Meaning of Puma in the US
In the United States, a puma is regarded as a cougar minus ten years; she is defined as a woman in her 30s who prefers dating younger men. Hollywood celebrity Jennifer Aniston has long been associated with the term due to her relationships with younger men such as John Mayer (9 years younger) and her widely publicized starring role in the as-yet-to-be-made film "Pumas" which centers on two thirtysomething women who make a habit of romancing younger men.
Demi Moore, in an interview with W magazine in March 2010 (at age 47), expressed her displeasure with the cougar label and said, "I'd prefer to be called a puma," referring to her (now defunct) marriage to Ashton Kutcher who is 16 years younger than Moore.
Despite Moore's attempt to use the terms interchangeably, a puma is widely regarded as a woman under 40 who prefers younger men while the cougar label is applied to women in their 40s and 50s who seek out younger male companions who are at least 10 years younger and often half their age.
Meaning of Puma in the UK
In Great Britain, journalist Hanna Betts describes a puma as "a single woman in pursuit of a mature partner with experience under his belt. Think 29-year-old PR Amanda Sheppard, who recently ensnared pop pensioner Bryan Ferry, 66."
This new definition of puma seems to have surfaced with the release of a study in February 2012 -- commissioned by UK matchmaking website The Picnic Project -- on what women want in a man. According to The Picnic Project, "These 'Pumas' - so called because they're interested in dating Previously Married and Attractive men - hail a new trend in women seeking experience over youth."
The idea that divorced men who have lived, loved and lost will treat their potential mates with more sensitivity, care, and understanding than younger men appears to have caught on in the UK; the Daily Mail Online, drawing from The Picnic Project's findings, concludes "more than half a million women would rather date a mature divorced man than someone younger than them. And 48,000 single British women are actively seeking men with a failed marriage behind them."
The Daily Mail cites Paul McCartney’s third wife Nancy Shevell as a puma. Shevell -- who is 51 -- is 17 years younger than the former Beatle.
While the image of the puma as a single woman interested in an older, experienced and possibly divorced man seems to be growing in the UK, there is no evidence that this new meaning is embraced or even recognized in the US.
Betts, Hannah. "Cougar? Puma? Women looking for love don’t deserve to be pilloried." The Telegraph www.telegraph.co.uk. 3 February 2012.
Carroll, Helen Why divorced men are suddenly such a catch: They may be second-hand but they’re domesticated, grown-up and not scared of commitment." DailyMail.co.uk. 22 February 2012.
Demi Moore: I"d Prefer To Be Called A Puma." Huffingtonpost.com. 18 March 2010.
"Forget the Cougars - Here Come the PUMAs." PRNewswire.com. 2 February 2012.
McNary, Dave. "Jennifer Aniston to star in 'Pumas.'"Variety.com. 29 July 2009.