The Top 10 Smallest Wild Cats in the World

Written by Rebecca Bales
Updated: September 16, 2023
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Domesticated cats are some of the most popular pets in the world, but did you know about the range of small cats? We often think of huge beasts when we think of wild felines and small versions when we think of domesticated cats. But just as house felines can be big, their wild counterparts can be small, with some being as tiny as kittens even when they’re fully grown.

In fact, over 80% of the world’s species of wild cats are small and about the size of their domesticated counterparts. While big cats get most of the press because they’re so fearsome, the small ones have other things going for them. Wonder what the smallest wild cat in the world is? Here are the 10 littlest wild cats in the world you will be amazed to know about and might want to see to believe — and not just because they’re so cute.

Infographic of the 10 Smallest Wild Cats in the World
The world’s smallest wild cat is the rusty-spotted cat, about the size of an 8-week-old kitten.

#10 Pallas’s Cat (Otocolobus manul)

Smallest Cats: Pallas's Cat

The Pallas’s Cat has the longest and densest fur.


The infamous “grumpy wildcat” is known for its facial expressions and being fierce yet fluffy at the same time. It is shy and rarely seen among the rough montane grasslands and shrublands of Central Asia, where its habitat range includes Russia, Tibet, Mongolia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan. Its coat of long grey fur makes it appear much larger than it actually is.

  • Population status: Decreasing
  • IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern
  • Head-and-body length: 46 to 65 cm (18 to 25 1⁄2 in)
  • Tail length: 21 to 31 cm (8 1⁄2 to 12 in)
  • Weight: 2.5 to 4.5 kg (5 lb 8 oz to 9 lb 15 oz)

#9 Bay, Borneo, Bornean Bay, Bornean Red or Bornean Marbled Cat (Catopuma badia)

Smallest Cats_ Bornean Marbled Cat

The Bornean Marbled Cat’s long bushy tail provides the balance needed for moving around in trees.

©Thawatchai Suttikarn/

Bornean Marbled Cats are among the smallest wild cats in the world. They’re a rare small wild species that are outnumbered by other wild cats on their native island of Borneo, which is divided into Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. With the remains of one first mistaken for those of an Asian golden cat, but actually much smaller in size, it was determined that both had a common ancestor that diverged for 4.9 to 5.3 million years — way before Borneo geologically separated from mainland Asia. Both are also related to the marbled cat and rather than classifying the bay and Asian golden cat in the genus Catopuma, it was suggested to classify them in the genus Parfodelis with the marbled species.

  • Population status: Decreasing
  • IUCN Red List status: Endangered
  • Head-and-body length: 49.5–67 cm (19.5–26.4 in)
  • Tail length: 30.0- to 40.3-cm
  • Weight: 3–4 kg (6.6–8.8 lb)

#8 Margay (Leopardus wiedii)

Smallest Cats: Margay

One of the smallest species, the Margay, can hang from a branch of a tree by one back foot.


This cat native to Central and South America is not only among the smallest wild cats, but the Margay is one of the most acrobatic species out there, provided with a very long tail for balancing on branches and flexible ankle joints to allow it to descend head-first. It can also mimic the calls of the pied tamarin (a small monkey) while seeking to ambush the same as its prey. With camouflaging coloring, this small animal spends the majority of its life in trees and is very hard to spot in its native habitat range from Mexico to Brazil and Paraguay.

  • Population status: Decreasing
  • IUCN Red List status: Near Threatened
  • Head-and-body length: 48 to 79 cm (19 to 31 in)
  • Tail length: 33 to 51 cm (13 to 20 in)
  • Weight: 2.6 to 4 kg (5.7 to 8.8 lb)

#7 Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis)

Smallest Cats: Leopard Cat



Cat has slightly webbed toes which facilitate swimming and movement on the slippery ground.

©Sanit Fuangnakhon/

The leopard cat turns out to be a separate species from the Sunda Leopard Cat on Borneo and Sumatra, so it’s not as common to its native habitat in South, Southeast, and East Asia, with countries including Russia, China, India, and Pakistan.

The leopard cat is about the size of a domestic cat, but more slender, with longer legs and well-defined webs between its toes. Its small head is marked with two prominent dark stripes and a short and narrow white muzzle. 

The largely tree-dwelling species hunts rodents and insects and is the third smallest wild cat in Asia.

  • Population status: Stable
  • IUCN Red List status: Least Concern
  • Head-and-body length: 38.8–66 cm (15.3–26.0 in)
  • Tail length: 17.2–31 cm (6.8–12.2 in)
  • Weight: 0.55–3.8 kg (1.2–8.4 lb)

#6 Sand or Sand Dune Cat (Felis margarita)

Smallest Cats_ Sand Dune Cat

Sand Dune Cats are fearless


hunters and also one of the smallest cats.

©Alexandr Junek Imaging/

A very shy and mysterious small wild animal, the sand cat is the only species that lives in the true desert — namely, those in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. It’s been recorded in Morocco, Algeria, Niger, Chad, and Egypt. Although its prey is mostly small rodents and birds, it can kill venomous snakes like sand vipers. Its thick, sand-colored fur serves not only as camouflage but protects it from the cold at night, while the black hairs on its feet shield its toes from the scorching sand and its long, low-set ears give excellent hearing.

  • Population status: Stable
  • IUCN Red List status: Least Concern
  • Head-and-body length: 39–52 cm (15–20 in)
  • Tail length: 23–31 cm (9.1–12.2 in)
  • Weight: 1.5–3.4 kg (3.3–7.5 lb)

#5 Oncilla or Little Spotted Cat (Leopardus tigrinus)

Smallest Cats: Oncilla

The body of the Oncilla is covered with beautiful fur that can be tan or ochre in color.


The Oncilla has a habitat range spanning from Costa Rica and Panama in Central America to southern Brazil. Compared to other small wild species, it hunts small mammals, birds, and reptiles, but prefers doing so on the ground rather than in trees. It is the second smallest species in the Americas after the Guiña or Kodkod. The northern oncilla and the southern oncilla species are distinct and do not interbreed with each other.

  • Population status: Decreasing
  • IUCN Red List status: Vulnerable
  • Head-and-body length: 38 to 59 centimetres (15 to 23 in)
  • Tail length: 20 to 42 centimetres (7.9 to 16.5 in)
  • Weight: 1.5 to 3 kilograms (3.3 to 6.6 lb)

#4 Flat-headed Cat (Prionailurus planiceps)

Smallest Cats: Flat-headed Cat

The Flat-Headed Cat looks similar to a civet and it is adapted to partially aquatic living.

©Signature Message/

This particular species owes its strange appearance due to physical adaptations for its semi-aquatic lifestyle, with partially webbed feet, a flattened forehead, and very long, sharp canine teeth. Unfortunately, it is one of the most endangered cats in Southeast Asia.

  • Population status: Decreasing
  • IUCN Red List status: Endangered
  • Head-and-body length: 41 to 50 cm (16 to 20 in)
  • Tail length: 13 to 15 cm (5.1 to 5.9 in)
  • Weight: 1.5 to 2.5 kg (3.3 to 5.5 lb)

#3 Guiña or Kodkod (Leopardus guigna)

Leopardus guigna

The Kodkod are excellent climbers and can climb trees that are 3 feet in diameter.

©Mauro Tammone / CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

This is the smallest species in the Americas, with a habitat range of Central and Southern Chile, plus bordering areas of Argentina. Although it’s an agile climber, it prefers hunting on the ground for small mammals, birds, lizards, and insects.

When they climb trees, it helps them identify the prey below. They also do this to take shelter and avoid predators. These solitary cats can be identified by their very thick tails and large feet and claws in relation to their body size.

  • Population status: Decreasing
  • IUCN Red List status: Vulnerable
  • Head-and-body length: 37 to 51 cm (15 to 20 in)
  • Tail length: 20–25 cm (7.9–9.8 in)
  • Weight: 2 to 2.5 kg (4.4 to 5.5 lb)

#2 Black-Footed or Small Spotted Cat (Felis nigripes)

Smallest Cats: Black-footed cat

The Black-footed cat is the smallest cat on the African continent and also one of the deadliest.


This native to South Africa is the smallest of its kind on the entire continent. Known for having the highest hunting success rate among all cats, it was once referred to as the “deadliest cat on earth” and can consume up to 14 prey items in one night.

  • Population status: Decreasing
  • IUCN Red List status: Vulnerable
  • Head-and-body length: Females 33.7–36.8 cm (13.3–14.5 in); males 42.5 and 50 cm (16.7 and 19.7 in)
  • Tail length: Females 15.7 to 17 cm (6.2 to 6.7 in); males 15–20 cm (5.9–7.9 in)
  • Weight: Females 1.1 to 1.65 kg (2.4 to 3.6 lb); males 1.6 to 2.45 kg (3.5 to 5.4 lb)

#1 Rusty Spotted Cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus)

Smallest Cats: Rusty Spotted Cat

The Rusty-Spotted Cat is the smallest wild cat in Asia and rivals the Black-Footed Cat as the world’s smallest wild cat.


The rusty-spotted cat competes with the black-footed one in tiny size, but it takes the prize as the smallest wild cat in the world. It’s about the size of an 8-week-old kitten. Both have been confused for washed-out versions of the leopard cat and are smaller than the domestic animal. Native to the deciduous forests of India and Sri Lanka, it is notable for its big eyes, tiny, agile body, and a 50/50 lifestyle on the ground and in trees.

  • Population status: Decreasing
  • IUCN Red List Status: Near Threatened
  • Head-and-body length: 35 to 48 cm (14 to 19 in)
  • Tail length: 15 to 30 cm (5.9 to 11.8 in)
  • Weight: 0.9 to 1.6 kg (2.0 to 3.5 lb)


Big size isn’t everything, and these cats in the world prove it. It isn’t just kittens who are tiny; some felines are naturally very small as a testament to the variety in the cat family. Although most people focus on them because they’re cute, there are definite advantages to being shy, reclusive, small, and even tiny in the harsh environment of the outdoors, and that’s the ability to hide, be agile, and suitable to a diet of plentiful insects and rodents. Whether they’re adorable pets or wild survival experts, small cats can make it just as well as, if not better than, their larger counterparts.

Top 10 Smallest Wild Cats in the World

#1Rusty Spotted Cat2-3.5 lb
#2Black-Footed/Small Spotted Cat3.5-5.4 lb
#3Guiña/Kodkod4.4-5.5 lb
#4Flat-Headed Cat3.3-5.5 lb
#5Oncilla/Little Spotted Cat3.3-6.6 lb
#6Sand/Sand Dune Cat3.3-7.5 lb
#7Leopard Cat1.2-8.4 lb
#8Margay5.7-8.8 lb
#9Bay/Borneo/Bornean Red/Marbled Cat6.6-6.8 lb
#10Pallas’s Cat5 lb 8 oz-9lb 15 oz

Bonus Small Cat Breeds That Didn’t Make The List

African Golden Cat
African Golden Cats are found in rainforests in Africa, mostly in wooded areas.

While we have listed ten impressively small wild cats above, there are several different small wild cat breeds that you may not know about.

Here are a few additional bonus cat breeds that are small, but didn’t make the list:

African golden cats inhabit the lush rainforests of West and Central Africa, primarily dwelling within wooded regions. Despite their presence, these solitary, reclusive wild cats remain shrouded in mystery.

Additionally, the African wildcat (Felis lybica) is a petite wild feline, its habitat extends across both Africa and Asia.

Further, the Andean mountain cat is a small wild cat found tucked away in the rugged Andes mountains of Peru, Bolivia, northern Chile, and northwestern Argentina.

While Bobcats are probably the most well-known breed on this bonus list, compared to other wild cats, they are relatively small. Bobcats are found in North America, ranging from the southern regions of Canada to the northern areas of Mexico. These medium-sized cats bear a resemblance to other Lynx genus members, particularly the Canada lynx.

Smallest Animal in the World

There are quite a few small animals that may qualify for the title of smallest in the world and there is some debate on which one is actually the smallest. There are two that fall into that category — the bumblebee bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai) and the Etruscan shrew (Suncus etruscus).

The bumblebee bat, also known as Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, has a body no larger than its namesake, the bumblebee. Its wingspan is only 5.1 to 5.7 inches long and its total body length is 1.14 to 1.19 inches. This tiny mammal can be found in very few limestone caves in southwest Thailand.

Then we have the Etruscan shrew, also known as Savi’s white-toothed pygmy shrew. It has a body length of 1.3 to 1.8 inches, not including the tail which adds an additional .98 to 1.17 inches. This tiny animal can be found along the Mediterranean coast as well as in the Western Cape province in South Africa.

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

Rebecca is an experienced Professional Freelancer with nearly a decade of expertise in writing SEO Content, Digital Illustrations, and Graphic Design. When not engrossed in her creative endeavors, Rebecca dedicates her time to cycling and filming her nature adventures. When not focused on her passion for creating and crafting optimized materials, she harbors a deep fascination and love for cats, jumping spiders, and pet rats.

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