common name: margaykingdom: animalia phylum: chordata (vertebrata)class: mammaliaorder: carnivorafamily: felidaegenus: strong>felinae (leopardus)species: wiedii
misc: of all the cats, the margay is the most adapted for a true arboreal life. It is the only cat that possesses the ability to rotate its hind legs 180°, allowing it to run upside down through trees like squirrels. it can also hang from a branch by one hind leg!
Size and appearance: This cat is often confused with its close relatives, the ocelot and the oncilla. their coats are very similar and, like the others, the margay has a reddish background patterned with rosettes with black rings and elongated spots. the coat is thick and luxurious, and its tail is quite long, averaging 70% of the length of the head and body. the tail is used as a counterweight to aid in balance. In terms of size, the margay is right between the ocelot and the oncilla, weighing between 9 and 20 pounds and reaching a length of 34 to 52 inches. the margay also has extremely large eyes, which aid in its night vision.
habitat: the tigrillo is associated with forest habitat, both deciduous and evergreen. they have occasionally been seen in shaded cocoa or coffee plantations and riparian forests.
Distribution: Mexico, Amazon basin, Argentina, Uruguay, Belize and Brazil. extinct in texas, united states
reproduction and offspring: after a gestation period of approximately 76-84 days, females produce a litter of 1 pup. they weigh between 2.75 and 6 ounces at birth and open their eyes at around 2 weeks of age. they are weaned at around 2 months of age, with captive females reaching sexual maturity at around 6-10 months, although they may not breed for several months after that.
in captivity, margays have lived up to 20 years.
social system and communication: unknown.
Hunting and Diet: This cat’s primary diet consists of small arboreal mammals such as big-eared climbing rats, squirrels, opossums, small birds, porcupines, marmosets, capuchins, three-toed sloths, birds and even fruits. its terrestrial diet consists of various rats and guinea pigs.
Main Threats: The greatest threat has been the exploitation of their fur for the fur trade, which reached figures of 14,000 per year. that number is thought to be vastly underestimated, as it was rarely verified from which spotted cat the furs originated. unfortunately, in some areas, illegal hunting for internal markets or the clandestine fur trade still presents a problem for this little cat. however, its greatest threat today is the deforestation of its natural habitat. due to the inability of the margay to produce large litters (or litters with multiple births!) combined with the fact that they only breed once every 2 years and the kitten mortality rate is 50%, their prospects for survival , both in the wild and in captivity , is grim.
status: citation: appendix i. iucn: insufficiently known.
feline tag recommendation: margay (leopardus wiedii). Although popular with zoos and private owners, the margay is more difficult to breed than other small spotted Neotropical cats. the current population in North American zoos is probably not viable. given its conservation status and the lack of captive breeding in range country zoos, phasing out of this species is recommended.
How weird is this cat? The International Species Information Service lists 64 worldwide, 26 of which are in the US. uu.
Information reprinted with permission from the IUCN Feral Cat Book.