Q: How big is a leopard cat?

One of the first question people ask when talking with them about leopard cats is “how big is a leopard cat?”.

Probably because it carries the name of its much larger cousin, most people think they are powerful, ferocious wild cats that can endanger human lives. That is what I would like to imagine too—that I am stalking a large, ferocious beast—as my Facebook profile suggests.

In actual fact, the leopard cat is sized more like a slender domestic cat, with slight variation, depending on sex (males ~10% larger) and where they are found. Here in tropical Southeast Asia, they have a head-body length of 40–55 cm, a 23–29 cm tail and weigh 1–5 kg. I have made a comparative image below for better visualisation.

A Singapore leopard cat next to a 1.8 m tall male human being for scale.

Elsewhere, they do get bigger. As leopard cats have a rather large range from temperate Russia to Indonesia, the Bergmann’s rule, which states that within a species, individuals get larger with increasing latitude, is observed. In the northern part of their range (northeastern Russia and China), leopard cats can attain a head-body length of 75 cm, with a 31.5 cm tail and weigh up to 7 kg.

Still, despite my best efforts in conjuring metaphors and managing expectations, a common refrain from many of my field assistants after seeing one is “I thought it would be slightly bigger”. Makes me feel slightly hurt.

4 comments

  • This is very useful, thanks!

    The other question I have, which I hope you can share as well, is how different are they from the domestic cats? Not just physically but behaviourally as well.

  • Are leopard cats curious animals??

    • I would say they are quite investigative of their surroundings, but probably not to the point that their curiousity will kill them!

      From my experience, individuals differ too. Some would move away, while others would either be indifferent or move closer to investigate people.

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