Difference between a Bobcat and a Mountain Lion

By: | Updated: Oct-24, 2023
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There are around 37 different species of cats. Some are considered small cats and others big cats. Most people are familiar with the big cats, such as lions and tigers. Among those regarded as small cats are the bobcat and the mountain lion. These cats live in the forests, semi-deserts, or swamps. Though quite similar in habitat, these felines have distinct characteristics. Continue reading this article to learn the difference between a bobcat and a mountain lion.

Both the bobcat and the mountain lion are the most common felines in the US. They can be hard to spot, but if you’re lucky enough to see one, each of them is magnificent and beautiful. These cats do have some overlap in their ranges, and they do share some similarities; however, they are quite different felines.

Summary Table

Bobcat Mountain Lion
2-4 feet long Up to 6 feet long
Weighs around 11-35 lbs. Weighs around 66-187 lbs.
Has a gray to brown coat, a whiskered face, and a black-tipped chubby tail Has an orange-brown to yellow-brown coat, a slender body, a rounded head, and a long, cylindrical tail with a dark tip


A bobcat

A bobcat is also known as a wildcat or lynx. Its scientific name is Lynx rufus. There are about 12 identified subspecies of bobcats. The bobcat may live in the forest, suburban areas, semi-desert, and swamplands. Bobcats are found in Southern Canada to across the southern half of North America and Mexico.

Physical characteristics

This animal is around 2-4 feet long and can weigh anywhere from 11 to 35 lbs (about twice the size of a domestic cat and smaller than Canadian lynxes). Bobcats usually have a gray to brown coat and are characterized by a whiskered face and tufted ears. They have yellow eyes and their faces look wide because of the extended hairs. They also have black stripes on their front legs and a black-tipped, chubby tail. Bobcats are smaller than the Canada lynx but are about twice as big as house cats.

Traits and behavior

Bobcats are predominantly nocturnal animals. These felines hunt mainly before dawn and after dusk. This is why not many people have seen a bobcat. There could be one living in your own neighborhood, and you may not have seen it!

They are territorial and live a solitary life. Their breeding period is from winter to spring and gestation takes about 2 months. Female bobcats usually raise their kittens in concealed burrows. Bobcats are equipped with keen sight and sharp hearing. They also have a good sense of smell. They are carnivores with a diet usually consisting of insects, mice, birds, chickens, geese, rabbits, and squirrels. True to their common name (wildcat), this feline is small but aggressive and can kill prey larger than itself, such as deer. However, the population of bobcats is threatened by certain animals such as the coyotes. The average life span of a bobcat is 10-12 years.

There are very few recorded instances of a bobcat attacking a human, as well as no recorded deaths from such attacks.

mountain lion
A mountain lion

A mountain lion is a feline of many names. It is also known as the cougar, puma, panther, or catamount. Its scientific name is Puma concolor. It holds the Guinness world record for the animal that has the most number of names. At present, though, most scientists refer to the animal as “puma.” There are around 32 recorded subspecies of mountain lions. These animals usually live in wooded or suburban environments and even rocky and semi-desert areas. Mountain lions are found in North America, Central America, South America and United States (primarily in Florida).

Physical characteristics

A mountain lion has a total length of up to 6 feet. It weighs around 66 to 187 lbs. It is a slender cat with a round head, ears that are erect and a long tail. The mountain lion usually has an orange-brown or yellow-brown coat. Its tail is long and cylindrical and has a dark tip. Although the mountain lion is large, it is commonly associated with the small cats since it lacks the ability to roar. Nevertheless, it is identified as the second heaviest cat in America, next to the jaguar.

Traits and behavior

Mountain lions are solitary, nocturnal animals and are also very territorial.

The male mountain lion requires a territory of about one hundred square miles. On the other hand, a female mountain lion’s range is usually about sixty square miles.

These animals have no fixed mating season and the gestation period takes around 3 months. Only the female mountain lions take an active role in parenting and they are very protective of their young. Young mountain lion cubs look very much like adult mountain lions; however, they have dark spots and patterns that fade as they grow. These spots and patterns act as camouflage to better hide the cubs when they’re in the burrow.

Mountain lions are carnivorous. In catching their prey, they use both stealth and strength. These felines are interesting in that they stalk their prey with a zig-zag pattern. They will also hide at times and lie in wait.

They ambush their prey and can jump over 20 feet. Their diet consists mainly of deer but they also eat other animals such as the coyotes, porcupines, raccoons, jackrabbits, and squirrels. Mountain lions don’t eat their prey all at once. Instead, they cover their meal with leaves and other debris, returning later to eat the rest.

Mountain lion population is noted to be sustainable and managed sport hunting of the animal is still allowed. Their average lifespan in the wild is around 8-13 years.

Bobcat vs Mountain Lion

What is the difference between a bobcat and a mountain lion?

A bobcat is smaller with a body length of about 2-4 feet, compared to mountain lions which grow up to 6 feet long. Bobcats are also much lighter, weighing around 11 to 35 pounds whereas mountain lions are heavy weighing around 66 to 187 pounds. These two wild animals also differ greatly in physical appearance. Bobcats have gray to brown coat, a whiskered face, and a black-tipped chubby tail. Mountain lions, on the other hand, have tawny orange-brown to yellow-brown coat, a slender body, a rounded head, and a long, cylindrical dark-tipped tail. Although both the bobcat, and mountain lion are nocturnal and solitary animals, these two cat species have different tail lengths. The mountain lion has a long tail and the Bobcat has a short tail.

Hunting Behavior

Mountain Lions and Bobcats hunt for food by stalking their prey through the forest floor or by climbing trees and waiting for their prey to come within striking distance. When they find prey, they will chase it down and kill it with their powerful jaws and sharp teeth before feeding on it. They do not tend to go after bigger animals like deer or other large game as they would not be able to catch them if they did choose to hunt larger prey items.

Food Habits

There is some overlap in the diets of the bobcat and the mountain lion. Mountain Lions and Bobcats eat mostly smaller mammals such as rabbits, raccoons, squirrels and mice. They will also eat larger animals such as deer, skunks and even bears if they are not too big for them to catch.

Both mountain lions and bobcats have been known to attack pets and farm animals. Mountain lions can attack pets of all sizes, while bobcats usually go after smaller pets and farm animals.


Mountain Lions and Bobcats have a very similar breeding pattern. Both species have the same mating season, which lasts from December to February. During this time, they will often have their young with them as they travel around looking for food. The females of both species have a gestation period of about 63 days and usually give birth to one or two kittens at a time, although sometimes up to three kittens may be born at once if the mother is in a good condition at the time of birth. The kittens are very small when they are born and weigh only about 1 pound each. The young of both species can run at about four weeks old and start walking on their own at eight weeks old. The female mountain lion will protect her kittens until they are 8 months old and can hunt on their own, but the male mountain lion will stay with his young until he is 2 years old and can hunt on his own as well.


Mountain Lions and Bobcats are preyed upon by many predators. They are usually not threatened by other predators as they are not very large animals and are very strong. Their most common predators are the human population, who hunt them for their fur. This causes them to be rarer than they should be in many areas of the United States. Bobcats tend to be killed by cars more often than mountain lions, although both species tend to die due to illness or old age at about the same rate.


Mountain Lions and Bobcats have a lifespan of about 12 years in the wild and about 8 years in captivity.


There are many threats to mountain lions. Their primary threat is hunting them for their fur. Bobcats are threatened by habitat loss and the hunting of them for their fur.

Fun Facts

Mountain Lions and Bobcats both have incredible jumping ability, with mountain lions being able to jump up to 10 feet high and bobcats being able to jump 5 feet high. They both also have very strong teeth, which they use for killing prey animals such as deer and other large mammals. Both species also have very powerful jaws which they use for biting into their prey and ripping it apart with their sharp teeth.

Unlike other large cats, mountain lions don’t roar. Similar to house cats, they growl, hiss and purr.

The mountain lion is very territorial and does not like to share its space with other animals. They also do not like people or other animals near their homes, so they can be very aggressive towards these types of intruders. The bobcat is smaller than the mountain lion, so it does not pose as much of a threat to humans. However, it can still become aggressive when people or other animals approach its territory.

If you see a mountain lion, try to stay at least 100 yards away from it; this will give you enough time to get out of the area before it attacks you. If you feel threatened by the mountain lion, try to make yourself look bigger by waving your arms around or moving your hands in front of your face; this will make it seem as if you are defending yourself against the mountain lion, thus making it more likely for the bobcat to flee from you rather than attack you.

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