Relation to Other Cats

The first true or modern cat (in the genus Proailurus) appeared around 30 million years ago. Some 10 million years later, a descendant of this first cat (in the genus Pseudaelurus) gave rise to two main branches of the felid family tree: the nimravids, large animals with huge canine teeth, and the felids, smaller, faster animals. Commonly referred to as saber-toothed cats, the nimravids occurred in what is now Florida until the late Pleistocene, about 10,000 years ago, before they went extinct. Meanwhile the other branch of the felid tree continued to thrive. The fossil record reveals that jaguars, American lions, cheetahs, lynx, puma and ocelots occurred in Florida alongside saber-toothed cats until about 10,000 years ago.

Modern puma have been around for about 3 million years and they, along with bobcats, are the remaining wild cats still living in Florida.

Florida Panther


Description: uniformly tan, adults not spotted, tail nearly length of body.

Weight: 60-160 lbs

Total length: 7-8 ft

Body length: 4.5 ft

Tail length: 3 ft

Shoulder height: 2.25 ft

Back of ears: black

panther ears

Tip of tail: black all around

Track: A male panther track is roughly

3 1/4" length x 3 1/4" wide

panthe track



Description: reddish brown, spots evident but variable, tail much shorter than length of body.

Weight: 20-30 lbs

Total length: 3 ft

Body length: 2.5 ft

Tail length: 6 inches

Shoulder height: 1.5 ft

Back of ears: white spot

bobcat ears

Tip of tail: white underside

Track: A bobcat track is approximately 1/3 the size of a panther track at:

1 1/4" length x 1 5/8" width


bobcat track

Cat Traits

Watch an ordinary house cat. You'll see traits shared by all cats - no matter how wild, where they live, or whether they are big or small, striped, spotted or solid colored. Watch the cat stalk a lizard in the backyard, moving nearly silently with a steady gaze and mobile ears. Watch it crouch, hind legs tucked under, belly to the ground, tail twitching. Watch it freeze. Then watch it pounce with lightness, accuracy and speed.

All cats hunt live prey. They all have sharp teeth, retractable claws and powerful leg muscles. They have a short muzzle that exerts a more powerful bite than the longer muzzle of the dog. They have excellent hearing and vision and, unlike dogs, mainly hunt by sight and sound rather than by smell. Still, cats' sense of smell is far superior to that of humans. Most cats, including panthers, are solitary hunters and typically feed alone, with the exception of females and their kittens. Older kittens may accompany their mothers on hunts, and kittens of all ages will share their mother's kills.

Panthers, like all other cats, have skeletons that permit maximum flexibility. The spine of a cat is extremely flexible. The vertebrae are largely held together by muscles instead of ligaments, allowing the cat to twist, compress, lengthen and turn in pursuit of prey. Cat flexibility is also enhanced by the fact that the front legs of the cat are attached directly to the shoulder blades, a feature that allows the cat to stalk with its belly low to the ground. This also allows the cat to pivot its front legs and grasp prey with its claws. Much of their body weight consists of muscles, and most are baggy skinned, which allows a wide range of motion and helps protect their internal organs during fights.

Cats' eyes appear to glow in the dark. A special membrane behind the retina, the tapetum lucidum, reflects light and increases the cat's night vision. Smaller cats, which are primarily nocturnal hunters, have elliptical pupils that are capable of opening very wide at night. Puma and other large cats have round pupils making them suited to hunt during the day or night. Rods and cones are the two types of light receptor cells in cat’s eyes. There is a concentration of cones near the center of the retina which are used for daylight and discerning color but the majority of receptors are rods which are used in low light conditions and cannot detect color. There is evidence suggesting cats can only discern color of close or large objects.

Cats also have a structure known as Jacobsen's organ in the roof of their mouths that allows them to taste and smell a substance at the same time. A cat is using its Jacobsen's organ when it makes a face -- known as the flehmen response -- in which they may curl their lips or crinkle their nose while their mouth is partially open.

Male panther exhibiting flehmen response

Sometimes their tongue might even stick out. Males often make this face when smelling the urine of a female to tell if she is ready to mate.

 Panthers do not roar

One way that scientists classify cats is according to whether or not they roar. Lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards and jaguars roar. The roar is produced by vibration of flexible cartilage at the base of the tongue. Florida panthers (and all other puma), domestic cats, lynx, bobcats and cheetahs do not.

What sounds do they make? Well, they are usually quiet but sometimes they chirp, peep, whistle, purr, moan, scream, growl and hiss. Females signal their readiness to mate by yowling or caterwauling. But, they don't roar.

FWC Facts:
Along the Florida coast, sea turtles annually make between 40,000 and 84,000 nests. Females nest every 2-3 years, laying several nests on sandy beaches.

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