Captive populations of small cats are often comprised of fewer than 50 animals that are widely dispersed geographically, making them difficult to study in scientifically meaningful numbers. This paper reviews the progress that has been made in reproductive research and describes how it can be applied to the conservation of small felids. The domestic cat serves as a general reproductive research ‘model’ for felids but normative databases of individual species are still required. Fundamental physiological studies included a 2 year survey of the reproductive status of 186 ♂ felids in Latin American Zoos. Almost 60% of cats produced fewer than 1 000 000 total sperm per ejaculate and several species, including the Margay Leopardus wiedii, Little spotted cat Leopardus tigrinus and Jaguarundi Herpailurus yaguarondi, had low percentages (<40%) of structurally normal spermatozoa. This type of survey can highlight management or husbandry problems which may contribute to poor reproduction. Basic physiological information is essential to developing and applying assisted reproductive techniques, such as ovulation induction, artificial insemination (AI), in vitro fertilization, embryo transfer (ET) and genome resource banking.