Big cat family tree

The Cat (felidae) family tree

The Cats form an incredibly successful family. It is true that they are missing from the polar regions, and Australasia, but everywhere that they reached they have been successful, and in many ecosystems they are the undisputed kings

Panthera Family

 This family split from hte Felid ancestor 10.8 million years ago. There have been some debate as to whether the two species of clouded leopards should be included in Panthera. On the circular mammal tree (which we are using – look in the species watch tab, or click here)

They are generally included in a subgenus Panthera_Neofilis


Bay cat Familiy

Bay cat ancestor split 9.4 milion years ago

Caracal Family

Caracal Ancestor split 8.5 million years ago

Ocelot Family

Ocelot Ancestor 2.9 million years ago

Lynx Family

Lynx Ancestor 3.2 million years ago

Puma Family

Puma ancestor 4.9 million years ago

Leopard cat Family

Leopard cat Ancestor 5.9 million year ago

Domestic cat Family

Domestic cat Ancestor


An Ocelot photo by RawheaD Rex


Ocelots, servals are about the size of domestic cats, which mean that without being careful it is easy to overlook them. Found throughout the south west of the USA, Mexico, and on through central and South America, as well as the Caribbean island of Margarita and Trinidad. At this time, two subspecies of Ocelot are recognized (in the past as much as 9 subspecies were proposed) and these are essentially split by continent (a north America Ocelot and a Southern America Ocelot).

Researchers agree that there are around 120 wild Ocelots in Texas but elsewhere it is less clear. Indeed, the Ocelot is generally listed as least concern, though in various parts of its range it is threatened by habitat destruction, hunting or traffic accidents. As such while its range is very large there are areas where it is decreasing in an area of its range. The ocelot has had occasional association with humans dating back as far as the Incas and the Aztecs – and has occasionally been kept as a pet.


Rare in much of their range, with persecution and habitat loss, we yet have time to save this creature

The Jaguarundi is a mid-sized cat, similar in size to the Ocelot – about twice the size of a domestic cat. It is found from central Argentina to Northern Mexico at the top of its range. In central and Southern America it is found east of the Andes. Secretive, and very alert, it actually tends to hunt during the day and the evenings. They live in large home ranges and low densities. In the wild they tend to be solitary or living in pairs.

Although a good climber, it generally prefers to hunt on the ground. It lives in an array of habitats from tropical rainforests, deciduous forests to deserts and thorn scrubs.

It is pretty common in Brazil, Peru and Venezuela, though it is thought to be extinct in the USA – it is obviously found in the countries in between, however due to range loss from fragmentation of habitat, as well as direct persecution as a result of taking of poultry, there are many regions where it is threatened as populations are declining fast.

The Jaguarundi shares a clade with the mountain lion (cougar), and is in the same lineage as the Cheetah

Could road crossings threaten the survival of the Texas Ocelot?

Ocelots are often thought of as relatively exotic animal. Looking like a small leopard or Jaguar, this is not particularly surprising. Never-the-less, like their bigger cousin, the jaguar, they are a native cat of the USA.

Unfortunately, as it is dangerous, this Ocelot crossing is not rare

Road deaths are a significant problem, as with a total population not thought to number more than 60-80, 8 were lost in under a year (2015-2016). Texas has created 27 wildlife crossings, with many in Ocelot areas, but clearly more are needed, along with driver education.

Perhaps more unhelpful, as Ocelots are largely nocturnal, they are usually crossing the road when hardest to see. Once relatively common in the southern USA, just 1% of its optimal habitat remains, and this is criss-crossed by road.

See Animals Wild