Cougars Versus Domestic Cats Title

Photo Credits: Neil McIntosh (cougar) and Lee Brimelow (domestic cat) via Flickr

Back in the early ’90s, there was a pet store in my area that featured the owner’s pet cougar in the middle of the store.  Cougars are the largest cats scientifically categorized in the genus Felis. Their scientific name is either Felis Concolor or Puma Concolor depending on whom you ask. A much smaller member of the Felis genus is the Felis Cattus or domestic cat. Does this mean that cougars could make good pets? Let’s explore how cougars and domestic cats compare.

How a Cougar is Like Your Kitty

Viktoria jumping!

Photo Credit: Tambako The Jaguar via Flickr

There are a number of things about cougars that would remind you of the cat you have in your home. To begin, cougars are considered “lesser cats,” just like domestic cats because they can not roar. Instead, cougars are the largest cats with the ability to purr (whether or not “greater cats” can purr is highly debated). Cougars are crepuscular rather than nocturnal. They are most active between twilight and dawn, doing all most of their hunting during this time. Just like domestic cats, their vision at night is much better than humans. They can see 6 times better than a human can in the dark. Their hunting is much like that of your domestic cat. They like to lie in wait and watch their prey from a distance (up to 30 feet away) and when the time is right, they will move in, pouncing their prey in one huge burst of energy. A cougar will hold the prey with its (retractable) claws and bite the prey’s neck to kill it. On a much lighter note, cougars are huge fans of catnip! When given a sufficient dose of catnip, a cougar will roll around and purr just like any domestic cat would. Also, while cougars are great swimmers, they too prefer not get in the water.

The Differences: Why Cougars Don’t Make Good House Pets

Cougar in Wisconsin

Photo Credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources via Flickr

While it might seem like having a cougar in your life would be a wonderful experience, cougars are not exactly like your home-friendly domestic cat. An adult male cougar can be 7 -8 feet (213 – 244 cm) long from tip of the nose to tip of the tail and stand 30 inches (76.2 cm) high at the shoulder. Their weight has a huge range from 75 to 250 pounds (34 to 14 kg)! According to the Washington Department of Wildlife, the average weight is about 140 pounds (64 kg).

If you think your cat’s current food is expensive, the cost of feeding a cougar would shock you. The preferred prey of the cougar is the deer. However, they will eat a number of different animals including elk, moose, mountain goats, wild sheep, raccoons, rabbits,  and grasshoppers. About 20 pounds (9 kg) of meat is eaten per sitting and the cougar will bury the rest of the animal to eat later. It can take 9 -12 days to eat an entire deer. To go along with the large size of the prey, on average, a cougar’s droppings are 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) in length and 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 -3.8 cm)  in diameter. Imagine cleaning that litter box!

Cougars are very powerful creatures. They have strong back legs which allow them to leap forward up to 30 feet (9 meters) from a standstill or jump 18 feet (5.5 meters) upward into a tree. When chasing prey, cougars can run up to 50 miles per hour (80.5 kph) for a short period of time. Just like domestic cats, cougars need to scratch. However, a cougar’s claw marks will begin 4 – 8 feet (1.2 – 2.4 meters) above the ground. That’s a big scratching post!

Other Interesting Cougar Facts

Here are a few other really interesting facts about cougars:

Yawning cougar

Photo Credit: PROTambako The Jaguar via Flickr

  • A cougar’s coat color can range from a reddish brown to a tawny gray.
  • It is believed that cougars have great vision and hearing, but a poor sense of smell.
  • Cougars are native the North and South America. They still have a wide distribution across the two continents.
  • Cougars used to be prominent all across the United States. However, around 1900 they were pushed out of much of the eastern part of the United States and the Midwest. The midwest does occasionally have cougars wander through.
  • An adult male cougar’s territory can range from 50 to 150 miles (80.5 – 241 km). It will likely overlap with the territory of 3 -4 female cougars.
  • Female cougars will mate every other year.
  • The gestation period for a cougar is 91 – 97 days and on average 2 -3 kittens will be born.Do
  • Cougars solitary creatures. They only socialize when mating and while being reared by their mother.
  • The 2 biggest causes of death for cougars are human hunters and vehicle collisions.
  • There are very few human fatalities related to cougars. According to Big Cat Rescue, there have been 25 human fatalities and 95 non-fatal injuries involving cougars in North America in the last 100 years.

Is there anything about your kitty that is cougar-like?

Sources & Digging Deeper

Living With Wildlife: Cougars (Mountain Lions) – Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Cougar Facts – Big Cat Rescue

General Cougar Questions  – Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Mountain Lion – Nationa Geographic

Cougar – International Society for Endangered Cats Canada

Puma’s, Panthers & Cougars: Facts About America’s Big Cats – Live Science