Recently, the tiger-cat species complex was split into Leopardus tigrinus and Leopardus guttulus, along with other proposed schemes. We performed a detailed analysis integrating ecological modeling, biogeography, and phenotype of the four originally recognized subspecies—tigrinus, oncilla, pardinoides, guttulus—and presented a new multidimensional niche depiction of the species. Species distribution models used > 1400 records from museums and photographs, all checked for species accuracy. Morphological data were obtained from institutional/personal archives. Spotting patterns were established by integrating museum and photographic/camera-trap records. Principal component analysis showed three clearly distinct groups, with the Central American specimens (oncilla) clustering entirely within those of the Andes, namely the pardinoides group of the cloud forests of the southern Central-American and Andean mountain chains (clouded tiger-cat); the tigrinus group of the savannas of the Guiana Shield and central/northeastern Brazil (savanna tiger-cat); and the guttulus group in the lowland forests of the Atlantic Forest domain (Atlantic Forest tiger-cat). This scheme is supported by recent genetic analyses. All species displayed different spotting patterns, with some significant differences in body measurements/proportions. The new distribution presented alarming reductions from the historic range of − 50.4% to − 68.2%. This multidimensional approach revealed a new species of the elusive and threatened tiger-cat complex.