The cheetah's preference of prey shows another interesting characteristic of wild cats—the preference for prey based on size. Cheetahs prefer prey up to about 90 pounds. The preferences reflect a balance between energy expended versus energy gained. Survival for wild cats depends upon getting more energy from their food than they expend trying and succeeding to get prey.
For cheetahs or lions even to prey on smaller prey represents a waste of energy. In relation to the hunting success rate, the smaller payoff of other prey does not present an ecological advantage to these wild cats. Life as a predator is not easy. Hunting success rates can be low, 20 percent or lower depending upon the species. Hunting takes a lot of energy. In order to survive, a predator must get more energy from its diet than it expends trying to find food.
Some types of wild cats remain unknown, even mysterious. This is in part due to their nocturnal nature. Wild cats take advantage of the quiet hours of the night to find food and carry out other life processes. Cats such as the fishing cat inhabit environments such as marshes and swamps which are difficult to explore. Other cats such as the cougar, lion, and tiger evoke fear due to their occasional predation of humans.
The fascinating aspect of wild cats remains people's own connection with a bit of the wild in domestic cats. In many ways, domestic cat behavior resembles that of its wild counterparts. For the African and European wildcat, the domestic cat represents a threat to their survival due to hybridization with domestic cats.
Wild cats are examples of highly refined adaptation and evolution within the animal kingdom. Specializations with hunting techniques and physical structure show the differences between the cat species. To learn about the specific ecological forces at work in an area, you have only to examine the ecology of wild cats to learn how nature responds to its environment.
Photo by Jakub Krechowicz