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.

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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Video tells you why ‘pet’ caracals are not pets at all

Pet caracal is far too defensively aggressive to be a successful companion. Screen grab from the video below.

So, you’ve thought about buying an exotic pet cat as you are fascinated by the wild cats. The phrase ‘exotic pet’ includes pet wild cats. Actually ‘pet wild cat’ is an oxymoron as wild cats do not make pets as this video shows. A pet is a domesticated animal that is kept primarily for companionship, pleasure, or enjoyment. Where is the companionship? The owner made this video. He approaches his caracal who hisses violently. This is not good.

The video is from the TikTok account of Deniss Jegorovs: pumbacaracalofficial.

Yes, you can tame wild cats but taming is not domestication. Almost every video of this well-known pet caracal, Pumba, shows him hissing like hell. And look at those teeth! This overweight, captive and bored caracal who wants to escape is constantly anxious.

When his owner pets him he hisses. Not always but judging by the videos, far too often. That’s not living with a pet; a companion animal. It is living in a zoo with a medium-sized wild cat who really should be elsewhere.

Pumba has a domestic cat friend

The interesting video shows us that Pumba has made close friends with the resident true domestic cat. That’s good. Pumba needs a bit of companionship surrounded as he is by humans with whom he can’t truly be relaxed and at home.

Who would want to live with a caracal?

The caracal’s owner is Deniss Jegorovs. He took Pumba in as a three-month-old kitten at his home in Latvia, where it is legal to own a caracal. FYI, Latvia, according to The Times newspaper, tops the worldwide charts for the highest consumption of alcohol. The UK is ranked 17th!

I think Deniss must have had a drink or two when he decided to buy Pumba. Who would want to live with an animal like this? And intimidating animal. Essentially a dangerous animal.

Yes, a highly impressive predator with perhaps the best jumping ability of all the wild cat species. But who would want to live with a predator like this? It can’t be relaxing. I don’t think you’re going to enjoy a close relationship. I don’t think you can call a pet caracal a companion animal in the conventional sense. It must be a bit like living inside a zoo. You are making your home a zoo which just can’t be right. What about being scratched? Perhaps this caracal has been declawed which would be cruel. What about spraying urine as the caracal wants to mark their territory? That can happen too.

RELATED: Are caracals legal in Ohio?

I mean, I don’t want to be too negative and disrespectful. But although his TikTok account is highly successful because people are fascinated with the behaviour of this pet wild cat, the way I see it, the relationship between this man and this caracal is a failure if the objective is to have a companion animal who provides support and brings genuine warmth into the home.

Purpose? Social media success?

I sense that Jegorov bought the caracal with the intention of setting up a TikTok page which he knew would accrue a lot of followers, admirers and comments. He wanted to be a successful social media user and he is. That is his achievement. That’s his success. There is nothing successful about the relationship however.

RELATED: Are caracals legal in Tennessee?

Saying: cat among the pigeons

You might know this: the caracal is the cat at the center of the phrase “to put a cat among the pigeons”. It comes from a time when rich people in the Middle East took caracals out into the countryside to hunt with them and the caracal is a great hunter of birds because they can jump into the air and catch the birds as they take off.

The caracal would chase into a flock of pigeons on the ground, scattering them and the caracal would leap into the airing catch one or two. That’s where the phrase come from. And it shows you how athletic this animal is. Truly a very finely tuned athlete which is why it is a great shame to see Pumba, overweight and bored.

RELATED: Are caracals legal in Arizona?


It looks like he’s been overfed on raw meat. I do hope that his owner provides the correct supplements to that raw meat because you can’t simply provide a caracal with raw chicken or some other supermarket meat. You have to add supplements.

It is a known fact that many inexperienced, private owners of exotic pets like caracals and servals and even lions and tigers, fail to provide the proper nutrients to their so-called pet which causes ill-health. It is another reason why this modern trend of buying exotic pets is a failure from the perspective of wildlife conservation and from the cat’s perspective.

Some tags:

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Are caracals legal in Alabama?

Can you own a caracal in Alabama?

Of all the smaller wild cats the caracal is generally more predisposed to accepting the role of human pet! So, can a citizen of Alabama own/possess the medium-sized wild cat called the caracal as an exotic pet? Although Alabama prohibits the personal possession of many exotic animals it does not prohibit the ownership of caracals on my understanding of the law as at 2023. Things change remember.

The state bans any species listed as ‘injurious’ under the US Fish and Wildlife’s Lacey Act (18 USC 42). That list does not include the caracal.

Also, to the best of my knowledge, as at the date of this post, Alabama does not demand licenses for the possession or ownership of a caracal. So, it would appear to be an entirely unregulated area. If you disagree and know better, please comment. Comments welcome from citizens of Alabama living with a caracal.

The same rules will apply to other small and medium-sized wild cats I expect. Another favorite wild cat for domestication (of sorts) is the lanky serval. What applies to the caracal must also apply to the serval.

I have been cautious in the way I have provided this assessment as it always tricky to find clear expositions of the law on ownership of exotic pets in the US. You just don’t find it clearly stated in one place. The best website for all the states on this topic is Big Cat Rescue (BCR) and the best for individual examples is this website!

In this instance I primarily relied on BCR and The wildlife departments of US states don’t make it easy to answer questions on the ownership of exotic pets.

P.S. the federal Big Cat Public Safety Act 2022 does not cover small and medium-sized wild cat species and therefore does not cover the caracal.

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Are caracals legal in Ohio?

This applies to the present (May 29, 2022) but the law can change. Under Ohio statute: Chapter 935. Dangerous Wild Animals and Restricted Snakes, section §935.01 (C)(7)(d) it is illegal for an individual Ohio citizen to possess and own a caracal as they are classified as a dangerous wild animal. However, under section 935.02, there are exceptions. The same law applies to servals and I have just written a page on the ownership and possession of servals in Ohio. Therefore, there is no need for me to rewrite the entire page because exactly the same laws apply to caracals as they do to servals in Ohio. I would therefore ask you to click on the link below knowing that everything on that page applies equally to caracals.

Caracal and Sarah
Pet Caracal with Sarah. The caracal is being watered. I recall that this was taken in South Africa. Photo in public domain.

As you can see in the video, the caracal is a medium-sized wild cat species. They are very robust and athletic. They are known for their jumping abilities. They can pluck a bird out of the air if needs be in the wild. On my estimation, they have the highest standing start vertical leap of any wild cat species. This is a testament to their long levers, fast-twitch fatiguing muscles and their athleticism and agility. People do keep them as pets sometimes. This is a throwback really to the time of the Indian potentates who kept caracals as hunting animals. They used to go hunting with them for their entertainment. The phrase “to put a cat among the pigeons” refers to caracals chasing pigeons in India back in the day.

RELATED: Pet caracal dominates and frightens domestic cat (video)

Below are some more articles on the caracal.

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Pet caracal dominates and frightens domestic cat (video)

Pet caracal intimidates resident domestic cat and it is unpleasant to see.
Pet caracal intimidates resident domestic cat and it is unpleasant to see. Screenshot.

For me, this is an example of an unacceptable pet cat arrangement. This is about a Russian living in Russia who has acquired a semi-domesticated caracal, a medium-sized wild cat species and he or she also has a true domestic cat. They live together. He finds it acceptable. I don’t because the caracal is far too dominant for the domestic cat. In doing this he has placed a domestic cat under the psychological tyranny of a physically strong and athletic wild cat. Wild cats are also strong psychologically. They are generally smarter than domestic cats. Even if this caracal played with this domestic cat, which I don’t think is possible, it is likely that the outcome would not be great because the domestic cat might be harmed. The owner might disagree with me but I believe that if you do anything which is designed to intimidate or frighten your domestic cat you are failing as a caregiver because their responsibility is to make their cat as happy as possible. I am stating the obvious but it seems that it is necessary to do so.


On my reckoning, caracals can jump the highest of any cat in a vertical leap from standing start. And they have the known ability to capture birds by leaping 2 m or more into the air, also from a standing start. They are a slender, long-legged cat weighing up to around 20 kg. They are famous for their ear tufts with which it is thought they communicate and in older animals the tufts hang down like tassels. They are highly conspicuous. They have quite a stern facial expression and fierce eyes. They exude an impression of robust strength and power, which they possess.

RELATED: Highest a cat has ever jumped

They are very popular as quasi-domestic cats. Russians seem to have a predisposition towards owning them as pets and in the past, many years ago, Indian princes and potentates kept tame caracals for hunting hares and other small game. tame caracals were pitted against each other in pigeon-catching contests. Caracals were released into a flock of feeding pigeons and bets taken as to which caracal would kill the greatest number of birds. This activity led to the phrase “cat among the pigeons” to mean stirring up trouble.

RELATED: Is it legal to own a caracal or other small wild cat in Illinois?

Today, May 19th, 2022, ABC News has a story about a mom and daughter who were hospitalised after an exotic cat attack. They publish a video online which shows a caracal wandering down a quiet suburban street in Illinois, America. Clearly the caracal escaped their home which they will always want to do because a human home is a tiny fraction of what a caracal demands as a home range. And as mentioned above they are very athletic and wild at heart. We don’t know what happened to provoke the caracal to attack but probably out of fear and in defence. Caracals are legal to own in Illinois but perhaps they should review this legislation. I find their legislation on the keeping of wild cats to be bizarre because some of the cat species which are prohibited are no more dangerous than the caracal. They’ve got it wrong in my view.

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