Cats are like Puzzle Boxes::Snow Leopard

I was fortunate to get up-close-and-personal with a snow leopard many, many years ago at a place in Redwood Shores, CA, known as Marine World/Africa USA. They had one show in a very small amphitheater in which “animal ambassadors” were the stars. One of those stars was a blind Snow leopard named Tasha. Those shows were my favorites and I never missed a chance to go. While walking around the park afterwards we found ourselves next to her enclosure. Although we couldn’t get close enough to touch her (That’s what the Animal Ambassador show was all about.) we could admire her beauty and call to her from the other side of the fence. I will never forget that brief encounter with the beautiful Tasha.

October 23 is
International Snow Leopard Day

The Snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is the seventh largest cat in the world and is native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia. The cat is widely used in heraldry and as an emblem in Central Asia; and is the state animal of Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh in India.

Black spots and rosettes on white-to-grayish fur helps the Snow leopard blend into its environment. It makes for the purrr-fect camouflage. Snow leopards have an elevated forehead with small rounded ears, and a vertical chin. Their muzzle is short with large nasal cavities and the eyes range from pale green to grey. They possess a stocky, short-legged body with incredibly dense fur, wide paws, and a luxuriously long, thick tail.

Although their closest relative is the Tiger, Snow leopards cannot roar. But they do hiss, chuff, meow, growl, and wail – and can even purr when exhaling.

The Snow leopard is capable of killing most animals in its range, with the probable exception of the adult male yak. Except when on the prowl for a mate, they are solitary. (Like most felines.) Snow leopards become sexually mature at two to three years, and a female usually produces two to three cubs in a litter. They normally live 15–18 years in the wild, but in captivity they can live for up to 25 years.

Snow leopards are listed as VULNERABLE on the IUCN Red List with their populations declining in the wild; and classified as an Appendix I Endangered Species by CITES (which means international trade is prohibited). The Snow leopard has been listed as threatened with extinction in Schedule I of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals since 1985.

In India, the Snow leopard is granted the highest level of protection under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 where hunting is sentenced with imprisonment of 3–7 years. In Nepal, it has been legally protected since 1973, with penalties of 5–15 years in prison and a fine for poaching and trading it. Since 1978, it has been listed in the Soviet Union’s Red Data Book of the Russian Federation as threatened with extinction. Hunting Snow leopards has been prohibited in Afghanistan since 1986. In China, Snow leopards have been protected by law since 1989 (hunting and trading Snow leopards or their body parts constitute a criminal offence that is punishable by the confiscation of property, a fine and a sentence of at least 10 years in prison) and has been protected in Bhutan since 1995. In 1984, The Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan® (SSP) was initiated; and by 1986, American zoos housed 234 of these remarkable cats.

THREATS: Poaching and illegral trade of skins and body parts (for use in Chinese and Mongolian pseudo-medicines); habitat loss; and human-wildlife conflict.

In the end we will conserve only what we love,
we will love only what we understand,
and we understand only what we are taught.

– Baba Dioum

Snow Leopard Conservancy
Snow Leopard Trust
Snow Leopard (WWF)
Snow leopard (Wikipedia)

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Cats are like Puzzle Boxes::Clouded Leopard

I am the smallest species of Pantherinae. My long canine teeth have earned me the title of being a “modern-day sabre-tooth” [1]. Although the forest floor is my hunting ground at night, I sleep in the tree tops during the daytime. I am an excellent climber with the longest tail you’ve ever seen! If you’re lucky enough to have me as your Spirit Animal I will teach you much about the power of seclusion and elusiveness for I am the Clouded Leopard.

August 4 is
International Clouded Leopard Day

Nocturnal and solitary, Clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa) inhabit dense forests from the foothills of the Himalayas through mainland Southeast Asia into South China.

Named for the irregular blotches on their flanks which resemble clouds, they have the longest tail-to-body size ratio of any cat. This long tail helps with their balance as they climb through the trees. Speaking of which, Clouded leopards are able to climb upside down beneath tree branches, use their hind feet to hang from branches, and can fully rotate their ankles which allows them to descend trees head-first.

They also have impressive canines…

Another distinctive feature of the clouded leopard is its long canine teeth and unusual skull. The clouded leopard has the longest upper canine teeth for its skull size of any modern carnivore, causing some people to compare the cat with the extinct saber-toothed cat. In fact, studies by Dr. Per Christiansen of the Copenhagen’s Zoological Museum have revealed connections between the two groups. Dr. Christiansen’s research into the skull characteristics of both living and extinct cats has revealed that that the structure of the clouded leopard skull bears distinctive resemblance to primitive saber-toothed cats such as Paramachairodus (before the group became highly specialized and developed enormous upper fangs ). Both saber toothed cats and clouded leopards have an enormous gape, around 100 degrees, and various adaptations to support such a gape. In contrast a modern lion can open its mouth about 65 degrees. This could indicate that one lineage of modern cats, of which now only the clouded leopard is still present, evolved some adaptations in common with the true saber-toothed cats.

It also indicates that the clouded leopard may hunt large prey in the wild in a slightly different manner from other great cats. Saber-toothed cats would bite prey through the neck, using their elongated teeth to sever nerves and blood vessels and strangle the windpipe, which would instantly kill the prey. This was a very different hunting technique from living big cats, which use a throat or muzzle grip to suffocate the prey. It is possible that clouded leopards use a similar technique.


Like many of the big cats, Clouded leopards cannot purr but they do have a variety of vocal stylings: mewing, growling, hissing, spitting, chuffing, and a low moaning sound. The Clouded leopard is the state animal of Meghalaya.

The Clouded leopard belongs to the genus Neofelis which comprises two cat species in Southeast Asia:

Clouded leopard
(Neofelis nebulosa)
Native to Asian mainland but locally extinct in Singapore, Taiwan, and possibly Hainan Island.

Sunda Clouded leopard
(Neofelis diardi)
Also known as the Indonesian Clouded leopard, Sundaland Clouded leopard, Enkuli Clouded leopard, Diard’s Clouded leopard, and Diard’s cat, it’s fur is darker than Neofelis nebulosa with a smaller cloud pattern.
It is found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra and is protected in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sabah, Sarawak, and Brunei.

Additionally, there are two sub-species of Sunda Clouded leopard.

Neofelis diardi
Sumatran Clouded leopard
(N. d. diardi)
Native to Batu and Sumatra.
Bornean Clouded leopard
(N. d. borneensis)
Native to Borneo.

Sadly, one species of Clouded leopard is extinct: the Formosan Clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa brachyuran). Formerly indigenous to Taiwan, it was was declared extinct in 2013, after it had not been sighted since 1983 and a 13-year-long study by zoologists failed to find even one leopard. Their habitat was largely destroyed by the logging industry and the wild cats had been hunted for their pelts.

All Clouded leopards are listed as VULNERABLE on the IUCN Red List and classified as an Appendix I Endangered Species by CITES (which means international trade is prohibited). They are also listed as ENDANGERED by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the United States Endangered Species Act, prohibiting trade in live animals or body parts.

Clouded leopards are difficult to breed in captivity as there has been a high incidence of aggression between males and females, sometimes resulting in the death of the female. Therefore, Clouded leopards living in North American zoos are collectively managed through a Species Survival Plan® (SSP) administered by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

THREATS: Habitat loss following large-scale deforestation (such as for palm oil plantations); poaching for fur and body parts (for use in Chinese pseudo-medicines – particularly in Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Nepal); illegal pet trade trafficking.

In the end we will conserve only what we love,
we will love only what we understand,
and we understand only what we are taught.

– Baba Dioum

Clouded Leopard Project
The Aspinall Foundation
“Clouded Leopard” – a project done by a student at the Evergreen State College (WA) complete with sketches and animation assignments
“Bear and Leopard” – a tale from indigenous Rukai folklore about two of Taiwan’s most formidable native hunters: The Formosan Black Bear and the Formosan Clouded Leopard

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Cats are like Puzzle Boxes::Tiger

Gliding stealthily through the forests, grasslands, and swamps of Russia and Asia, it is the most iconic and charismatic of the big cats and is the largest species in the felidae family. Like the lion, it is at the top of its food chain – an apex predator. The national animal of India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and South Korea, it is Panthera tigris. Tiger.

July 29 is
Global/International Tiger Day

Both male and female tigers have strikingly beautiful, striped fur which is skin deep (if shaved, the coat pattern would still be visible); and there are three color variants: golden, stripeless snow white, and white (The Tiger Species Survival Plan has condemned the breeding of white tigers) that now rarely occur in the wild due to the reduction of wild tiger populations, but continue in captive populations. A black tiger is a pseudo-melanistic variant of pigmentation characterized by enlarged stripes which cover a large part of the body of the animal, making it appear melanistic. No two tigers have the same stripes. Like human fingerprints, their stripe patterns are unique to each individual.

All tigers have circular pupils with yellow irises (except the white tiger which typically has blue irises). Like most big cats they ROAR but possess other vocal communications: chuffing, grunting, woofing, snarling, and growling.

The tiger belongs to the genus Panthera with two subspecies: Panthera tigris tigris and Panthera tigris sondaica.

In the last 70 years three species of tiger have gone extinct and all six remaining species are endangered*.

Panthera tigris tigris
Also known as the Royal Bengal tiger.
Native to India.
Extinct as of 2003
Also called the Balkhash tiger, Hyrcanian tiger, Turanian tiger, and the Mazandaran tiger; the Caspian tiger was native to eastern Turkey, northern Iran, Mesopotamia, the Caucasus, Central Asia to northern Afghanistan, and the Xinjang region in western China.
Also known as the Amur tiger, Manchurian tiger, Korean tiger, and Ussurian tiger.
Native to the Russian Far East, Northeast China, and possibly North Korea.
South China
Also known as the Amoy tiger (in the fur trade).
Native to southern China.
Critically Endangered
Possibly extinct in the wild.
Native to Southeast Asia.
Approaching the threshold for being Critically Endangered.
Also known as the Southern Indochinese tiger, it is native to Peninsular Malaysia.
Critically Endangered
Panthera tigris sondaica
Declared extinct in 1994.
Hunted to extinction, the Javan tiger was native to Java.
Extinct since the 1950s.
The Bali tiger was native to Bali.
Native to Sumatra, the Sumatran tiger is the only surviving tiger in the Sunda Islands.
Critically Endangered

There are also two prehistoric tigers on record: Panthera tigris trinilensis and Panthera tigris acutidens.

*Major reasons for population decline are habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation and poaching for fur and body parts (for use in Chinese pseudo-medicines). Tigers are also victims of human–wildlife conflict, particularly in range countries with a high human population density.

World Tiger Day is in honour of one of the world’s most iconic and endangered big cats. Wild tigers have dropped by more than 95% since the beginning of the 20th Century! There is only 3,900 tigers left in the wild.

Today we remember Sultan a skeletal year-old tiger, who was in critical condition and when anesthetized for tests, he flat-lined in cardiac arrest. The scene transformed into an ER, but he made it back and started breathing. Sultan was one of 13 lucky animals that we rescued from a War Zone in Syria!


I am not here for your amusement or abuse.

Big Cat Public Safety Act (HR263/S1210)
Big Cat Rescue
Panthera: A Catscape Case Study
National Tiger Conservation Authority
Save the Tiger Fund
IUCN Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (2015-2021)
Tiger (wikipedia)
Tiger conservation (wikipedia)

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Cats are like Puzzle Boxes::Cougar

Secretive by nature, it moves through the night silently and unseen traversing steep canyons or forest areas effortlessly in search of prey – or a mate. Sacred to the Hopi (who call it “oha”) they believe it to be the strongest and most fearless animal, and the greatest of hunters; and symbolizes the just and correct use of leadership and power, with dignity and grace.

National Cougar Day: June 12th
National Mountain Lion Day: August 26th

So it is fitting I begin this series with Puma concolor. Cougar. Mountain Lion. Puma. Catamount. Panther. Painter. Ghost Cat.

One of the “big cats”, the Cougar is smaller than the Jaguar but bigger than the Leopard and is native to the Americas. Believed to have originated in Asia 11 million years ago, the Cougar may have been related to the now-extinct American cheetah (Miracinonyx). Indeed, the Cougar shares a similarity with the modern-day Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) in that neither have the ability to ROAR. Instead, both purr like a house cat! And despite its size, the Cougar is more closely related to smaller cats (including Felis catus) than to any species of subfamily Pantherinae.

Although they once ranged widely throughout North and South America, Cougars were largely wiped out from the eastern portion of the United States and Canada by European settlers in the 1700s. There is a small population in Florida, a subspecies known as the Florida panther. The Florida panther is considered to be critically endangered and agencies are working to maintain the current population.

The Cougar is listed on CITES Appendix II and as Least Concern on IUCN Red List. However, Cougars have been long been killed by both sport hunters and farmers protecting their livestock. Other threats to populations include habitat loss and fragmentation, depletion of prey base due to poaching, and automobile accidents. As a result, the Cougar population has significantly decreased.

Hunting of this magnificent cat is PROHIBITED in: Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, Venezuela, Columbia, French Guiana, Suriname, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, most of Argentina, and California – the only state in the whole of the U.S. to ban Cougar hunting. (Note that both Canada and Mexico are noticeably absent from this list…)

Only a soulless human being could resist protecting this puss face!

Native American Cougar Mythology
Mountain Lion: An Unnatural History of Pumas and People
Pumas Are More Social Than Previously Thought
The Cougar Fund

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Cats are like Puzzle Boxes

I have many things to share but first let’s celebrate all the Felis lynx and Panthera onca in the world by wishing them a joyful

International Lynx Day
World Jaguar Day

Yesterday we not only entered a New Moon phase (in Gemini) but also experienced a Solar Eclipse! As you know, New Moons mark the beginning of a new lunar cycle, bringing with them new opportunities and fresh starts. Today is a good day for self-reflection, course correction, and setting goals. Start generating your own magic instead of waiting for the magic to happen on its own! A New Moon Solar Eclipse is especially potent. It is during this time that you can dream your biggest dreams and set your most powerfully-charged intentions. Create new habits, start new projects, and initiate life changes. VIBRATE ON PURPOSE.

“The Universe knows all things and is responding
to the vibration that you are sending.
When you are sending your vibration on purpose,
you are orchestrating what the Universe is aligning for you.”

– Esther Hicks

(Keep in mind that while sowing the seeds of creation is in line with the energies of a New Moon, it’s not an especially good time for stopping something you care about, avoiding opportunities for expansion and growth, or wasting time on energy-draining people or activities.)

I also ran across this some time ago – I don’t remember where I found it so my apologies to the originator.

Today’s Tarot spread for the next few days…

The Ten of Grails (Cups) suggests tranquility, peace of mind, lasting success, and long-term contentment. This card is about satisfaction especially on an emotional level. It can also symbolize an awakening of the soul. Our thoughts are directly connected to what is manifested in our lives.

Major Arcana cards represent life lessons, karmic influences, and the big archetypal themes that are influencing your life right now – and no card is more representative of this than Justice, the Law of Karma. This is cause-and-effect in action. Know that the vibrations you send out will come back to you ten-fold.

I am very excited to announce a new series of posts in which I’ll be talking about the Earth’s wild cats – both large and small. Each post will honor a particular feline, starting tomorrow with Puma concolor. The Puma, which is particularly appropriate as tomorrow is National Cougar Day. Additionally, it was while watching a National Geographic documentary on the puma that I first came up with the notion of cats being like little “puzzle boxes”.

I hope you will enjoy reading about each amazing feline as much as I will enjoy writing about them! M-iao!

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