Let's face it: Cats are a huge part of the human experience. They make things cuter, they complement schemes to take over the world, their ears and tails are often added to the human form, but there's another class of cat altogether. Ever since the first anthropoid was dragged off and eaten by a sabertooth, the large cats have invoked fear and awe in the hearts of humans. They've become the symbols of kings, empires, even gods and demons. Their pelts are gorgeous and carry with them a sense of awe. And, obviously, they have a profound impact on humans and the fiction they produce.
There are a number of flavors:
Lions:note Latin name panthera leo The "King of Beasts" as far as the Western world is concerned. Lions were once the widest ranging large mammal on Earth; you could run across one in Europe, Asia and Africa. However, they went extinct in prehistoric (parts of Asia, Northern Europe) or historic times (everywhere else they used to live, like ancient Greece and the rest of Europe and Asia) and now they're relegated to sub-Saharan Africa and the Gir Forest in India. Their powerful appearance is why the lion is commonly a national symbol in places very far from Africa or India, like England and Scotland (both national coats of arms feature lions), all of the Low Countries, Bulgaria, Sweden, Finland (their € cent coins feature a heraldic lion!) ... Lions are the only social cat (However, domesticated cats can form bonds and colonies (especially in the case of ferals), and brother cheetahs often stay together for life. So they can be considered social, too. It's still disputable though.), forming prides consisting of one or two males and a number of females. The main reason lions are so venerated is their image, the males are distinctive from the females with their shaggy manes and tend to be larger than said females. They live in savannas rather than jungles as was once commonly believed.
Tigers:note Latin name panthera tigris The largest of the big cats, native to Asia (not Darkest Africa). The largest population is in fact in the jungles of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia, but the largest variety, the Siberian Tiger, lives in, well, Siberia. They're one of the few cats still known to eat people, and, as such, in India, people living in the jungles will wear masks on the backs of their head to prevent tigers from sneaking up on them (yet man-eaters are known among lions and leopards as well). Mostly comes in color orange, while other variants are much rarer but confirmed: mainly the famous white, and then "golden tabby", blue, and black colored tigers. White tigers are somewhat common in captivity and almost unseen in the wild; some of this is probably due to the need for camouflage in the wild. The white color is a recessive trait, however, and thus captive white tigers tend to be very inbred, often suffering from eye problems, hip dysplasia, and cleft palates. "Black" tigers are extremely rare and their bloodlines may be extinct. Given the lack of any captive examples, it's unknown whether they are truly melanistic or if they simply have abnormally wide stripes that leave little room for orange fur between them. Many countries considers the tiger to be the King of Beasts instead of the lion (Which makes sense in regions where the lion has never been a native animal, like East Asia.), or even a god, symbolizing wrath, war, military generals or kings. Based on a survey of 73 countries, Tigers were also voted to be "The World's Favorite Animal", narrowly beating "man's best friend".
Jaguars:note Latin name panthera onca It seems like a bigger leopard, but is more similar to a tiger in ecology and behaviour. The largest cat in the Americas, found from Mexico through northern Argentina. If a writer is trying to accurately write about The Amazon, this is the cat they'll use. The Mayincatec worshipped jaguars, and to this day they're held in esteem South of the Border. More often than not, however, when you hear the word jaguar, they're talking about the car company. As an added note, Jaguars have the strongest bite of all felids and kills not through the neck like other big cats do, but through the bones of the skull with its canine teeth, piercing the brain. After the jaguar has killed its prey, it drags the dead carcass to a secluded area and always feasts on the chest area first, beginning with the lungs and heart. This brutal behavior has aptly earned them a place among Mesoamerican cultures as symbols of power, war, and protection. Amongst the Aztecs, they were used as Animal Motifs among the ocēlōtl, or Jaguar warriors, whose goal was to capture alive enemy soldiers to sacrifice to their gods.
Leopards:note Latin name panthera pardus The most common big cat of the genus Panthera, ranging through most of Africa and Asia, as well as the smallest roaring cat. Often seen as stealthy more than anything else, and with good reason. A very common mistake is to portray leopards (both the spotted and the black ones) making the same scream of the cougar instead of roaring (this error also happens to jaguars, cheetahs, lynxes and sometimes even to tigers in fiction). See Disney's The Jungle Book again and you'll find we're right.
Snow Leopards:note Latin name uncia uncia Snow leopards are notable for their extremely long, bushy tail (which are almost as long as their bodies), which acts like an extra layer of fur when they curl up to sleep. Despite its name, snow leopards are more closely related to tigers rather than true leopards.
Clouded Leopards:note Latin name neofelis nebulosa/diarddi Clouded Leopards are known for their distinctive fur and incredible climbing skills, and for their particularly long canines as well. Clouded Leopards has the longest canine teeth to body size ratio among all extant cats.
Black Panthers: Not a separate species. Both leopards and jaguars (and occasionally other species) can be born with black coats. Expect writers to treat them as a separate species anyway. Often, especially in illustrated media, if a leopard or jaguar is used, it will be a black variant for two reasons. 1) It's easier to draw a solid black panther than a spotted one, and 2) It looks cooler that way.
Mountain Lions:note Latin name puma concolorAlso called cougars, pumas, panthers, catamounts, painters, and about forty other names (and that's just in English). Very technically panther and puma both only refer to black panther type (Melanistic) Mountain Lions, which have never been observed outside of stories, and many biologists doubt they actually exist. Ranges across the Americas from the Yukon to Tierra del Fuego and, thus, most likely to be used in an American setting. May be used as a source of non-sequitur subplots. They're not actually big cats in the biological sense; indeed, they're more closely related to lynx and caracals than to tigers. That said, they're almost as big as a jaguar, so the reason for confusion is obvious. They don't roar, and they do purr, because as previously mentioned, they are biologically small cats.
Cheetahs:note Latin name acynonix jubatus Once believed a big cat, now seems to be a relative of the cougar. Over short distances, it's the fastest land animal on the planet. When you can reach freeway speed with the acceleration of a Lamborghini Murciélago Superveloce, you know you're awesome. Even if you do have a low life expectancy. The cheetah is also well-known for being the most docile and trainable of all the big cats (it was often trained to hunt fast prey by Persians and other Asian peoples, much like a greyhound). The King Cheetah is a much rarer variety with larger, more elaborate spots on its coat.
Lynx: Not strictly big cats either, but people tend to lump them together, especially in Europe, where the Eurasian Lynx is indeed the largest wild cat. They look strong and crafty with their intense eyes, their "beard", and tufts on their ears that make them seem more pointed. Legends about their extremely powerful sight abound, and in many languages "having the eyes of a lynx" means being extremely sharp-sighted and (in a figurative sense) being very acute-minded and perceptive. Despite all these alleged abilities, lynxes are only about twice the size of a largish house cat (except for the Eurasian lynx, which is easily twice the size of other three lynx species, the Iberian Lynx, the Canada Lynx, and the bobcat) and are totally harmless to humans (if not provoked). And they are now one of the most charismatic species in many European environmental projects, with the same prestige as wolves and brown bears. The most common American lynx is more precisely called Bobcat. Interesting to note that the lynx is the only cat (other than, obviously, the lion) to be represented in a constellation.
Ocelots:note Latin name leopardus pardalis Not nearly as large as most of the cats on this page, being closer in size to the domestic cat (they can apparently be kept as pets—Salvador Dali had one named Babou—though it's not advised like almost all wild felines), ocelots can currently be found in South America, though are now very rare in the US. Nevertheless they do show up every now and then. The smaller Margay from the same locations is often confused with this one.
Servalsnote Latin name leptailurus serval and Caracalsnote Latin name caracal caracal: Rather similar to the lynxes (especially Caracals) but with a tropical distribution ranging across Africa and, in the case of Caracals, in Asia as well. They are long-legged and more slender than other cats of similar size. Servals resemble miniaturized cheetahs, while caracals have a more cougar-like look but with lynx-like ears. The latter used to be domesticated in India.
Wild cats: There are several subspecies of them across the world, but the prototypal ones are the European Wild cat and the African Wild Cat. The former is one of the three felines native to the European environment and is very rare; the latter is the ancestor of our domestic friend. Both are technically the same species as the domestic cat; all three are subspecies of Felis silvestris. There are also several other species of wild cat not much larger than a housecat, such as the Central Asian manul or the South American jaguarundi.
Iriomote Cats: This cat is Japan's only native wild cat and it's highly endangered.
Saber-Toothed Cats:Not actually called saber-toothed tigers, but fit the motif. There were a large number of saber-toothed cats throughout the world at various geologic periods (along with scimitar-toothed cats, dirk-toothed cats, as well as Thylacosmilus, a marsupial carnivore that wasn't related to the cat family, but does slightly resemble one. Even an ancestor of mammals, Gorgonops, bore a sort of saber-tooth), but the one most familiar to people is Smilodon, and specifically Smilodon fatalis, a Pleistocene species that ranged down the west coast of the Americas as far south as Peru. Smilodon was about the size of a lion, but much more compact and muscular, kind of like a jaguar. The two enlarged canine teeth allowed the saber-tooth to hunt extremely large prey, but were very fragile and prone to breaking quite easily. If you want to make a present-day cat appear older, or just more Badass, you just need to add some overgrown fangs. Sabertooths were cats, being part of the Felidae family, but they belonged to a different branch of the cat family tree, and left no living descendants. And they're NOT to be confused with the Marvel supervillian of the same name.
Ligers: A hybrid of a female tiger and a male lionnote The opposite cross of a male tiger and a female lion is called a tigon and typically does not grow to exceptional size. Typically gets bigger than either of its parents, especially if the liger is male. Though long thought to be sterile, female ligers are capable of breeding. Their male counterparts aresterile, though. There are many other big cat hybrids that are possible, but ligers are the most famous and probably the most common, due to their impressive size. Unfortunately, the male liger does not have a mane, nor does a liger of either gender have markings as distinct as a tiger's. Fictional depictions may show them that way anyway, for obvious reasons.
See Cool Cat for when this applies to regular cats. Compare Big Badass Wolf for the canine version of this trope. Also note Our Gryphons Are Different, when big cats (specially lions) are mixed with other awe-inspiring creatures, the birds of prey. Despite the popular name, the Tasmanian Tiger (more accurately, the Thylacine) is not a cat, but a marsupial.
While this trope is about big cats, it should not be confused with Mega Neko, which is about cats that are exceptionally large for their species.
Also not to be confused with the metal group Pantera, which is indeed awesome.
In the Discworld fanfic Whys and Weres, the werewolves of Überwald realise - belatedly - that they are not the only were-creatures on the Disc. For, from out of Darkest Howondaland, the Leopard Society has stirred and come to town. And when a werewolf meets were-leopards, never has the phrase "they fight like cat and dog" been more appropriate....
In 2011 movie We Bought a Zoo: Although the movie is about zoo in general, the animal that gets the lion's share of the story focus is tigers. A male lion also makes an appearance. Jaguars are also mentioned but never showed.
The moor cats of Shannara are a fictional species resembling the panther with the ability to blend into their surroundings. They are a match for most of the franchise's monsters, including the werebeasts and the Shadowen.
In Kingdoms of Light by Alan Dean Foster, a spell transforms a bird, a terrier, a snake and three cats into humans to return color to the drab Kingdom of Gowlands after it was taken over by an evil warlock and his goblin hordes. During the Final Battle all the animals transform into larger wild animal counterparts of their respective species. The bird turns into a firebird, the terrier into a large wolfdog, the snake into a reticulated python, and the three cats into a lion, a panther, and a leopard respectively.
In Warrior Cats, the cats' mythology says that they're descended from a LionClan, TigerClan, and LeopardClan, and they have folk tales about these Clans (which Word Of God says are just stories - the big-cat Clans did not actually exist). One big cat does actually make an appearance in the series - a mountain lion that preys on the local cats, who have dubbed him "Sharptooth".
Super Sentai (and by extension, Power Rangers) that have any animal theme at all will have at least one big cat in the mix. Special notice goes to Gekiranger/Jungle Fury, in which "big cats" were the de facto theme: the three core Rangers had tiger, cheetah, and jaguar powers, the Big Bad was a lion, and one mentor type, Sha Fu/Master Mao, is apparently a caracal. The only exceptions were Kakuranger/Mighty Morphin' Season 3, the dinosaur-themed Abaranger/Dino Thunder and Kyoryuger, and bird-themed Jetman - though they did manage to throw a sabertooth into the other dinosaur season, Zyuranger/Mighty Morphin' Season 1.
The Bastet werecats from Werewolf The Apocalypse. There are nine tribes, each based on folk depictions of the animals. Simba werelions style themselves as natural leaders, Swara werecheetahs are messengers, Khan weretigers are warriors and heavily involved with the Hengeyokai, Bagheera werepanthers/leopards are judges/justice-dealers, Pumonca werecougars are travellers, Qualmi werelinxes are mystics/riddle-lovers, the Ceilican are faerie-touched Eurasian wildcats, and the Bubasti are mysterious Egyptian black cats. Unfortunately, the Bastet as a whole are difficult for players to portray. They're solitary by nature except for the Simba and Khan, but only in the context of an African or Asian setting. And like other Changing Breeds, they're an ill fit for the social dynamic of a werewolf pack. This does not stop players with Special Snowflake Syndrome from insisting on playing one.
The Lyran Empire in Star Fleet Battles names all its ship models after species of big cats, e.g. the Tiger cruiser, Saber-Toothed Tiger mauler, Cheetah frigate...
Transformers. Every group of animal-based 'bots will have at least one cat in the mix, sometimes breaking the only-one-of-each-type rule that most such teams would be expected to have. (The original Predacons have a lion and a tiger, the early Maximals have a tiger and a cheetah). Even several series with mostly vehicle types tend to have a kitty as one of the few animal-based 'bots.
Primal Rage's toyline had the, well, toyline only Slash Fang, a character who was supposed to show up in the cancelled sequel, and showed up in the novelization of the story. He's a giant two-legged sabretooth tiger, as his name implies.
In World of Warcraft, Druids can shapeshift into a cat form to do physical damage. The species the cat forms are based on varies by race, but Tauren become lions, Night Elves become panthers, Trolls become tigers, and Worgen become what appear to be mountain lions (their cat form is rather vague).
In Age Of Empires III the whole package of big cats appears with Asian Dynasties expansion. Jaguars, cougars, lions, tigers, white tigers, snow leopards and leopards, in the form of black panthers. They are all quite nasty to face, especially the ones available as trainable units.
In Age of Empires II The Conquerors you only have jaguars. And the elite unit of Aztec Civilization is Jaguar Warriors.
Primal Rage's cancelled sequel was to have a giant sabretooth tiger amongst the pantheon of pre-historic gods, named Slash Fang.
The Pink Panther, who would go under Black Panthers if he weren't, you know, pink.
The Mutates from Gargoyles were Xanatos and Sevarius's attempt to recreate the eponymous creatures via LEGO Genetics; they used DNA from various big cats as the best counterpart for a gargoyle's strength and agility, and the finished Mutates each resemble a different big cat- panther (Derek Maza/Talon), lioness (Maggie), mountain lion (Fang) and tiger (Claw).
HeMan: Cringer/Battlecat is a tiger, specifically an Eternian tiger which means his coat's background colour is green and his stripes are yellow.
The German Army has gotten in on the trope via Theme Naming of their armored vehicles: Pumas and Panthers and Tigers, oh my. Leopard II tanks are the most modern in the series. (The whole "big cat" thing might have something to with the fact that the German word for armor in general is panzer...) There was also a Lynx light recce tank in Hitler's menagerie. This trope is somewhat subverted in that - seemingly having run out of cat names - the very largest tank fielded by the Germans, at way over 100 tons, was called the Maus.
And a family of self-propelled artillery weapons - admittedly with 88mm or 105mm stings - were called the Wespe, Hornisse and the Hummel - Wasp, Hornet and Bumblebee.
Lions are a favorite heraldric symbol competing with eagles in popularity. Some heraldric artists Take a Third Option and use a Gryphon which is after all both an eagle and a lion so to speak. Venice used the "Lion of St Mark" (a winged lion) as a national symbol and England uses a Lion. You would think such conspicuously nautical powers would prefer a Marlin or some other badass nautical critter. No matter.
Unusually Badass Sherpas are honored with the title of "Tiger".
Whether it's positive or not, it's up to you: in Brazil, the nickname since 1979 for the income tax is "lion", originating from a campaign from the local IRS associating said tax with the animal.
Big Cat Diaries focuses on the lives of three real big cat families each season - a cheetah family, a lion pride and a leopard family. You get to see the real-life awesomeness of these cats in this show, although with just how hard it is to be a wild animal.
Digimon has some other examples that exist outside of the "running gag": notable ones include Baihumon, one of Digimon's Four Sovereigns; Mihiramon, the Tiger Deva from Digimon Tamers; Lynxmon, who is also on fire; and many, many more.
Leo Aioria from Saint Seiya wears the Leo Gold Cloth, based off the zodiac sign. His eyes and explosive personality are often compared to that of a lion, and he's nicnkamed "The Golden Lion".
The 1965 movie Clarence the Cross-eyed Lion and the 1966 spin-off TV show Daktari both featured Clarence, a male lion who happened to be cross-eyed. In the movie, he's captured after raiding the livestock of a village — it's discovered that due to his crossed eyes he sees double and cannot hunt wild game. He's taken to the local vet clinic and adopted by the veterinarian's daughter. The TV show focused more on the vet, his family, and dangers-of-the-week (often poachers or criminals trading in wild animals,) but Clarence was still a major character.
There was also another lion who was petrified for most of the first book. He eventually fights alongside Aslan in the final battle against the White Witch after being freed.
Born Free: book in 1960, film in 1966. A lioness, raised from a cub in captivity, is rehabilitated to life in the wild. In the late 50's the idea of rehabilitating captive animals for successful life in the wild was not widely accepted or attempted. The Adamsons may have been the first to try it.
David in Animorphs acquired this morph and for a while displaced Jake as the only big cat in the group. They even had a big cat showdown where David nearly killed Jake when Jake's usual bite-the-neck tactic didn't work thanks to the mane.
Liontaurs, the official race of the land of Tarna in Quest for Glory III. Most of them are badass warriors or mages and obsessed with honor and glory. One of the main characters of the game is Rakeesh the paladin, who is a sort of mentor to the hero.
In the Disney version of Robin Hood, Prince John and King Richard are depicted as lions (Richard with a mane, John without).
Lambert the Sheepish Lion wherein Lambert was mistakenly delivered to a flock of sheep by a confused stork and grows up thinking himself to be a funny-looking sheep until the day when he saves the flock from wolves.
Possibly North Eastern Africa, in the land bordering Eurasia. While still far removed from their normal habitats, hunting for food and being driven away by man could account for the journey and explain why he was found orphaned (parents killed, finally, after being driven so far South)
In Ranma 1/2 one of Gosunkugi's cunning plans to expose Ranma's fear of cats was to set a tiger on him. There is also the character of Lime who is descended from Tigers (on his mother's side).
Kotetsu T. Kaburagi from Tiger & Bunny has tigers as his Animal Motif. His name has the kanji for tiger in it; his superhero persona is Wild Tiger; the scriptwriter has stated that he had the tiger of the Chinese zodiac in mind when he wrote his character; he even has a tiger cellphone background.
Might Guy uses a move called Afternoon Tiger to defeat Kisame, which is a taijutsu move that fires a massive pressure bullet in the shape of a tiger's head.
Mr. Tawky Tawny in the Shazam franchise. He's an urbane and well mannered humanoid tiger who chooses to live in Human society. That said, if he is forced to fight, then he is deadly in combat with his strength, fangs and claws.
In The Jungle Book, Shere Khan is a Bengal tiger that was born with a withered leg, thus lacking the "fearful symmetry" of Blake's Tyger. He regards himself as the lord of tigers (apparently the meaning of his name) but is really a coward and a bully.
The second Winnie The Pooh book, The House at Pooh Corner, introduced Tigger, who is not vicious at all, but overly enthusiastic and, like Hobbes, fond of pouncing on those he likes. The fabled Jagular are not so friendly, though they are never actually seen.
Animorphs: Jake's preferred battle morph, and the only big cat in the main team.
The boss Fenrir in Final Fantasy XII appears as a large Behemoth-type enemy with the head and fur of a white tiger(in spite of being named after a giant wolf).
Altered Beast has the protagonist becoming a weretiger in one level.
Jagged Alliance 2 features Bloodclaws, huge wildcats roughly double the size of a normal tiger. Some characters shout "Tiger!" when they see one approaching. They are mostly encountered in wilderness sectors as well as in a arena of some sort, where they can be released from their cages. Bloodclaws, despite only being able to attack in close combat, are very dangerous enemies even for well-armed mercenaries. They are fast and take multiple hits to kill. Loading hollow-point ammunition is strongly advised.
The Legendary Pokémon Raikou shares quite a few traits of both Tigers and Saber Tooth Cats.
Cheetahs are in fact tameable, and were used for hunting by Arab nobility. It is not implausible to imagine an Arab princess developing an affection for a cheetah. A tiger like in Aladdin would be highly unlikely to say the least. Unless he was a magic tiger.
Chocolove (aka Joco) McDonnell in Shaman King has a jaguar spirit.
One episode of Pet Shop of Horrors featured a jaguar, in an episode about an underground South American terror cell seeking to overthrow the current regime and restore the glory of their ancient civilization. Complete with the ancient religion, which is where the jaguar came in: she was attached to the family of the cell's charismatic leader. At one point she fell out of a helicopter, and D jumped after her; they were rescued mid-air by a condor... yeah.
For the cover of a Rolling Stones album, a photographer planned on having Mick Jagger sitting in a convertible with a jaguar. This proved to be EXTREMELY dangerous, so they had to build a partition out of fiber glass to keep Mick (or maybe the jaguar?) safe. While this was happening, the photographer took a photo of the jaguar's face, then drew on his viewfinder where the jaguar's eyes and nose were. Then he took some shots of Mick on the same frame of the roll as he did the Jaguar. This is the result. This was before photoshop.
In The Jungle Book, Bagheera the black panther was born in captivity but escaped into the jungle, becoming one of its most feared and respected predators. His cunning and bravery make him one of the best teachers a young man-cub could ever want.
In Lynda Robinson's ancient Egyptian mysteries, King Tutankhamun is often accompanied by Sa, a black leopard, as a protector.
In Pokemon Black And White, Purrloin's evolution Liepard speaks for itself (although it's actually a leopard cat, not a leopard).
The Leopardmen in Quest for Glory III, who are a race of cunning shape changers and magic users who can make themselves appear as upright leopards and live in the dark jungle. They value intelligence and stealth and are proof that Dark Is Not Evil.
Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez from Bleach. His Zanpakutou name is 'Pantera', thus he turns into a bipedal panther-like humanoid. He gets black hands and feet, but the rest of his new form is standard Hollow white.
Ronan from Philippa Ballantine's Digital Magic has the Code Name "Panther" because he spends a lot of time in the form of a black panther. Turns out he's Puck from the first book, Chasing the Bard; the panther was one of his favorite forms.
King of Fightersboss Rugal Bernstein has a pet panther named Rodem which appears with him on occasion, and some comics also give him a very loose leopard motif. Similarly, fellow boss (Original) Zero has a genetically engineered black lion pet named Glaugan that also assists him in battle as a striker.
Rugal's children, Adel and Rose, have a pet panther kitten. Presumably it's Rodem's baby.
Panther Caroso of the Star Wolf Team from Star Fox.
In Quest for Glory I, monsters called Cheetaurs roam the forests at night, which actually are more like huge panther-creatures. There's also the cute little kitty owned by the old lady in town, that turns into a giant panther if you try to harm its owner.
Brütal Legend features ridable black panthers with Eye Beams. They're actually the most normal species in the game's setting.
Chronos "Evil" Lait from classic video game Golden Axe 3 arguably the most powerful character in the game, mainly due to his super move in which he lunges across the screen in an unstoppable and unblockable attack.
Pern's southern continent is home to large feline predators, which apparently derive from semidomesticated cheetahs released by the original colonists. As Pern's native terrestrial predators had mostly been wiped out by Thread, these cats had no competitors and could afford to evolve a greater body size.
In medieval Persia and India, tame cheetahs were status symbols, the equivalents of fast sports cars today. Kings, emperors, princes and high-ranking officials would keep cheetahs to hunt gazelles and deer. The Persians even taught cheetahs to ride on horseback behind their trainers until they got close enough to their prey. At one point Mughal princes would keep hundreds or even thousands of hunting cheetahs and the fastest cheetah of all would be treated like royalty herself and carried to the hunting grounds upon an elephant with musicians and trumpeteers announcing her arrival, while the less successful cheetahs would be kept hungry in order to make them more competitive. Unfortunately, since it's nearly impossible to breed cheetahs in captivity, this cheetah-hoarding resulted in making the cheetah extinct in India and nearly destroyed Iran's population entirely.
The Un Real World features the Lynx at top of the food chain. It is incredibly agile, resilient enough to shrug off a couple of arrows before approaching the hunter. It can kill an average person (including you, the protagonist) with a single blow, posing as a serious threat in a world where death is permanent. It is no surprise that Lynx fur is the most prized commodity by foreign merchants.
In P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath, heroine Jame has a hunting-cat, Jorin, as a Bond Creature. He's identified as an "ounce", which is in modern times generally associated with the snow leopard (uncia uncia), but the author has clarified that she means the older definition of that word, which applied to any spotted wild cat, and he's actually supposed to look like a serval. Jorin is blind from birth, but manages to see through the mind-link, borrowing his mistress' vision.
Played with in Tokyo Mew Mew. While Mew Ichigo's cat features technically come from the Iriomote yamaneko, a highly endangered mountain cat, this only matters to the actual story. Once she gains Shapeshifting (sort of) to transform into an animal, however, it seems to be a generic housecat. Granted, real Iriomote cats are about the size of a housecat and could easily be mistaken as one, especially if one didn't expect to see an endangered wildcat...
Great Sabrecats are a staple monster of the Dragon Quest series, but can also be befriended in a few of them. A Great Sabrecat cub is the first monster to join you in Dragon Quest V, and the reward for a sidequest in Dragon Quest VIII is a bell that summons a sabrecat for your character to ride on, multiplying your movement speed on the world map tenfold.