The distinctive cloud-shaped markings of their coats make clouded leopards unmistakable. The fur is marked with elliptical blotches of a darker color than the background and the posterior edge of each blotch is partially framed in black. The blotches sit on a background field that varies from yellowish brown to dark gray. The muzzle is white and solid black spots mark the forehead and cheeks. The ventral side and limbs are marked with large, black ovals. Two solid black bars run from behind the ears along the back of the neck down to the shoulder blades and the bushy, thick tail is ringed in black. In juveniles, lateral spots are solid, not clouded. These will change by the time the animal is approximately six months old.
Adults usually weigh between 18 and 22 kilograms and stand at 50 to 60 centimeters at the shoulder. The head-body length is between 75 and 105 centimeters, and the tail length is between 79 and 90 centimeters, which is nearly as long as the body itself. There is no marked sexual dimorphism in clouded leopards, although females are slightly smaller. The legs are relatively short compared to other Felidae, with the hind limbs being longer than the fore limbs. The ankles have a wide range of motion and the feet are large and padded with retractile claws. As in other members of the family Felidae, the radius and the ulna are not fused, which allows for greater independence of motion. Clouded leopards have a digitigrade stance.
The skull is long and narrow compared to other felids and has well-developed crests to support the jaw muscles. Clouded leopards have the longest canine teeth relative to head and body size of any of the felids; canines can reach four centimeters or longer. A wide diastema lies between the premolars and canines, and individuals are often missing their first premolar.
The nose pad is pink and sometimes has small black spots, and the ears are short and round. The iris of the eye is usually brownish yellow or grayish green, and the pupils contract into vertical slits. (Beacham and Beltz, 1998; IUCN, 1996; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002; The Clouded Leopard Project, 2008)
- Beacham, W., K. Beltz. 1998. Beacham's Guide to International Endangered Species, Vol. 2. Osprey, Florida: Beacham Publishing Corp..
- Sunquist, M., F. Sunquist. 2002. Wild Cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.