Cats belong to the Felidae family of mammals. They fall into two main groups. The Panthera genus contains the big cats, such as lions and tigers, while Felis comprises the small cats, including the domestic cat. The majority of American cats belong to the second group, with the jaguar being the only big cat found on both continents. Most American cats are rarely seen, and some are threatened with extinction.
Cougars are also known as pumas, panthers or mountain lions. The cougar is the largest of the small cats in America, with males up to 2 m (6.5 ft) long. They patrol large territories, moving both in the daytime and at night and taking shelter in caves and thickets. Their preferred food is large deer, such as mule deer or elk. They stalk their prey before bringing it down with a bite to the throat, or ambush it from a high vantage point. Cougars live alone, marking their territories with scent and by scraping visual signals in the soil and on trees.
Extremely strong and agile, cougar adults are able to leap more than 5 m (16.5 ft) into the air. Once they make a kill, their victims are dragged into secluded places and eaten over several days.
Distribution: North, Central and South America from southern Canada to Cape Horn.
Habitat: Any terrain with enough cover.
Food: Deer, beavers, raccoons and hares.
Size: 1 – 2 m (3.25 – 6.5 ft); 60 – 100 kg (132 – 220 lb).
Maturity: 3 years.
Breeding: Every 2 years; litters of 3 or 4 cubs.
Life span: 20 years.
Status: Some subspecies endangered.