Small Details on Big Cats

Do you have cats at home?  You might have noticed some similarities between your cats and ours here at the Zoo.  They lounge for hours to conserve energy, have a carnivorous diet and have excellent eye sight in low light conditions.  There are however, a number of things that make big cats unique from you domesticated house cat.  Aside from the obvious difference in a few hundred pounds, there are a few things that stick out when you compare the big to the small. 

Kota at Potter Park Zoo

How about sounds?  Your house cat can purr, trill and growl – but it can’t roar like an African lion!  This is because of the hyoid bone, which connects a cats tongue to the roof of its mouth.  In big cats, this bone has an elastic segment which small cats do not have.   This allows them to produce those earth shaking roars you hear!

Have you ever looked into the eyes of a big cat?  Another noticeable difference is that small cats, with the exception of the lynx, have pupils that close to a slit under bright light.  Big cats actually have round pupils. 

Lion at Potter Park Zoo

There are more unique features of course, even amongst the big cats themselves!  But if I tell you everything here, you won’t have anything to explore on your own.  

Get up close with our big cats next time you visit the Zoo and take notice of the similarities and differences between them – but remember that our animals should never be considered for pets.  Not only are they extremely dangerous, they require care that cannot be provided without proper facilities and a trained staff.