Are clouded leopards considered big cats?

Clouded leopard lap cat
Clouded leopard lap cat. They are quite mild-mannered and can ne tamed. Picture: in public domain.
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The question is interesting as you’ll find that different experts have different opinions and there is an added complications as the phrase ‘big cats’ has two meanings. It can mean a large wild cat species or one of the official big cats, those cats that can roar: leopard, jaguar, lion and tiger. For this article I will take the phrase ‘big cats’ to have the wider meaning: large wild cat species. Before I answer the question take a look at the clouded leopard lap cat! What do you think is the answer?

I have seen some articles on the internet stating that clouded leopard are one of the big cats. They are incorrect. The clouded leopard is a medium-sized wild cat species. It is in the middle bracket on size although my book on the small wild cat species lists the clouded leopard at the very top in size of all the small wild cat species (all 30).

Therefore the authors of that book – Small Wild Cats by Jim Sanderson and Partick Watson – believe the clouded leopard to be a small wild cat species. As you can see it depends on your point of view whether clouded leopards are small or medium-sized but they are definitely not big!!

I mean, check out the size. I’ll compare the clouded leopard and Eurasian lynx which is never regarded as a big cat:

SpeciesBody size (kg)Head and body (cm)Tail (cm)
Clouded leopard11-2282-9660-85
Eurasian lynx12-2580-14011-24
Comparison clouded leopard and Eurasian lynx for size and weight

You can understand what I am saying. The clouded leopard is very similar is size to the Eurasian lynx which is the largest in the lynx family.

My conclusion is that the clouded leopard is medium-sized as is the caracal and serval. They are not big cats in shape or form.

The one outstanding feature of the clouded leopard is their heavy and long tail which is required for assistance in balance as they spend a lot of time in trees.

There is a final note on this: there are two species of clouded leopard; the one mentioned and the Sunda clouded leopard. They are identical in terms of weight and size. Their DNA is a little different hence their separate classification.

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