What Are Closest Relatives to Domestic Cats?

African wildcat - closest relative to a domestic cat

African Wild Cat, photographed, by Sonelle, at the Johannesburg Zoo, South Africa

What is the closest relative to a domestic cat? Most people would mention a tiger, or a lion because we do know they are both cats, and many of us are enthusiastic about our pet being a relative to such a strong animal. But did you know there are some animals that are much closer to cats than tigers? Let’s see who they are.

The same linage as domestic cats also include several wild cat species, like European and African wild cats, Chinese dessert cat and others. Recent genetic analysis showed that domesticated cats are closest related to Near Eastern branch of African wild cat.

This cat is very look alike to our beloved pet, except he is somewhat larger, with more massive body structure.

If we want to take a look at cats from other linages, the most related one would be the leopard cat. It should not be confused with a leopard, though. Leopard cats are small ones (only slightly larger than domestic cats), have more “wild appearance”, like spots on the coat and lines near their eyes.

Leopard cats live mainly in the south-eastern part of Asia, and their population seems to be over 50,000 individuals; thus they are not enlisted as endangered, while animal conservation organizations are having an eye on them.

Leopard cat linage split from domestic cat’s linage approximately 6.7 million years ago and is the closest distinctive linage.

And of course, if you just need to know any large cats being closely related to our small pets, the linage of Pumas and Jaguars separated “only” 7.2 million years ago, while tigers and lions, separated 10.6 million years ago are considered a distant relative to a domestic cat.