Evolution of Cats - Feline Timeline

Posted by Rosalie Galvez on December 4th, 2020

Without DNA studies, it was impossible to track and study the evolution of cats because all of the ancestors of cats became fossils.

DNA studies and the technologies of genetics has helped a lot in the discoveries of the evolutionary journey of cats.

Researchers have used a "molecular clock analysis" that exactly shows how long ago the species have diverged from one another. The ancestors of the modern domestic cat were the last to appear approximately 3.4 million years ago.

Evolution is the process of gradual development. The researchers have observed that as the sea levels rose and fell it affected the migration of cats. When the sea levels were low the cats tend to migrate more to different continents and when the sea levels were high it caused the isolation of cats. That's how the new species of cats developed because of the rising and falling of the sea levels.

With each migration, the cats have evolved and changed in different sizes, colors, and other features 

The cats are thought to be evolved from Miacid.


It lived 60 million years ago. It was a carnivore. All the carnivores are thought to be evolved from Miacid. It was a short-legged and long-bodied animal.


It was the first descended of Miacid and it resembles the most with the modern cat. It had cat-like incisor teeth.


It lived 30 million years ago. It can claim the title of the first true cat. It is the first known member of the Felidae family that includes all the cats (big, small, living, extinct).


It lived approximately 20 million years ago. It was a short-legged animal and it had a slender like body.

Approximately 6 to 10 million years ago Pseudaelurus evolved and branched into 4 subfamilies which are explained below

1. Machairodontinae family: it consists of a saber-toothed cat 

An example is smilodon extinct

2. Pantherinea family: it consists of modern-day cats (lion, tiger, leopard)

3. Felinae family: it consists of small domestic cats

4. Aciniychinae family: it consists modern-day cheetah 


The living cats (feline family) are divided into 37 different species around the world that are listed below with their examples


Example: Panthera leo


Example: Panthera pardus


Example: Panthera onca


Example: Panthera tigris

Snow leopard 

Example: Panthera uncia

Clouded leopard

Example: Neofelis nebulosa

Bornean clouded leopard

Example: Neofelis diardi

Asian golden cat

Example: Pardofelis temmincki

Bornean bay cat 

Example: Pardofelis badia

Marbled cat

Example: Pardofelis marmorata


Example: Caracal caracal

African golden cat

Example: Caracal aurata


Example: Caracal serval

Geoffroy’s cat 

Example: Leopardus geoffroyi


Example: Leopardus guigna


Example: Leopardus tigrinus

Andean mountain cat

Example: Leopardus jacobita

Pampas cat

Example: Leopardus colocolo


Example: Leopardus wiedii


Example: Leopardus pardalis

Iberian lynx

Example: Lynx pardina

Eurasian lynx

Example: Lynx lynx

Canada lynx

Example: Lynx canadensis


Example: Lynx rufus


Example: Puma concolor


Example: Puma yaguarondi


Example: Acinonyx jubatus

Asian leopard cat

Example: Prionailurus bengalensis

Fishing cat 

Example: Prionailurus viverrina

Flat-headed cat

Example: Prionailurus planiceps

Rusty-spotted cat

Example: Prionailurus rubiginosus

Pallas’s cat

Example: Otocolobus manul 

Domestic cat

Example: Felis catus


Example: Felis silvestris

Sand cat 

Example: Felis margarita

Black-footed cat

Example: Felis nigripes

Jungle cat 

Example: Felis chaus


In 1997, Warren E. Johnson and Stephan O'Brien researched on 37 living species of cats or Feline family and divided them into 8 lineages 


This lineage has large to medium-sized cats weighing approximately 15 to 150 kilograms. They are the most dominant cats around the world. They are mostly called wild or roaring cats. They have an incomplete ossified hyoid bone that allows them to roar but two species of this lineage are not able to roar (Bornean clouded leopard and clouded leopard). Lion, tiger, jaguar, leopard, and snow leopard are included in this lineage


The cats of this lineage are of medium size ranging from 5 to 25 kilograms. They are restricted to Africa. They were typically considered as a group before the genetic analysis made by some researchers 


The cats of this lineage are poorly known. Before the proper research, it was not considered as a separate group by the taxonomists. The cats of this group range in size from small to medium weighing from 2 to 16 kilograms. The species of this group are restricted to the habitat of forests in Southeast Asia


The cats of this lineage have sizes ranging from small to medium size (1.5 to 16 kilograms). They have a broad range of habitats but they are mostly populated in Central and South America. It has different chromosome number from other members of the Felidae family (i.e it has 36 number of chromosome while other species have 38)


The species of this lineage are of medium size weighing from 6 to 20 kilograms. They are known from their particular feature that is they have short tails and pointed ears. They are habitant in temperate climates of North America and Eurasia. Except for the Iberian lynx, most of the species are very resourceful because of their fur. Bobcat, Eurasian lynx, and Canada lynx are some of the species of this lineage


This lineage has a diverse group of cats ranging from small jaguarundi (3 to 10 kilograms) to large African cheetah (21 to 65 kilograms). They are originated in North America but they are widely spread across 4 continents. They are locally common and legally hunted in their regions.

Asian Leopard 

They are small cats ranging from 2 to 12 kilograms. They are mostly inhabitants of Asia. The Asian leopard cat is most common in Asia.

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Rosalie Galvez

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Rosalie Galvez
Joined: October 6th, 2020
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