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.