The puma with looks and weight definitely fits better in the category of big cats, but genetically it’s much closely related to small cats. It cannot roar like big cats, and the structure of its body is similar to a cheetah. It is the biggest cat that can meow.
Pumas have a uniform coat colour in different shades. They are fawn, yellow and grey, but also red. The size of the cat also depends on its habitat, the smallest individuals occur in areas where they have to compete with larger jaguars.
The puma has round head and ears, but their body is elongated and slender. Thanks to the colour, size and black tip of the muscular tail, the puma is often called a mountain lion. The puma, however, has many names, in English there are as many as forty.
The puma has muscular legs and the hind ones are longer than the front. Thanks to this, it is a great jumper. Mountain lions have five digits in the forepaws and four in the rear. Claws are rounded and hide when they are not needed.
The puma’s nose is always pink and the fur under it is white. Darker fur begins with the whiskers. The eyes are bright and have round pupils with which those cats can see very well at night.
Pumas are found in both Americas and are the best-spreading species of felids in this part of the world. This may be due to the fact that it is considered to be harmless to humans and is often kept as a pet, despite its size. The mountain lion, even provoked, will almost certainly escape and will not attack a man.
The puma can adapt to different living conditions and extreme temperatures. It develops well both in cold coniferous forests as well as in hot tropical forests, floodplains and semi-arid lands. The puma can be found in an open area, as well as sheltered with vegetation or stones and in plains and mountainous areas.
These animals are active at night and in the early morning or late evening. They hunt terrestrial animals, so they spend most of their time on the ground, but they are also great climbers. They look for shelter on the trees, and can travel far distances in search for food.
As solitary animals, pumas choose an area they call their own and defend it from other cats. Typically for cats, male pumas have much larger homes than females and several females live within the area of one male.
Mountain lioness most often choose areas adjacent to their maternal, and males travel long distances to preserve genetic diversity. Some individuals have a summer and winter house, between which they migrate after the prey.
The puma communicates mainly olfactory. Their favourite way to pass messages is to heap a pile of soil with their hind legs. They can also emit different sounds in addition to the mentioned meowing, such as chirping, hissing or growling.
The puma is a very fit hunter and the size of a herbivore does not seem to matter to them. They hunt eagerly for tiny mice or insects, but they may as well catch a pronghorn or a moose, whose adult individual can weigh up to 700 kg (1543 lb). Such a large herbivore pumas like to hide in a pile of leaves for later. When jaguars are nearby, pumas are satisfied with a smaller prey.
They are burdensome for cattle and sheep breeders, because they often kill them, seeing an easy prey in them. Dog and horse owners also have the reason to be afraid of this big cat.
Pumas are very strong and amaze with jumping for a distance of 12 meters (39 feet) long and 7 meters (23 feet) up. Mountain lions have enough strength to carry prey three times heavier than themselves. Their bodies are adapted for short runs at speeds up to 72 km/h (45 mi/h). They can also swim, but avoid water.
Pumas do not have a specific mating season, but the young most often come to the world in the warmer months. Kittens are born with blue eyes and spots on a fluffy fur that disappear during puberty. After ten days from birth, small mountain cubs open their eyes, begin to grow teeth and play. After forty days, they switch to the meat diet. The female is fertile until the age of twelve, and the male up to the twentieth, which is why there are more females in the litter.
Mountain lions reach sexual maturity after two years from birth and then leave the mother. They start breeding only after acquiring their own territory.
The puma is a densely distributed species, and although its population is decreasing, it has been marked as an animal which does not need extended protection at the moment. Mountain lions are top predators in most areas, controlling the populations of herbivores.
Like all species of wild animals, the puma also suffer from the increasing expansion of human settlements, as it prevents its proper functioning. The problem is also the fragmentation of territories and the separation of some animals from the rest of the population. The negative effect of this phenomenon is well illustrated by the subspecies of the Florida panther. Most of the individuals of that subspecies have a broken tail. This is the result of inbreeding, which also results in other genetic diseases such as heart defects or a high risk of developing leukemia.
People also often kill these cats for sport or to defend their farm animals. A lot of pumas are also lost under the wheels of cars when they travel long distances in search of their own home, prey or a partner.
Author: Małgorzata Banaszkiewicz
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Support our cause
If you want to help us save endangered species of cats, you can make a donation. Set the amount you pay in the name of protecting these beautiful animals. As a thank you for a donation of minimum PLN 10 you will receive from us a code entitling you to download one of the many wallpapers for your computer and phone.Support SWCF