What kind of cat was that?!

What kind of cat was that?!

by Jones
(Sonoran desert, AZ)

A couple friends and I have now seen this cat twice. It is a medium-dark gray with stripes and maybe blotches or spots, a long tail (maybe over three feet by itself), and notably furry ears.

It’s hard to say, but I thought I glimpsed some amount of color (a bit of yellow?) on its coat, as well.

The cat looks to weigh at least 40 pounds and stands taller than a medium dog (than say, an Aussie Shepard). The cat’s chest and face appear quite muscular, and while tallish, it was longer than it was long-legged. The sightings have been made in the Sonoran desert near Tucson, Arizona. No one has got a picture of it, but I’ll try if it passes through again.

The first sighting was fleeting. The cat crossed a nearby wash and then watched us from behind the cacti and brush before disappearing into the desert.

The second sighting was made by a friend and the cat was stalking the resident kittens (it may have been just curious?). The cat came out of the cactus forest within 20 meters of my friend who says it was undisturbed by both her presence and her attempts to spook it. After half a minute it retreated into the desert.

Some people have suggested that it is a “wildcat,” but that seems to be local vernacular for any cat that’s not a puma. One person suggested it was a lynx. My understanding is that Canadian lynxes have short tails, and while the cat was big (to us) I don’t think it’s a puma, jaguar, or ocelot.

Any ideas??


Hi Jones… thanks for visiting and asking. This sort of question is difficult! You may have seen other articles on wildcat sightings and the conclusions/answers are hard to come by.

I approach these questions first by asking what kind of wildcat uses the area you describe as its habitat and which is within its range or distribution. However, that starting point is poor if this cat is an escaped captive wildcat that comes from another part of the world.

I also ask if the cat could be a hybrid. For example, an escaped F1 Savannah cat might fit the description although they do not weigh 40 lbs. Also they have shortish tails as does the serval.

The cat you describe is medium sized tabby wildcat essentially. The long tail is important I think.

One possibility is a sub-adult puma. A puma becomes independent at about 12 months of age. They lose their markings at about 10 months of age. When adult a female can weigh as little as 55 lbs. A sub-adult female might weigh about 40 lbs. Females like males find home ranges but stick closer to their natal area and travel less far. Pumas have long tails.

Pumas are people familiar. They have become habituated to the presence of people because people move into their territory. This is to the detriment of the cat. Sonora is perfectly inside the puma range too.

All these elements point to a young female cougar that is wandering around and in danger it seems to me from humans!

There are few other options. The other adult wildcats that weigh 40 lbs are:

Eurasian lynx
Clouded leopard
Canadian lynx

See wildcat by size.

None of these match the description (the tail being a major factor) and only the Bobcat is in the range described.

Hope this helps a bit!

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