The Cat SG was founded in 1971 at a meeting of international cat specialists at the Lion Safari in Florida. Professor Paul Leyhausen of the Max Planck Institute for Behavioural Physiology in Germany was elected Chairman, and held the chair until 1982. He was succeeded by Dr Norman Myers, a British conservation scientist.
In 1983 Peter Jackson, a British specialist on the tiger, was appointed to the Chair, and held this position until his retirement in 2000, while remaining an active member of the group. He was succeeded by Swiss carnivore specialists, Drs Urs and Christine Breitenmoser.
In 1996, the Cat SG's major work, "Wild Cats: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan" (IUCN 1996), was published. It became a standard reference on the natural history of the cats.
Cat News, a newsletter for Cat SG members and for others interested in wild cats, was launched in 1984. The bi-annual publication includes scientific papers and news reports. The Cat News are included in major reference lists and are cited in many publications on the wild cats.
In 2000, when Peter Jackson retired, he donated his library to the Cat Specialist Group. In 2002, the Digital Cat Library, the electronic version of documents relevant to cat conservation, went online. In 2005, the Cat Specialist Group Webportal together with its family of adjoined Websites went online.
In 2014, the updated version of the Cat Specialist Group Web Portal has been launched.