How many wild cats are there in the world?

If you want to work out how many wildcats there are in the world the best way to do it would be to go to the IUCN Red List website and go through each of the species of wild cat and add together their estimates for the numbers of the species. In fact, I will be doing this today if I have time and I will come back to this page and add that number in. But this would be for wild cats in the wild only. What about wild cats as pets and in zoos? We don't know how many there are.

Pet caracal. Photo: Photo: Andrey Bondarev/Caters News.

It is a tiresome job and importantly the IUCN Red people don't actually know with accuracy how many wild cats there are of each particular species left in the world. You will notice that their last assessment is about seven years ago! And then they say these are estimates. So, we have seven-year-old estimations; this is not accuracy, therefore it is probably foolhardy to provide hard numbers in response to the question in the title.

However, there are 36 different species of wild cat in the world. The number of species of wild cats depends on how the scientists classify the species. The classification of the species is called taxonomy. Taxonomy is constantly evolving albeit less so currently.

People should recognize that at one time many wild cats that were considered separate species are now considered subspecies or not a different species at all.

The number of 36 is therefore not entirely settled and finalized. It is current. The authority for this is the respected work, Wild Cats Of The World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist.

If you would like to see photographs of all the species of wild cat you can go to this page and scroll down or select the cat that interests you.

Some wild cat species are little known even by the experts. It is little wonder therefore that people in general don't know about them.


Cats such as the African golden cat and Bay cat are very secretive and are found in forests. Not much in the way of research has been done or is being done to find out more about these wild cats.

As to the actual number of individual wild cats in the world; the answer is that we don't know. Counting wild cat numbers has been inaccurate. There is a large amount of guesswork.  The numbers in respect of certain species are miniscule compared to domestic cat numbers. 400 clouded leopards. 400 Siberian tigers. 1,400 (approx.) Bengal tigers. 500 million domestic cats.

Forgive my cynicism but more is being done to cut down the forests where these cats live than to learn more about them and protect them.

Photo of Bay cat by Jim Sanderson Ph.D. a world expert on the small cats.


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