Leoncillo (Little lion), Otter cat, Yaguarundi, Onza, Gato Moro, Eyra cat

Puma yagouaroundi
Population size
Life Span
15 yrs
Top speed
96 km/h
3.5-9 kg
53-77 cm

The jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi ) is a wild cat native to the Americas. Its range extends from central Argentina in the south to northern Mexico, through Central and South America east of the Andes. The jaguarundi is a medium-sized cat of slender build. Its coloration is uniform with two color morphs, gray and red. It has an elongated body, with relatively short legs, a small, narrow head, small, round ears, a short snout, and a long tail, resembling mustelids in these respects. It is about twice as large as a domestic cat (Felis catus ), reaching nearly 360 mm (14 in) at the shoulder, and weighs 3.5–7 kg (7.7–15.4 lb).

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Secretive and alert, the jaguarundi is typically solitary or forms pairs in the wild, though captive individuals are more gregarious. Unlike other sympatric cats such as the ocelot, the jaguarundi is more active during the day and hunts mainly during daytime and evening hours. Individuals live in large home ranges, and are sparsely distributed within a region. The jaguarundi is an efficient climber, but typically prefers hunting on ground. It feeds on various kinds of prey, especially ground-feeding birds, reptiles, rodents and small mammals. Mating occurs throughout the year, with peaks at different times of the year across the range. After a gestation period of 70 to 75 days, a litter of one to four kittens is born. Lifespans of up to 15 years have been recorded in captivity.

The jaguarundi inhabits a broad array of closed as well as open habitats ranging from tropical rainforests and deciduous forests to deserts and thorn scrubs. It is fairly common in Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela, but may be locally extinct in the United States. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, but populations are in decline in many parts of its range due to loss and fragmentation of habitat and persecution for killing poultry.

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Not a migrant


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The jaguarundi is amongst the most unusual of cat species in the New World, being rather weasel-like in its looks. Its body is slender and long, with a small flattened head, short legs, a long tail, and short rounded ears. The species has two main color morphs: one being dark, i.e. uniform black, gray, or brownish, sometimes a little lighter on the undersides, and a red morph, which can vary from tawny yellow to a bright chestnut red. Due to looking like a weasel, the dark morph jaguarundi will often be mistaken for the tayra, which is a large mustelid, but it lacks the tayra’s yellowish spot on the throat and has a very long, thin tail and very short hair.



The jaguarondi is widely distributed throughout North, Central, and South America, ranging from southern Texas to as far south as northern Argentina. It occurs in a wide range of open as well as closed habitats, such as rainforest, thickets, savanna, swamp, and savanna woodland, as well as semi-arid thorn scrub. It may also live in secondary vegetation and areas that have been disturbed but is believed to prefer areas that have at least some thick ground cover.

Jaguarundi habitat map

Climate zones

Jaguarundi habitat map
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Habits and Lifestyle

Jaguarundis are very secretive animals. They are solitary apart from during the mating season. These animals are mostly diurnal, with most of their activity taking place at about 11 in the morning. Jaguarundis are terrestrial creatures; they are efficient climbers as well but hunt mainly on the ground. They are also very good swimmers. They are quite vocal, with at least 13 different calls having been recorded, including a purr, scream, whistle, chatter, yap, and a “chirp” like a bird. Mothers will often call to their kittens with a brief purr, the kittens answering with a series of short peeps. In warning, a jaguarundi will hiss loudly and/or spit.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Jaguarundis are carnivorous and eat small mammals such as reptiles, birds, fish, and frogs.

Mating Habits

year-round, November-December in Mexico
63-75 days
1-4 kittens
10 months

Jaguarundis are polygynous, which means that one male gets exclusive mating rights with multiple females. Breeding may take place at any time of the year. In Mexico, the mating season is during November and December. The animals construct dens, typically in dense thickets or hollow logs. Litters are between 1 to 4 kittens, born after a gestation time from 63 to 75 days. Kittens are born blind and helpless and are weaned when about 2 months old; then their mother teaches them how to hunt and look after themselves. She protects them and will move her den when disturbed. Independence comes at around 10 months of age and sexual maturity is reached at about 2 - 3 years old.


Population threats

The numbers of jaguarundis are decreasing every day, due to the loss of their natural habitat, deforestation, and expanding cities. Jaguarundis are hunted by farmers because they eat their poultry, and they are sometimes caught accidentally in traps laid for other animals.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, research indicates that the Jaguarundi is an uncommon, low-density species. It is considered Near Threatened in Argentina and Threatened in Mexico. But globally, it is classified as Least Concern (LC) with decreasing population trend.

Ecological niche

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Jaguarundis are excellent swimmers and can cross lakes and narrow, weak current rivers.
  • Jaguarundis are shy and are cautious traps set by humans.
  • Jaguarondis spend the majority of their time on the ground, unlike many other South American cats, and climb up into trees to rest.
  • Jaguarundi can jump as high as 6.5 feet to catch a bird in flight.
  • Jaguarundi kittens have spotted fur when they are born. The spots will have gone when they are 3 months old.
  • The jaguarundi is called the “halari” in Belize.
  • Jaguarundis are thought to be descended from the puma, which originally came from Asia.


1. Jaguarundi Wikipedia article -
2. Jaguarundi on The IUCN Red List site -

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