Big cats have similar breeding and mating practices in most cases. In general, these cats are mostly solitary, with adult females only living with other members of their species when with their young.

Lions are the only big cats to live in groups (known as prides) and adult male cheetahs live in pairs. Cats in colder climates generally mate in the winter and have their young in the spring, while cats in warm climates generally mate year round.

Females begin mating at two to four years and their gestation period averages between 90 and 110 days depending upon the species. Female cats usually will have their cubs in dens or areas protected by vegetation.

Mother cats have typically 1 – 4 cubs in a litter though some cats such as cheetahs can have up to nine cubs in a litter. The cubs are born with their eyes closed and don’t open them until between a week and two weeks.


Female tigers reach sexual maturity between three and four years while males generally take four to five years before mating. They have been reported to live as long as 26 years in the wild, longer than any other big cat. Learn more facts about tigers here.


Female lions begin mating by four years old and will sometimes mate with multiple males. The female will generally leave the pride while having a litter and will move their dens to avoid being found by predators.

The mother and her cubs will normally rejoin the pride after a couple of months. Lions live up to about 12 years in the wild. Learn more about lions here.


Female jaguars can begin reproducing at two years old and the males between three and four years. Young jaguars will stay in the den up until about six months. Their average life span is roughly twelve to fifteen years. Learn more facts about jaguars here.

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Photo credits: Tambako the Jaguar, Steve Winter/National Geographic (2), Mogens Trolle/Dreamstime