Guigna, Chilean cat, Guiña, Huiña
The kodkod is a secretive animal the size of a very small house cat, and, along with the oncilla, is one of the southern hemisphere’s smallest cats. Its tiny body has grayish-brown to buff fur, covered with many small black spots that will sometimes create broken streaks on its head and neck. The small head has low-set ears, black at the rear, with a central white spot. Its short tail is bushy and has narrow, black bands. Its rather large feet suggest its ability to climb.
The kodkod lives only in Argentina and Chile: in a small part of the eastern slopes of the Argentinean Andes and in Chile’s central and southern regions, including the Chiloé Islands and the Guaitecas Archipelago. They are most prevalent in coastal regions. The typical sort of forest they inhabit includes deciduous temperate moist forests, evergreen temperate rainforests, coniferous forests and sclerophyllous scrub. These forest habitats all include complex canopy layers, lianas, bamboo, and epiphytes.
Habits and lifestyle
Kodkods are arboreal animals and generally climb when seeking shelter, safety from a pursuing animal, or lookout from which to find prey. Primarily they are nocturnal, although they are also active during the day. They rest within dense vegetation, often hidden within almost impenetrable bamboo. Males occupy large areas, overlapping the smaller territories of one or several females. They are solitary carnivores. Due to their rarity and their secretive nature, there is hardly any information about communication and perception. Kodkods have excellent senses of sight, hearing, and smell, like most small cats. It is likely that they use chemical cues for communication, in addition to vocalizations, body posture, and tactile cues.
destruction (wild cats), clowder, clutter, pounce
Diet and nutrition
Kodkods are carnivores, eating mostly small rodents, reptiles, large insects, birds, and domestic poultry.
Due to the rarity of kodkods, there is little information about their mating systems. They seem to be polygynous, as the males’ larger home ranges may indicate that they travel widely searching for multiple mates. A breeding season has not been reported for kodkods. The litter sizes range between 1 and 4 kittens, and gestation is from 72 to 78 days. Females probably raise the young on their own. Gestation and lactation receive significant investment, and they may provide an extended care period for the young, and teach them to hunt before their offspring become independent. Both males and females reach sexual maturity at about 24 months old.
The kodkod is under most threat in central Chile, as a result of forest habitat being cleared for logging and agriculture, causing a decline in the numbers. The kodkod’s fur has been sold in local markets and it is sometimes killed in some areas, as it is thought to attack poultry and livestock.
The IUCN Red List gives the total number of Kodkod mature individuals as 5,980- 92,092. Numbers have been estimated for every geographic group: the northern group has 1,600-24,640 mature individuals; the central group: 1,000-15,400 mature individuals; the Lake District group: 1,800-27,720 mature individuals; Chiloé Island group: 180-2,772 mature individuals; Argentinean group: 1,000-15,400 mature individuals; Laguna San Rafael group: 400-6,160 mature individuals. Overall this species’ population is decreasing today and it is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List.
Fun facts for kids
- The kodkod’s common name has come from the Araucanian Indians. In Chile and Argentina “guigna” is the common name.
- Kodkods are excellent climbers and can climb trees that are 3 feet in diameter.
- Melanistic forms of kodkods, which are completely black, are commonly found in the wild.
- The Kodkod’s excellent sense of smell is used to seek food and avoid predators.
- Some biologists have suggested that the kodkod may, in fact, be a subspecies of Geoffroy’s cat, which is more numerous.
- Cat tongues are rough due to being covered with rows of bumps, called papillae, for scraping meat off bones and hair off hides. These papillae also help to hold water on a cat’s tongue when it drinks.
- The pupils of the small cats, including the kodkod, close to vertical slits, whereas the pupils of the big cats close to circles, like humans’ pupils.
- Across the top of the nose, right above their wet tip, small cats all feature a little strip of leathery skin, whereas in big cats, this part is covered with fur.
- Big cats like to stretch out at rest, but small ones prefer to curl up with paws tucked under them and the tail wrapped around the body.