The Cat Family

The picture on the right conjures up the truly wild left in Lebanon – the face of a Swamp Cat (Felis chaus) peering from deep within the reeds of the Aammiq wetland. About the size of a large dog, but much more graceful, it is far removed from any pet or feral cat found in our towns or cities. There are two truly wild cats in Lebanon- read more below:

click to enlarge
Swamp Cat (Felis chaus)

click to enlarge
Wild Cat (Felis sylvestris tristrami)
click to enlarge
A Lebanese Wild Cat in Captivity at Animal Encounter.

click to enlarge


Wild Cat

(Felis sylvestris tristrami)

Status: The Wild Cat is not uncommon in Lebanon in wilder mountain and well wooded habitats.

Description: Wild Cats are similar in appearance to domesticated Tabby Cats, but tend to be larger and stronger (head and body measure approximately 50 cm). They are also similar in appearance to the Swamp Cat, but can be distinguished by their smaller size. Wild Cats have a bushy tail with three to five distinct black rings and a black tip. A short muzzle, large eyes, longish and slender legs, and a tawny/ash-gray coat with stripes on the flanks are also characteristic of this species.

Habitat: The Wild Cat prefers deciduous woodlands and rocky wadis, but may be seen in various habitats. Wild Cats will take shelter in bushes, high trees and even fox holes.

Habits: Mostly nocturnal, the Wild Cat’s principal prey are mice and rats, and they rely heavily on their keen hearing when hunting. They will also sometimes eat birds, snakes and other reptiles, grasshoppers, scorpions and beetles. During the day, Wild Cats spend much of their time on elevated perches on rocks or in trees, resting and guarding their territory. They are capable of running at speeds of up to 32 km per hour. Breeding appears to be year-round, and gestation lasts 63-69 days. Litter size ranges from one to eight individuals.

Distribution: The Wild Cat is widely distributed from Western Europe to western China, and from North and Sub Saharan Africa to the Middle East.

click to enlarge
A Lebanese Swamp Cat in captivity at Animal Encounter.
click to enlarge
A Swamp Cat spotted in the wild standing in the
Aammiq wetland.
click to enlarge

Swamp Cat

(Felis Chaus)

Status: Rare in Lebanon, found in the Bekaa wetlands and on the adjacent hillsides of the Shouf Cedar reserve.

Description: The biggest difference between Swamp Cats and Wild Cats is their size; the Swamp Cat is much larger (head and body measure approximately 68 cm), with longer legs and a shorter tail. Characteristics of the Swamp Cat include large ears, long grayish to tawny brown fur on the back, dusky bars on thighs, and usually only three black rings on the tail.

Habitat: Swamp Cats prefer to remain in the dense reed beds of the wetlands and very well forested hillsides near water.

Habits: They feed predominantly on birds, small mammals, amphibians and snakes. Like Wild Cats, Swamp Cats are very swift runners. Little is known about their breeding, but it appears that they can have up to two litters in a year.

Distribution: Swamp Cats are widespread throughout Asia, and locally are found in northern Syria, Palestine, Jordan, and Lebanon.