Top 5 Smallest Wild Cats in the World

While we all adore the big wild cats, did you know that 80% of the world’s wild felines are about the size of a domestic cat?

Sep 7, 2023By Andrew Olsen
smallest wild cats in the world

This lineup of small wild felines shows that size isn’t everything in nature — the miniature wild cats are each perfectly adapted to their natural environment. They are a testament to the natural variety found in the animal, or shall we say, feline kingdom. Although they look cute, they are highly skilled hunters adapted to survive in harsh environments.

5. Oncilla or Little Spotted Cat

oncilla little spotted cat
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

With its highly distinctive coat pattern, the Oncilla (Leopardus tigrinus) is, unfortunately, a favorite among illegal hunters for their pelts and among exotic pet owners. Unfortunately, their population is declining, and they are listed as Vulnerable. They are often mistaken for ocelots and margays because they look similar, but oncillas are thinner, have more prominent ears, and have a narrower muzzle.

These tiny wild cats are primarily active at night and feast on small mammals, frogs, and reptiles. Although they prefer their paws firmly on the ground, they are agile tree climbers and sometimes catch birds.


  • Body length: 15 to 23 inches (38—59cm)
  • Tail length: 7.9 to 16.5 inches (20—42 cm)
  • Weight: 3.3 to 6.61 lbs. (1.5--3 kg), average 4.41 lb (2 kg)

4. Flat-Headed Cat

flat headed cat on branch
Image credit: Jim Sanderson, Wikimedia Commons

The Flat-Headed Cat (Prionailurus planiceps) is a small wild cat species native to Southeast Asia, including countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. They are known for their distinct appearance: flattened heads and low-lying skulls. It has short, rounded ears, a stocky body, and a long tail. Its fur is thick and water-resistant, which is vital as it is a semi-aquatic species often found in wetland habitats, such as swamps, marshes, and riverbanks. Its webbed feet and ability to swim make it a skilled hunter in aquatic environments.

This species is highly elusive; little is known about its behavior and ecological role. It is primarily nocturnal, hunting at night for various prey, including fish, frogs, crustaceans, and small mammals. They are listed as Endangered due to habitat loss and degradation due to deforestation, conversion of wetlands for agriculture, and human settlement. Additionally, pollution and poaching also contribute to its decline.


  • Body length: 16 to 20 inches (40.64–50.80 cm)
  • Tail length: 5.1 to 5.9 inches (13–15 cm)
  • Weight: 3.30 to 6.06 lbs. (1.5–2.75 kg)

3. Güiña or Kodkod

kodkod cat in forest
Image credit: Jerry Laker

The Kodkod, scientifically known as Leopardus guigna, is a small wild cat species native to South America and found in the temperate forests of Chile and Argentina. The Kodkod is similar in size to a domestic cat. It has a stocky build, short legs, and a rounded head with large, round ears. Its grayish-brown fur has dark spots and stripes, providing excellent camouflage in its forested habitat.

It is a solitary and elusive creature, mainly active at night and displaying a secretive nature. The Kodkod is listed as Vulnerable, and their population is declining due to habitat loss caused by deforestation, logging, and land conversion for agriculture. Additionally, it faces threats from hunting and trapping, as its pelt is popular.


  • Body length: 16 to 20 inches (40.64–50.80 cm)
  • Tail length: 5.1 to 5.9 inches (13–15 cm)
  • Weight: 3.30 to 5.5 lbs. (1.5–2.5 kg)

2. Black-Footed or Small Spotted Cat

Black footed cat image by Dave Brown
Image credit: Dave Brown

Felis nigripes, commonly known as the Black-Footed Cat, is a small wild cat species native to the southern regions of Africa. It is the smallest cat species in Africa and the second smallest wild cat worldwide. They are solitary, secretive, nocturnal wild cats. They are known for their distinctive black pads on their feet. They have compact and muscular bodies with short legs. Their fur is sandy or pale gray, with black spots and stripes covering its body. Prominent facial lines and large, round ears complete the cuteness overload picture.

It is a nocturnal hunter, preying on small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects. Despite its small size, it is a highly efficient hunter nicknamed the ‘deadliest cat in the world’ and can hunt up to 14 prey per night. They are listed as Vulnerable, and their population is declining due to various threats, including habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation. Predation by larger carnivores, diseases, and human activities such as poisoning and trapping also drive numbers down.


  • Body length: males 16.7 to 19.7 inches (42.5–50 cm); females 13.3–14.5 inches (33.7–36.8 cm)
  • Tail length: males 5.9 to 7.9 inches (15–20 cm); females 6.2 to 6.7 inches (15.7–17 cm)
  • Weight: males 3.5 to 5.4 lbs. (1.6–2.45 kg); females 2.4 to 3.6 lbs. (1.1–1.65 kg)

1. Rusty-Spotted Cat

Rusty spotted cat
Image credit: Joel Sartore

The Rusty-Spotted Cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) is the smallest wild cat species in the world. They are found in India, Sri Lanka, and some parts of western Nepal. They have a small and slender build, with a short coat that varies in color from grayish-brown to reddish-brow with rusty-red spots on their fur. The cat has large eyes and rounded ears with white markings on the back. It is known for its agility and excellent climbing abilities.

This cat species inhabits various habitats, including forests, grasslands, and scrublands. It is primarily a nocturnal hunter, preying on small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects. Its small size allows it to hunt and hide in dense vegetation. Although they are listed as Near Threatened, their population is declining due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation caused by human activities such as deforestation, agriculture, and urbanization.


  • Body length: 14 to 19 inches (35–48 cm)
  • Tail length: 5.9 to 11.8 inches (15–30 cm)
  • Weight: 2.0 to 3.5 lbs. (0.9–1.6 kg)
Andrew Olsen
By Andrew Olsen

Andrew is a proud cat dad of three spoiled cats, Schopenhauer, Poppy, and Empress Sisi. Growing up with various pets instilled a lifelong love for animals in him. His work in environmental management, particularly water governance, gave him first-hand experience with the delicate balance between humans and animals — domestic and wild. His favorite hobbies include browsing and buying cat toys, gardening, growing fresh catnip for his cats, drinking tea, and reading with a cat on his lap.