Known as the most colourful cat because the colour of this cute predator varies between grey and red, regardless of where the cat lives. Shades can vary widely and mix.
Jaguarundis are sometimes confused with weasels, by the similarity of body proportions. Both species have short paws, long neck and elongated muzzle.
Cats tend to be red, chestnut brown, but also yellow, grey and black. They may have a lighter face and all have grey hair tips and a short and shiny coat. However, they have no marks, unlike most cats, but a uniform coat – with few possible exceptions.
They have a very wide nose and tiny, round ears. A very long and fluffy tail helps them climb trees.
Jaguarundis are found in Central, North and South America, but are not thoroughly known because of their shyness. They live in savannas, various types of forests, as well as swamps and banks of water reservoirs. They prefer open spaces rather than dense vegetation. They can also swim well, hence their liking for wet areas.
The jaguarundi is active only during the day, and sleeps at night, hidden in the crowns of trees. Thanks to this, it limits its contact with ocelots and margays that are active during the night. However, it is not able to avoid competition with these predators and often falls victim to them. In areas where they live together, ocelots have a larger population.
The jaguarundi hunts for small reptiles, rodents and birds. Sometimes it is tempted by a larger prey like a rabbit or a vegetarian fish. It hunts, having four paws on the ground or in the air because it can jump two meters up and catch a carelessly flying bird.
Although it likes lonely life and its own piece of land, the jaguarundi is not aggressive towards its own species. It can spend time with another cat when it wants to. In relations with humans, jaguarundis are timid and shy.
The jaguarundi marks the area with urine and by scratching the ground. They do not have a mating season. Females tempt the males with the right fragrance in their best time to get pregnant. Reproduction for both sexes is possible around the age of three.
Mother chooses a thick grass, a cave or an empty tree trunk, where small jaguarundis are born into this world. Different-coloured kittens have spots on the underside of the body and do not leave the hideout chosen by their mother for a month. They are interested in meat as soon as in the third week of life, but completely reject mother’s milk in about sixth week.
The jaguarundi can extract from its slender body about thirteen different vocalizations from purring and whistling to barking. They can call, greet, and warn other creatures.
Jaguarundis are useful to humans as they hunt for rats, mice and rabbits that are pests. That’s why people rarely hunt for them on purpose. It happens, however, that they fall into human traps set for other species.
The biggest threat to them is the loss of lands and prey. Population density is rare from 0.05/km2 (0.1/mi2) to 0.2/km2 (0.5/mi2) in the richest places. Despite being adapted to diverse areas, even close to people, it is not easy to see the jaguarundi at large.
Sometimes people domesticate the jaguarundi because of its gentle nature, exceptional hunting skills and size that is not much bigger than that of a domestic cat. Jaguarundi is protected in most areas, but its population is falling.
Author: Małgorzata Banaszkiewicz
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