The spotted pattern of leopards helps camouflage them in several ways. The pattern of dark and light helps break up their visual outline, so they don't stand out so glaringly against the background. The spots resemble the shaded areas the cats usually inhabit, such as dappled forest floors or grasslands, says the University of California's Science Line.
Leopards also tend to be lighter or darker in their basic color depending on the local habitat, says the British Broadcasting Corporation. Snow leopards are an extreme example of this change in basic color – their base color is very pale to match the snow-covered areas they inhabit, states Defenders of Wildlife. Another extreme example of changing base color is the black leopard. Black leopards are quite common in the very dark, dense tropical rain forests of Asia.
The leopard's camouflage is crucial to its survival, says the BBC. They feed by hiding and catching prey that wanders too close. If a leopard were easily detected by prey, it would quickly starve to death. Leopards are also targeted by lions. If lions can detect and catch leopards, the lion often wins. The two species may be at odds because they compete for the same food sources.