The Feline family is comprised of 37 different species of cats. California is home to both mountain lions and bobcats. Though many who encounter them in the wild are often confused when identifying these cats, they are easy to tell apart by their size, color, and tail. Mountain lions are significantly larger than bobcats, are a solid tan color, and have a long tail. Bobcats, in contrast, are slightly larger than a domestic cat, have spots, and a shorter “bobbed” tail for which they are named.
Top cats in North America, the geographically widespread mountain lion has many names including cougar, puma, catamount, and panther. When visiting the Zoo Sanctuary, be sure to look up, as our resident mountain lions Cedar, Flash, and Echo like to hang out high on their cat walks.
Adult males range in weight from 130 to 150 pounds, females between 65 and 90 pounds with an age span of 12 years. Kittens depend on their mothers for survival training their first two years.
In California, mountain lions can be found from sea level to 10,000 feet and can have territories of 100 square miles. If you live in mountain lion country take time to learn how to keep yourself, livestock, and pets safe. If you encounter a mountain lion on a trail, put children up on shoulders and make yourself as big and scary as possible.
Bobcats are the most common wild cat in North America. Their name comes from their short “bobbed” tails. Bobcats are opportunists and have been known to prey on unguarded domestic animals. Able to kill prey up to eight times their weight, their wild diet includes rabbit, ground squirrel, mice, gopher, wood rats and even deer.
The Zoo Sanctuary is home to two bobcats, Ophelia and Xena. Both bobcats were illegally kept as pets and as a result were unable to be released into the wild. While bobcats are only slightly larger than domestic cats, they are anything but a suitable house pet. These carnivores not only have a high prey drive, but use their urine, feces, and claws to mark their territory.
African servals are small, slender cats with long legs, a lean body, a short tail, and a small head. Their extra-long neck and legs give them the nickname "giraffe cat." Servals have a coat that is tawny with both black lines and spots, while their belly is a soft white. They top out at 40 pounds yet have the largest ears of any cat.
Servals live near thickly planted streams and rivers in the savannas of central and southern Africa. Unlike many other cats, these small felines love to climb, leap, and play in water. They are crepuscular to avoid the heat of the day, although they do hunt at night when needed. Servals often share their savanna habitat with caracals and may compete with them for prey. Leopards, wild dogs, and hyenas are serval predators. If needed, a serval can climb a tree to escape.