what we wanted and a little element of city & culture. Day in Delhi staying at the Imperial, apart from noisy traffic getting to the el it was an iconic place to be, so much hitory and staff who had been there 30yrs and proud of what they did. then onto 5 days at Ranthambor - 2 incredible Tiger sightings with so many other species, onto Agra and the Taj Mahal and then the Saptura National Park. Great time was taken in the planning, we were given lots of options as to how to make the trip up including time of year and how to maximize wildlife sighting.