Within the animal kingdom the Felidae wild cat family is classified as one of the cat-like families (Feliformia) that belong to the carnivorous group (Carnivora) of mammals.
The Felidae lower classifications are divided into two subfamilies Pantherinae and Felinae.
Felidae Higher Classification
Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)
Class: Mammalia (mammals)
Order: Carnivora (carnivores)
Suborder: Feliformia (cat-like)
Family: Felidae (cats)
The Felidae family is often called the true cat family to distinguish it from other families of cat-like animals - like genets and civets.
Felidae Lower Classifications
The Felidae lower classifications consist of 2 subfamilies, 14 genera, 40 species and numerous subspecies.
Subfamily: Pantherinae (big cat species) - 2 genera and 7 species
Subfamily: Felinae (small cat species) - 12 genera and 33 species
View the full list of Felidae genera and species.
Felidae Classification Updates
In 2015 the number of described wild cat species was 36 followed by an additional two in 2016 and then another two in 2017. This gives a total of 40 wild cat species as described in the IUCN Cat Specialist Group's (CatSG) 2017 Felidae Taxonomy publication.
The additional cats are not discoveries of new wild cats but a better classification of the known cats. Comprehensive DNA studies can now distinguish whether a particular subspecies should in fact be an individual species. These studies have resulted in the additional four species of wild cats that were previously classed as subspecies.
These are the Felidae classification changes since 2015 updated as at November annually:
Nov 2015: 36 wild cat species (excluding Domestic cat (Felis catus))
Nov 2016: + 2 = 38 species
- Chinese Mountain Cat (Felis bieti) described as a separate species in the Felis group.
- Oncilla (Leopardus tigrinus) split into the Northern Tiger Cat (Leopardus tigrinus) and Southern Tiger Cat (Leopardus guttulus) in the Leopardus group.
Nov 2017: + 2 = 40 species
- Wildcat (Felis silvestris) split into the European Wildcat (Felis silvestris) and the African-Asian Wildcat (Felis lybica) in the Felis group.
- Sunda Leopard Cat (Prionailurus javanensis) described as a separate species in the Leopard Cat group.
IUCN Cat Specialist Group Felidae Taxonomy published here.
Nov 2017: +1 = 41 species
- Eastern Oncilla / Tigrina (Leopardus emiliae) split from the Northern Tiger Cat (Leopardis tigrinus) in the Leopardus group.
Nov 2018: No changes
Nov 2019: No changes
Nov 2020: No changes
Nov 2021: +4 = 45 species
Nov 2022: No changes
- Common name change African-Asiatic Wildcat to Afro-Asiatic Wildcat
Wild Cat Family References
The following three publications are the primary references used across the Wild Cat Family website. Any further references are indicated on individual pages.
Felidae Evolution and Lineages:
O’Brien, J. S. and Johnson, W. E. 2007. The Evolution of Cats. Scientific American July 2007: 68-75.
Felidae Classification / Taxonomy:
Kitchener et al. 2017. A revised taxonomy of the Felidae. The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN / SSC Cat Specialist Group. Cat News Special Issue 11, 80pp.
IUCN Endangered Status (reviewed annually in November):
IUCN 2022. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2022-1. <www.iucnredlist.org>. 15 Nov 2022.