If you have witnessed a cat on the run, you know how quick it can be. They can pounce on their prey and dart across the room in the blink of an eye! The world of cats includes wild and domestic felines, and while our pets are smaller and less intimidating, they can be just as skilled as their wild relatives.
While all cats are fast and swift, wild cats hold the record for being the fastest in the world. In this article, we’ll share some fascinating information on the fastest wild cats and the fastest domestic cats in the world.
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Fastest Wild Cats
Cheetahs are the fastest cats and the fastest mammal on record. This fast cat reaches speeds of up to 75 miles per hour (mph), which is perfect for hunting down prey while sprinting across flat terrain.
Cheetahs have a high muscle tone and light bones making up a total body weight of 90–140 pounds, which makes them light on their feet. They also have a long and powerful tail that provides incredible balance during high-speed navigation and an amazingly flexible vertebral column that helps them turn swiftly and change direction. Their respiratory tract enlarges while on the chase to deliver oxygen, allowing cheetahs to take up to 150 breaths in 1 minute! All these incredible traits contribute to their ability to reach high speeds.
The Jaguar is another wild cat that closes in on its prey at an incredible speed. The jaguar can reach speeds up to 50 mph. Considering they weigh up to 220 pounds, that is an incredible feat. Not only is this magnificent cat one of the fastest cats, but it is also known for its jumping skills and is a vigorous climber and swimmer. This also puts them at the top of the food chain in floodplains, swamps, and rainforests. However, they are more like sprinters, reaching their top speed for short distances but cannot maintain that speed for long distances.
Jaguars are great at speed thanks to their muscular and powerful legs, which allow them to sprint at high speeds and make sudden turns while on the chase. They also have streamlined bodies, long, sleek tails that help with balance, and retractable claws that provide extra traction.
Lions are one of the world’s biggest cats and are often called the kings of the jungle. These majestic and powerful cats can reach speeds of up to 50 mph. However, because they lack stamina, this burst of speed can only be maintained for short periods.
Despite their large bodies, they have long, powerful legs, which contribute to their ability to run fast. Their front legs are slightly longer than their back legs, making them better sprinters than long-distance runners. As the lion sprints, its body will stay low to the ground while its legs spring into action. Lions stalk their prey and make a final speedy sprint when they get close enough.
Cougars are nimbler than their other wild cat relatives and are just as fast. They can reach speeds of 40 to 50 mph and are excellent jumpers, which play an essential role in taking down prey. Their large paws and powerful hind legs contribute to their sprinting and leaping abilities. Unlike some of their competitors, cougars are adept at climbing.
They are not commonly seen in the wild as they are good at hiding, but they can be recognized by their cat-like appearance, tan body color, and long tail that reaches almost 1 meter long.
Servals are among the smaller wild cats, perhaps best known as the wild cat used to breed Savannah cats. Despite their smaller size, they are one of the fastest. Servals can reach speeds of 45 mph, which is a few miles shy of the speed of a lion. They are strong and agile cats that maintain their fast speeds. Their small frame and long, muscular legs also make them excellent jumpers.
They are solitary hunters targeting smaller animals like frogs, birds, and rodents. They look like small cheetahs but have enormous ears and only reach a height of about 20–24 inches. They also have very long legs relative to their body size.
Tigers are graceful but powerful wild cats with incredible athleticism. A tiger can run at a top speed of 35–40 mph, but only at short distances. However, this speed is remarkable for a cat with a weight of more than 600 pounds and can jump over 30 feet and leap 16 feet high. Due to their lack of stamina, they are ambush hunters as opposed to chasing hunters. Despite being large and heavy cats, they can reach top speeds of 40mph because of their long, muscular legs and flexible spine. They also have extra grip on the ground thanks to their retractable claws.
7. Eurasian Lynx
The Eurasian Lynx is a wild cat living in the Rocky Mountains of Northern America and is the largest lynx species. This cat can reach speeds of up to 30 mph and take down prey larger than itself. They are strong and agile cats with powerful legs, and like the lion, they can only keep their speed for short distances. Because of that, they need to surprise their prey by staying close to the ground and pouncing unexpectedly from a short distance.
Leopards are one of the most recognizable and adored wild cats. They are incredibly athletic and are exceptional climbers. They can reach speeds of up to 36 mph and carry their prey into trees to avoid losing their lunch to scavengers. They are also magnificent jumpers and can perform long jumps of up to 20 feet and vertical leaps of 10 feet to capture prey like birds.
Furthermore, unlike many wild cats, leopards are also strong swimmers. Despite being easily outrun by other wild cats, its incredible ability to jump, climb, swim, and run makes it an extremely resourceful predator. Sadly, all leopards are endangered or threatened due to human activity, such as urbanization and poaching.
9. Rusty Spotted Cat
The Rusty Spotted Cat is one of the smallest cat species in the world and is by far the smallest cat in the wild. However, what they lack in size, they make up for in speed! These tiny felines can reach top speeds of up to 50mph!
They are an incredibly agile and active breed, but because they are solitary and somewhat elusive, much is unknown about their abilities. The Rusty Spotted Cat is about half the size of an average domestic cat and can be recognized by distinctive lines that mark its face and head.
Fastest Domestic Cat Breeds
10. Egyptian Mau
The domestic Egyptian Mau takes the top rank as the most agile and athletic domestic cat breed. These remarkable companions can reach speeds of up to 30 mph and can leap from a standing position up to 6 feet in the air!
Egyptian Mau’s are one of the oldest breeds of domestic cats and may be a relative of a spotted subspecies of the African Wild Cat. Archaeologists have even found cats in ancient tombs that resemble the Egyptian Mau we know today. They are a rare breed that is difficult to find outside of Egypt.
The Abyssinian is also known as one of the fastest domestic cats around, and it may be no surprise when you witness its sleek and streamlined body. Its top speed almost matches the Egyptian Mau at approximately 30 mph. It is also among the most popular feline companions because of its high-spirited and playful nature.
The Abyssinian is highly athletic and also very curious, and if it spots potential prey, you will see it dart off in seconds. They are also excellent climbers, and small birds and rodents usually don’t stand a chance.
Bengal cats are praised for their athleticism, and if you have ever owned one, you know how active they are. They are full of energy for most of the day. They were bred by crossing Asian Leopard Cats with domestic breeds, which gives them the appearance of an exotic breed with a domestic temperament.
Bengals can reach a speed of 35 mph in a short sprint. They have strong back legs and wild genes that make them excellent runners. They often enjoy taking walks with their owners and climbing trees.
The Savannah cat is another hybrid that is crossed with a serval and a Siamese. That explains why they make the list of one of the fastest domestic cat breeds. However, they don’t match the speed of their Serval ancestors, but they are still fast. When you see a Savannah cat, its wild genes are immediately recognized. They have long legs, big ears, spotted coats, and piercing wild eyes, much like a cheetah, but they are friendly and loving like their Siamese ancestors.
This large, athletic breed may be intimidating, but they are friendly and affectionate with their owners. Strangers, on the other hand, may experience their skeptical side.
The Ocicat emulates a wild Ocelot, giving it the exotic appearance of a wild cat without a drop of wild DNA. They were created by crossing an Abyssinian with a Siamese, so it’s no wonder they are one of the fastest domestic cats.
They have dog-like personalities, which make them highly social. They are incredibly active and have superior athletic skills, and although their speed is not well documented, it is witnessed by those who have had the pleasure of owning one.
Despite their tailless body, Manx cats are fast little felines! They have an incredible ability to leap and accelerate and are also known for their legendary hunting skills. They often walk by moving both hind legs at the same time, which gives them a hopping gait, much like a rabbit.
While they can have a strong independent streak, they are sociable and playful regarding their owners.
While wild cats take the cake regarding speed, our domestic companions are undoubtedly fast and athletic like their wild relatives. Cheetahs are the champions, with a top speed of 75 mph, while the Egyptian Mau is the domestic champ reaching a top speed of 30 mph. Whether they are wild or domestic cats, they carry the same characteristics that make them track stars and incredible predators.
Featured Image Credit: Jayaprasanna T.L, Shutterstock