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Are Bears Related To Cats? (Here’s Where They Differ)

are bears related to cats?
Image: A bearcat

Bears aren’t closely related to cats at all. However, both species belong to the Carnivora order of mammals. That means both bears and cats have some similarities.

Both have fur, are warm-blooded, are born alive, have complex brain structures, and feed milk to their young. They both inherited all these traits from a common ancestor, the miacid, over 33 million years ago. But that’s where the similarities between bears and cats end.

Just because they have a common ancestor, this doesn’t mean they are related. Many animals are descendants of the miacid, including dogs, cougars, seals, raccoons, hyenas, and many more.

Are Bears Related To Cats?

To answer whether bears are related or linked to cats, one must take a quick walk down the evolutionary lane. Zoologists classify the inhabitants of the animal kingdom based on the classification of Carl Linnaeus – a Swedish botanist.

Both cats and bears belong to class Mammalia (mammals) and the order of Carnivora. However, that’s pretty much all cats and bears have in common.

The suborders of both species are distinct. Bears fall under the suborder Caniformia (dog-like carnivores) and cats belong to Feliformia (cat-like carnivores):

Black BearDomestic Cat
KingdomAnimaliaAnimalia
PhylumChordataChordata
ClassMammaliaMammalia
OrderCarnivoraCarnivora
Sub-OrderCaniformiaFeliformia
FamilyUrsidaeFelidae
GenusUrsusFelis
SpeciesU. americanusF. catus

This means cats and bears are very different species and have been for many millions of years. This is why there are some big physical and behavioral differences between the two.

Related: Are Bears Felines?

Is The Bear-Cat An Actual Animal?

bear cat

Surprisingly enough, the Bear-Cat is an actual real-life species of animal. Its scientific name is ‘Arctictis binturong,’ and it’s native to India, the Philippines, and Bangladesh.

Bear-cats or binturongs have stout legs and heavy, stretched-out bodies. The fur coat consists of thick and black hair, and they also possess prehensile tails.

Read More: Do Bears Have Tails? (And Why!)

People who’ve seen binturongs up close state their bodies look a bit like a bear’s. However, the animal’s face with its short muzzle and upturned nose more closely resembles a cat. That’s where the name bear-cat comes from.

black bear
Image: A black bear

The name is misleading, though, because the animal’s not linked to either species. In fact, binturongs belong to the Viverridae family of Feliformia that includes multiple species of civets.

Another fun fact about the species is that they smell similar to buttered popcorn to humans. That’s because binturongs have scent glands under their tail that they use to mark their territories – and that’s what produces the strange odor.

FAQs

Are Bears Related To Lions?

lion
Image: A lion

Lions and bears have some obvious similarities. Both species are strongly built, prey on other animals to survive, and have incredible endurance.

There are other likenesses between the two species, too. For instance, both lions and bears belong to the Carnivora order of animal classification. As the name suggests, that means both animals are meat-eaters.

However, unlike lions, not all bears are exclusively carnivores. Five out of eight bear species are classed as omnivores, including Brown bears, Spectacled bears, Sun bears, grizzly, and black bears.

Only the Polar bear comes close to being an exclusive carnivore from the bear family. That’s also part of the reason why bears and lions are considered two distinct animal species.

polar bear
Image: A polar bear

Lions belong to the superfamily ‘Feliformia’ within the Carnivora order, whereas bears are part of the ‘Caniformia’ sub-family. The Feliformia sub-division means lions are different from bears because of physiological differences and behavioral characteristics.

For example, lions are social animals. They form and live in groups called ‘prides’ that have a unique hierarchy. Conversely, bears are solitary creatures and will generally only be found in pairs when mating or rearing their young.

Regarding specific physiological differences, lions have shorter snouts than bears, have fewer teeth, and have specialized upper and lower teeth (more suited to shearing meat).

Are Grizzly Bears Related To Cougars?

cougar
Image: A cougar

The wilderness of North America contains some truly awe-inspiring apex predators. These include Grizzly bears and Cougars (aka mountain lions).

Their fierce nature, shared territory, and carnivorous leanings have led to some people questioning if there’s a possible relation between the two species.

However, much like lions and bears, there’s little to no association between Grizzlies and Cougars. The main parallel between the two species is that they belong to the Carnivora order of the Animalia kingdom.

The two species also share specific traits, such as being highly protective of their territories and young. Aside from that and their feared reputation among hikers – the two species don’t have any genetic or evolutionary relations.

Hikers and natives of the area have reported seeing the two species face off at times. But that’s to be expected when dealing with far roaming animals like Grizzlies and Mountain lions.

Related Article: Are Bears Related to Dogs and Wolves?

Are Bears Related To Tigers?

tiger
Image: A tiger

Readers holding out hope that bears are somehow related to cuddly cats through the rather un-cuddly tiger species – sorry to disappoint – bears aren’t associated with tigers either.

Tigers have the same classification as lions, right up to the genus, which is Panthera. The only difference between lions and tigers is, you guessed it – the species.

Imagine it. If lions and tigers with much more in common than tigers and bears are distinct species, how can the latter be linked with different sub-orders and genera?

A few things that tigers and bears have in common are being vertebrates, mammals, and carnivores. One can also say their territorial and solitary nature is something both species share, but that’s all there is to it.

See Also: Are Bears Related to Wolves?

Related: Are Bears Related to Pigs?

Conclusion

Bears and cats share barely any physical traits and behavioristic characteristics – except being mammals and carnivores. There’s no genetic or evolutionary link between the two species.

Be it bears and lions, tigers, or cougars – their sub-order diverges with Caniformia and Feliformia classification. That means these two species are absolutely distinct from each other.

Perhaps the only link the people have managed to find between bears and cats is the binturong (aka bear-cat), but even that’s not much to boast about because bear-cats are more closely related civets.

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