Join us in celebrating International Cat Day!
You may not know it, but Tuesday 8th August marks International Cat Day, and we can’t wait to celebrate it here at HiLife Heights. The day was brought about by IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, together with other animal rights groups, in order to celebrate the planet’s most popular pet.
We obviously love our cats, so we thought we would get you “feline” in the mood for International Cat Day by compiling an international “cat-alogue”, which looks at which species of cats can be found on all of the different continents across the world. Enjoy!
Africa hosts an impressive array of cats, from the very small black-footed cat, which is endemic to the dry, open savannah and grassland of South Africa, to the second largest cat found in the wild – the mighty lion.
Other feline inhabitants of this continent include the leopard, the cheetah, the serval and the caracal, which has pretty black tufts of hair springing from its pointy ears.
This is the only continent in the world that doesn’t count cats amongst its animal population, the climate within Antarctica has prevented its successful colonisation by our feline friends. It has had its share of domestic cat tourists however, as several expeditions to Antarctica have included a feline companion.
One such Royal Navy expedition in 1843 saw the discovery of a previously unknown type of fish. It was uncovered by crew who were chipping ice from the bow of the ship, but before it could be preserved, it was promptly eaten up by the ship’s cat!
A continent of extremes, Asia’s cat population does not disappoint in this arena either, as both the world’s smallest and world’s largest breeds of wild cats hail from this region. The Siberian tiger claims the title of largest feline, whilst the rusty-spotted cat of India and Sri Lanka, holds the accolade for smallest.
This continent also wins the prize for most interesting cat selection, as it can claim the bizarre-looking flat-headed cat and the fishing cat, the only wild cat known to fish regularly, as its residents.
Hundreds of domestic cats were released into the wild by early settlers to control the mice and rat population down under. As a consequence, Australia has a huge feral cat problem with an estimate of up to 6.3 million felines roaming free. Sadly, they have been linked to the decline and extinction of some of its native animals and are seen as a major invasive species.
There are no true cat species native to Australia, but the closest is probably the now-extinct thylacine or “Tasmanian tiger”, which had several cat-like qualities.
Together with the raft of domestic cats now inhabiting Europe, wild occupants of this region include the imaginatively named European wildcat, the Scottish wildcat, and the Eurasian and Iberian lynx.
Once thought to be the same species as the Eurasian lynx, thanks to a specialist program in Spain which saw 300 Iberian lynx released across seven regions, the species is now off the critically endangered list and experts are hopeful that it will continue to thrive.
Campaigners are promoting the benefits of reintroducing the Eurasian lynx to the UK where it was hunted to extinction in 700AD. It is believed it will help with the explosion in the deer population, which threatens forests as deer graze on sapling.
The continent of North America, or more specifically, the state of South Carolina, is home to the largest individual cat in the world – Hercules the liger. Weighing in at an impressive 900 pounds plus, Hercules weighs significantly more than his father (a lion) and his mother (a Bengal tiger) combined, and stands at 6 feet tall. Ligers only exist in captivity, as lions and tigers do not live in the same areas in the world, so would not meet in the wild.
The largest native cat species to North America is the mountain lion, which many know as the puma or cougar, whilst other famous inhabitants include the bobcat and the lynx.
The mountain lion also roams around South America – in fact, you’ll find it in all corners of the Americas, from the northern tip of Canada down to the southernmost areas of Chile. This big cat is joined on this continent by the jaguar, although with an estimated population of only 15,000, the jaguar is a severely endangered species.
At the other end of the scale, South America’s small cats include the pampas cat, that live in reed beds, and the Margay, which looks like a little jaguar with huge brown eyes, and which are mainly tree dwelling animals.
If you have a favourite photo of your cat to share on this special day please post it on facebook.com/hilifecat or Twitter@hilifecat we’d love to see some pictures of our native cats living right here in the UK.