The Cougar Is Not A Big Cat

The cougar is not a big cat meaning it is not part of the group of cats called “big cats”. It is also worth mentioning at the same time that:

“the size of this cat is frequently overestimated¹….”

Some Peruvian pumas only weigh around 30 kilograms which is 66 pounds; about the average weight of a nine year old girl. Adult male pumas in Canada weigh 65 to 85 kilograms. Adult males are about 50% heavier than females.

Picture: Photo copyright Anthony Gurr on Flickr
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In terms of pure physicality, the puma could be one of the big cats, which are usual considered to be the lion, tiger, leopard and jaguar. On average, the puma is larger than the leopard. The big cats have the vocal ability to roar. The puma has small cat vocal abilities and in many ways behaves like a small cat. For example, it can’t roar but does purr.

However, there has been a lot of discussion over whether the puma could be classified as a big cat. As to lineage (part of the evolution of the wild cat species), the puma is ranked alongside the jaguarundi and the cheetah¹.

The argument for placing the puma amongst the small cat species include some small cat anatomical features:

  • the shape of the puma’s nose
  • the form and structure of the feet
  • the shape of the puma’s pupils
  • short and wide skull
  • short face

From the general public’s viewpoint it is probably fair to say that the cougar looks more like a cheetah than a lion. Both the cheetah and puma have:

  • long legs (the puma has particularly long and athletic hind legs)
  • small heads relative to body size
  • long slender bodies
  • characters that have been called retiring and gentle¹.

I would also like to mention that both the cheetah and puma

rarely confront humans¹..

As regards to taxonomy, the puma has its own genus (Puma). A “genus” is a part of the classification process of the species and is in between “family” and “species”. It refers to species of animals that are similar. The classification of animals is in flux.


  1. Wild Cats Of The World

See a list of articles on the puma on PoC

11 thoughts on “The Cougar Is Not A Big Cat”

  1. @Marc. I don’t think prototype describes the Turkish Angora’s usurper very well. A prototype means an early model, but this cat is far from that. It is an impostor. Thanks for your interest.

    • Yes I see your point – I guess it wasn’t a very good word – I was thinking they were creating their own prototypes for their new version of what they call an Angora. You are right – that wasn’t clear.

  2. It’s always very interesting to learn more about the various cats, big or small, thank you Michael, they are all very beautiful and all deserve to live as they are meant to live, without humans interfering.
    It’s fascinating how wild cats purr just like small domestic cats do, I do enjoy your articles very much and I’m sure they are very educational to children too.

    • Thanks Ruth. Some (I don’t know how many) Americans have a slightly disrespectful attitude towards the this cat (too keen to shoot it) and I really do feel that they should leave it alone more.

      If left alone it will mind its own business. If people intrude and scare the cat it will attack defensively. Even then it can be shooed away we are told. The puma can be a bit scary, mainly because a lot of people are scared of domestic cats never mind something larger.

      The puma was in America well before the humans turned up. I think that counts for something.

      • Yes I think that counts for something too. Some people are far too ready to take an animal’s life, a cat only attacks to defend him/herself, I agree with you, why can’t people just leave them alone!

      • It doesn’t cross my mind to kill any animal I am frightened of. What does cross my mind is to get away from it and hope it finds it’s own way back to it’s usual and safe environment. No environment is safe for them these days but it’s a relative thing. Killing an animal is what you do if it attacks you and there is no other way out, but even then I don’t own a gun so I would not be the one to do it. I don’t think I could anyway.

  3. What is the point of trying to decide to call it a big cat or a small cat? Big or small are hardly scientific terms. Big or small is relative. These cats have been known to kill people quite easily and calling them small cats will be very misleading and unhelpful.

    • Harvey, I disagree with you. The post is about how the cat is classified biologically. And as a side issue how the puma’s size is often overstated.

      That’s all. It is not misleading. It is highly factual. This cat has killed people, I agree, but as I recall, it is about 18 people in the entire USA over 100 years and more. Most of the people were kids who were unsupervised in areas where the puma was known to be. You could argue that parents were contributory negligent.

      The number, 18, is a tiny fraction of the lives lost to companion dog attacks over the same period.

      The danger posed by the cougar is overstated too. I am not guessing or using my imagination. This is fact and the information for this article comes from the best source possible.

      Finally the terms “big” and “small” are used in a scientific context. They are used by scientists sometimes with respect to taxonomy.

      Sorry Harvey. Please cite me an example where a puma killed a person quite easily. It was possibly a child. There were probably signs all over the place saying that there were pumas in the area.

    • Harvey – I followed the link of yours to the Turkish Angora site and it’s fantastic. I spent most of yesterday evening reading just about all of it. I really appreciate the angle the site takes on the nature of ‘purity’ and the difference of man made breeds. Is it your site? It’s great. Sorry I know this has nothing to do with the article above but I still wanted to mention it.

      • It is a combined effort with people in Turkey. Some of my cats are portrayed there are mine but mostly are Turkish freeborn cats. I have been battling for years to counter the artificial man-made breeds that are immorally replacing the original natural breeds whilst hijacking the same name and history. I am now getting help and support from various sources.

        • Well that sounds like a decent thing to be doing. I really like the angle of the website and it was really refreshing to read about something from it’s true source. They are beautiful cats and I agree that it’s unfair that man made ‘prototypes’ should take any kind of precedence over the true originals. Especially with regard to the fact the the man made breeds are less healthy – often being deaf for example at the cost of achieving the so called ‘orignal long white fur’. Great website, I am glad I clicked on the link 🙂


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