Geoffroy's ocelot, Gato Montes (cat of the mountains)
Geoffroy's cats are amongst the earth’s smallest wildcats and are about the same size as a domestic cat. Usually, those living in the south of their range are bigger than those in the north, with males being larger than females. The fur has many black spots, but its background color varies between regions: a coat of brownish-yellow is most common in the north, whereas farther south it is grayish. The tail and limbs have dark banks, with similar markings on the cat’s cheeks and the top of its head and neck. Melanistic (dark) forms seem fairly common, mostly in wetland or forested areas.
Geoffroy’s cats occur in the south of South America in the Pampas, Andes, and Gran Chaco areas. They live primarily along rivers within thick scrubby vegetation. Some live in savannas and open woodlands, marshes and sometimes grasslands, but not in open areas.
Habits and lifestyle
The Geoffroy’s cat is mainly nocturnal, but does hunt at dawn and dusk. They like water and are keen swimmers. Secretive and solitary, this animal spends much time in the tree. These cats are very agile, and can walk along the underside of branches. Males and females interact very little, really only to mate. The range of a female is about 2.5 square km and will overlap with other females’ ranges but not with those of males, which have larger ranges than females. Geoffroy’s cats communicate via purrs, hisses, snarls, calls, and growl sounds. Tactile and visual communication, is probably also used, especially between mothers and their young.
destruction (wild cats), clowder, clutter, pounce
Diet and nutrition
Geoffroy’s cats are hunters, and will eat a wide variety of animals, mainly birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, wild guinea pigs, rodents, hares, small agoutis, and other small mammals.
Geoffroy’s cats are polygynous, which means that one male mates with multiple females. The male will mate with most of those females within his protected range. The mating season takes place from December to May. Gestation lasts for 67-78 days and females can produce one litter per year of one to four kittens. The mother gives birth inside a den which could be a rock crevice, bushes or a nook up in a tree. The kittens are born blind, their eyes opening within 8-12 days. The kittens develop quickly, being able to stand at around four days old, start to walk when two or three weeks old and climb fearlessly by six weeks. The females alone raise the young, and nurse them until about 8 weeks old. The kittens are independent of their mother after about 8 months. Males do not help with rearing the young. Females are sexually mature when 18 months old, and males at the age of 2 years.
The greatest threat to Geoffroy's cats is human disturbance of their habitat due to deforestation, and over-hunting for the fur trade.
According to the IUCN Red List, Geoffroy’s cat is relatively common throughout most of its range but there are no estimates of population size. This species’ numbers are stable and currently it is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Geoffroy’s cat is very opportunistic as regards its diet, so it helps control small wild animal populations. It has a wide range, thus helping to control populations of various small vertebrates throughout a large part of South America.
Fun facts for kids
- Geoffroy’s cat was named after Geoffroy St. Hilaire, a 19th-century French naturalist who worked in the field of evolutionary theory, his travels taking him to South America. There are four animals that bear his name: the cat, a tamarin, a spider monkey, and a bat.
- Unusual among cats, these cats are known to get up on their back legs in order to scan their surroundings, for which they use their tail to support them.
- Geoffroy’s cats are good swimmers and regularly swim, and have been observed frequently swimming in fast flowing rivers that are 100 feet wide.
- The Geoffroy’s cat and the domestic cat have successfully bred together, to create the hybrid of the safari cat.
- Geoffroy’s cats like the water and sometimes are known as “fishing cats”.
- Geoffroy’s cats hunt in trees, in water and on the ground.
- The male cat looks after perimeter of its territory which may include several females. Smaller and weaker males are not able to protect their own territory, and unfortunately for these individuals, neither will they be capable of providing a home for mating and reproducing purposes.