Other Names
otter cat (English)
jaguarondi (French)
Yaguarundi, Wieselkatze, Eyra (German)
yaguarundi, onza, gato moro, gato eyra (Spanish)
halari (Belize)
maracaja-preto, gato-preto, gato mourisco (Brazil, Uruguay)
gato griz (Bolivia)
gato pardo, gato servante, ulama (Colombia)
leon breñero (Costa Rica, Peru)
jaguarondi, chat noir (French Guiana)
tejón, mbaracaya-eira (Guatemala)
  • Description and Behavior

  • Biology

  • Habitat and Distribution

  • Population Status

  • Protection Status

  • Principal Threats

  • References

  • Action Planning

  • gato cerban (Honduras)
    kakicoohish (Kekchi)
    ekmuch (Mayan)
    tigrillo congo, tigrillo negro (Panama)
    leoncillo, anushi-puma (Peru)
    boesikati (Surinam)
    gato cervantes (Venezuela)

    Description and Behavior
    The jaguarundi has a distinctly weasel-like appearance, with its elongated slender body, short legs, and sleek unpatterned fur. The jaguarundi also differs from the other small cats of Latin America by its elongated rather than rounded head (Eisenberg 1990). Reported adult weights range from 2-9 kg (Mondolfi 1986, Guggisberg 1975). In Belize, two males averaged 5.9 kg and two females 4.4 kg (Konecny 1989). There are three different color forms, which may sometimes occur in the same area or even the same litter (Konecny 1989, Brooks 1992) -- black, brownish grey, and red. In general, however, the darker colors are most commonly associated with inhabitants of rainforest habitats, while the paler color is found most frequently in drier environments (Emmons 1990). The red form was once considered a separate species F. eyra (Fischer, 1814).

    It has been suggested that the jaguarundi prefers to hunt ground-dwelling birds rather than mammals (Gaumer 1917, Leopold 1959, Hall and Dalquest 1963), and analysis of 23 stomachs from Venezuela (Mondolfi 1986, Bisbal 1986) shows that birds are frequently caught (found in 54-70% of the stomachs). Rodents, rabbits and reptiles were also found in 40-51% of the stomachs. In Belize, scat analysis indicated that arthropods are frequently eaten (remains found in 72% of scats); birds occurred in 22% of scats and rodents in 95% (Konecny 1989). Jaguarundis have also been observed to prey upon characid fish stranded in a puddle (Manzani and Monteiro 1989).

    Rengger (1830) suggested that the solid coat of the jaguarundi is probably associated with the fact that these cats hunt more diurnally or terrestrially than spotted felids. While nocturnal activity (as well as arboreal foraging) is occasionally observed (Leopold 1959, Guggisberg 1975, McCarthy 1992), Konecny’s (1989) radiotelemetry study of four jaguarundis in Belize found the period of peak activity to be 0400-1100, with only residual activity (movements of less than 100 m/hr) after sunset. Jaguarundis have been frequently observed travelling or foraging in pairs (Rengger 1830, Guggisberg 1975, McCarthy 1992).

    Estrus (C):
    3.17±0.75 days (n=6)

    Estrus Cycle (C):
    53.63±2.41 days (n=8: Mellen 1989)

    70-75 days (Hulley 1976, P. Andrews in litt. 1993)

    Litter Size (C):
    1.83±0.24 (n=12: Mellen 1989); range 1-4 (Hulley 1976)

    Age at Sexual Maturity (C):
    2-3 years (Hulley 1976, P. Andrews in litt. 1993)

    Longevity (C):
    Up to 15 years (Prator et al. 1988)

    Habitat and Distribution
    A cat of the lowlands not generally found above 2,000 m (Vaughan 1983), the jaguarundi otherwise occupies a broad range of both open and closed habitats -- from dry scrub, swamp and savanna woodland to primary forest. In Venezuela, it has been most frequently collected in tropical dry forest, relative to other habitat types (Bisbal 1989). Jaguarundis are more rare and thinly distributed in moist forest types, especially deep rainforest (Konecny 1989, L. Emmons in litt. 1993). Jaguarundis have been reported to prefer forest edges and secondary brush communities (Bourlière 1955, Mondolfi 1986), but this may be because it is in such areas that these primarily diurnal cats are most frequently seen. In Belize’s Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Konecny (1989) found that jaguarundis are most frequently associated with riparian and old field habitats. Access to dense ground vegetation appears to determine habitat suitability for the jaguarundi, but of all the small New World felids, it is most flexible in its ability to occupy diverse environments (Figure 16)

    Population Status
    Global: Category 5c
    Regional: Category 5
    IUCN: Not Listed

    The jaguarundi appears to be relatively common over much of its range (Koford 1976, Vaughan in press) although, while present throughout the Amazon basin rainforest, it is more rare in this habitat type (L. Emmons in litt. 1993). The jaguarundi may now be extinct in Uruguay (Thornback and Jenkins 1982), and is very rare in the south-western United States near the Rio Grande (Tewes and Everett 1986).

    In Belizean rainforest, home ranges for male jaguarundis were very large (Konecny 1989), several times larger than those reported for sympatric jaguars weighing nearly 10 times more (Rabinowitz and Nottingham 1986). One female used a home range that varied between 13-20 km2, while two males used home ranges of 100 and 88 km2. The home ranges of the two males overlapped less than 25%. Both sexes exhibited a pattern of using different, widely spaced portions of their ranges for irregular periods of time, rather than making regular boundary patrols (Konecny 1989).

    Protection Status
    Protection Status: CITES Appendix II; Central and North American populations Appendix I since 1987

    National Legislation:
    Protected over much of its range

    Hunting Prohibited:
    Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, French Guiana, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Uruguay, United States, Venezuela

    Hunting Regulated:

    No Legal Protection:
    Brazil, Nicaragua, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guyana (Fuller et al. 1987)

    Principal Threats
    Generally not exploited for commercial trade, although jaguarundis are doubtless caught in traps set for commercially valuable species and may be subject to low intensity hunting pressure around settled areas. They are notorious for predation on domestic poultry (Rengger 1830, Alvarez del Toro 1952, Leopold 1959, Hall and Dalquest 1963, Goodwyn 1970, Koford 1976, Ferrari et al. 1984, Bisbal 1986, McCarthy 1992).

    © 1996 IUCN - The World Conservation Union