Pampas cats have the appearance of heavy set domestic cats. Their fur varies from soft and thick in colder areas to straw-like and thin in warmer climates. The color ranges from grayish-yellow and yellowish-white to brown, gray brown, light gray and silvery gray. Their underparts are cream or whitish, and are marked with black or brown spots. The coat may have red gray streaks or spots or may have almost no markings except for some brown bands on its legs and tail. Typically its front and back legs have distinctive bands of brown, and its short, bushy tail has somewhat indistinct black or brown rings. Long hairs on its back stand up when the cat is frightened or nervous, making the cat appear much larger than it really is.
Pampas cats inhabit south-western South America and are found in scrub thicket or open woodland; cloud forest; cold, semi-arid areas of desert; floodplains, low-lying swamps, and mountainous slopes.
Habits and lifestyle
Pampas cats are predominantly terrestrial and nocturnal. But individual animals have been seen during the day in the wild. Although it is not considered arboreal, these cats are very good tree climbers, and do this if feeling threatened. Not much is known about the animal’s communication methods and social structure. Pampas cats in captivity have been seen, when excited, erecting the long crest of hair along the midline from their head to tail. Mating habits: The behavior and mating system of the Pampas cat are not known. In the northern hemisphere in captivity they breed from April to July. The gestation period is 80 to 85 days, with 1 to 3 being born per litter. The mother provides her young with milk. Details of parental care are unknown, but, as with other cats, the young probably need caring for. They are likely born in a den and looked after by their mother until she takes them on foraging trips. In captivity, the young reach sexual maturity at about 21 months old.
destruction (wild cats), clowder, clutter, pounce
Diet and nutrition
Pampas cat prey on small mammals like guinea pigs, and ground-dwelling birds. Sometimes they take penguin eggs or chicks from nests. They also take poultry, where they live in the same area as humans.
The behavior and mating system of the Pampas cat are not known. In the northern hemisphere in captivity they breed from April to July. The gestation period is 80 to 85 days, with 1 to 3 being born per litter. The mother provides her young with milk. Details of parental care are unknown, but, as with other cats, the young probably need caring for. They are likely born in a den and looked after by their mother until she takes them on foraging trips. In captivity, the young reach sexual maturity at about 21 months old.
April-July in captivity in the Northern Hemisphere
The Pampas cat is faced by several threats, but due to scarce information about it in the wild, it is hard to know to what extent it is being impacted. They used to be hunted extensively for their skins. Habitat destruction is today believed to be the main threat. Much pampas grassland in Uruguay and Argentina has been converted to agricultural land and grazed heavily, resulting in the reduction of habitat and prey. A further threat is killings due to the cat preying on poultry. In Argentina and central Chile dense cover for the cat is becoming rarer, while hunters and dogs are more common.
According to the IUCN Red List, Pampas cat is rare throughout a very large portion of its distribution range. It may be relatively common only in a few areas, usually protected or hard-to-reach, such as Emas National Park, Mirador State Park, the High Andes and the Puna grassland ecoregion. The global population size of pampas cat has not been quantified, this species’ numbers are decreasing today and currently it is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List.
Fun facts for kids
- In Chile and Argentina, Pampas cats are called the “grass cat” or “gato pajero”, the word “pajero” meaning “pampas grass” in the local language, being one of the cat’s habitats.
- These cats were once considered to be a colocolo subspecies.
- Belief is that Molina gave this species its name after Colocolo, an Araucanian warrior chief.
- All cats have excellent senses, used for locating and stalking their prey. Cats have eyes that face forward, as do humans. But cats can make their pupils open three times wider and in the dark they can see six times better than us. In their eyes is a layer of tissue, the tapetum lucidum, which serves to bounce light back a second time through the retina to increase the amount of light to see by. This is the cause of the “eyeshine” that can be seen at night when cats’ eyes seem to glow green or red.
- Cats are also able to focus quickly and clearly for short and long distances. Keeping their heads still, they are able to detect movement within a 280-degree visual field-which is much better than humans are able to do.