Last Updated on August 4, 2023 by Pets Feed
The jaguarundi is a medium-sized carnivorous wild cat native to Central and South America. He has an unusual appearance for a cat, resembling a marten more than a cat. He is known for his unusual behavior in cats – he can make unusual sounds (chirps), eats fruits and is friends with monkeys.
Description and origin of the species
The name jaguarundi was borrowed from the language of the Guarani Indians, who lived on the territory of modern Paraguay. A similar name, yawaum’di, was used by the Brazilian Tupi Indians. In Spanish and Portuguese, the animal is often called a red cat, a black cat or a Moorish cat.
The first scientific description and the name of Felis yagouarundi were given to the animal by the French zoologist Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire in 1803. In 1858, the Russian traveler and naturalist Nikolai Severtsov suggested assigning the animal to a separate genus Herpailurus. For a long time, the animal was attributed to the genus Puma (Puma) along with the puma (Puma Concolor). Since 2017, the IUCN Felidae group has revised the Felidae classification to recognize the jaguarundi as the only member of the genus Herpailurus. The animal received the scientific name Herpailurus yagouarundi.
The genetically closest relative of the jaguarundi is the puma, the next closest relative is the cheetah. The cougar, the cheetah and the jaguarundi share a common ancestor and together form the cougar lineage, one of the 8 branches of the feline family, which evolved about 6.7 million years ago. The ancestors of the modern jaguarundi appeared on the territory of modern Brazil about 0.5 million years ago.
What does a jaguarundi look like? Dimensions and appearance
The Jaguarundi is a flexible medium-sized cat with a slender silhouette and a solid coloring. At the same time, in appearance, the animal differs significantly from other small tropical cats of Central and South America. The difference is explained genetically – the jaguarundi has 38 chromosomes, unlike other American wildcats with 36 chromosomes. By its physique, the animal resembles a marten, ferret or otter – the same elongated body, a small narrow head, small round ears, a short muzzle and a long tail.
Jaguarundis are about twice the size of a normal domestic cat. The length of the predator’s body, together with the head, varies from 53 to 77 cm, the long muscular tail is from 31 to 52 cm.La height of the animal at the withers is about 36 cm.The cat weighs on average from 3.5 to 7 kg, although there are individuals weighing up to 9 kg. Males are slightly larger than females, but the difference is negligible.
The color is monophonic, there are several soft stripes on the muzzle and belly. Some jaguarundis have dark and light stripes on the muzzle, like a puma. 2 main colors are known – gray (it happens with a brownish or blackish tint and a light gray tint) and red (from bright red like a fox to brown), there are also intermediate options between the two. For a long time, red and gray cats were considered different species, but kittens of both colors can be born in the same litter. The red jaguarundi often lives in open spaces, gray – in forests.
Black and gray animals are very similar to the tayra – it is an American relative of the European marten. Among cats, in appearance, the jaguarundi is the closest to the Sumatran cat, but slightly larger than the Sumatran cat and has a longer torso and limbs. The red jaguarundis are close to the cougar in fur color.
What does a jaguarundi eat?
Jaguarundi feeds mainly on small prey – animals weighing up to 1 kg, including birds, reptiles, rodents and small mammals. Favorite mammals – Guinea pig, Florida rabbits, reed hamsters, prickly chinchillas. Among reptiles, it most often eats lizards such as ameivas and iguanas.
The predator also feeds on big game – poultry, fish, hares, possums, armadillos. Do not disdain to collect carrion for other animals. Jaguarundi also eat plants and fruits – bananas, grapes, figs (figs). In Panama, animals often destroy plantations along with monkeys.
During the day, the jaguarundi eats about 400 grams of animal food. The predator is not picky and, among the available food, he usually chooses the one that is easiest to obtain. Therefore, the animal’s diet varies greatly depending on the environmental conditions and the food available.
Where does it live?
Jaguarundis have a very wide range of habitats – from tropical rainforests and deciduous forests to deserts with rare shrubs. Unlike the ocelot, the long-tailed cat (margay) and the oncilla, the jaguarundi can live not only in forests, but also in open spaces. The animal prefers spaces with thickets of cacti so that it is easy to hide there from larger predators. This cat stays near the water. The cat does not usually rise above 2,000 meters, however, in Colombia individuals are found at an altitude of 3,200 meters.
The habitat of the animal extends from the border between the United States and Mexico in the north, through all of Central and South America east of the Andes, to central Argentina. In terms of the length of its habitat from the north to the east of America, the jaguarundi is second only to the puma – it lives from Argentina to Canada. Animals are often found in Peru, Brazil and Venezuela. In the United States, the predator was practically exterminated – the last time it was seen in the United States was in the late 1980s.
The nature and features of the way of life
Jaguarundis are very secretive and cautious animals, so not much is known about their lifestyle. Predators are active mainly during the day and in the evening. Although it can show itself at night and at dusk, the daytime activity of the jaguarundi is very different from that of other nocturnal wild cats.
Jaguarundis are good swimmers and can swim across a medium-sized river. These cats climb trees well, besides the gray color perfectly disguises them in the branches, however, they prefer to hunt on the ground. Animals are quite nervous – they can jump up to 2 meters in height to catch a bird.
In nature, jaguarundis live alone or in pairs – a mother with a small adult, or a male and a female for the mating period. In captivity, jaguarundis are more sociable with their relatives. Each predator lives on its own territory. The size of the female’s plot is on average from 1.4 to 18 square kilometers, the male occupies an area of 8.5 to 25.3 square kilometers. In Brazil and Belize, the population density is quite low, hence the large hunting grounds. Mexico, Costa Rica and Venezuela have higher population densities and therefore smaller territories.
Animals mark their territory with urine marks, feces, claw marks on trees, and also rub their heads against various objects to leave their own smell. When they meet, the animals sniff, lick or growl one after the other. Jaguarundi can emit a wide range of sounds – they scream, growl, purr, yelp, whistle and even chirp.
A phylogeographic study of 2012 did not reveal subspecies in the animal – scientists did not find any genetic differences between individuals from different regions. Previously, the following subspecies were distinguished depending on the habitat of the animal:
- H. Y. ameghini – lives in western Argentina
- H. Y. cacomitli – in South Texas and Mexico
- H. Y. eyra – Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina
- H. Y. fossata – Mexico and Honduras
- H. Y. melantho – Peru and Brazil
- H. Y. panamensis – from Nicaragua to Ecuador
- H. Y. tolteca – Arizona and Mexico
- H. Y. yagouarundi – French Guiana and the Amazon basin
Jaguarundis breed all year round. The peak of the mating season depends on the habitat of the animal. For example, in Mexico, mating peaks between January and March. Estrus lasts 3-5 days, during estrus, the female actively leaves urinary marks to search for a partner and often turns over on her back. Sexually mature males pursue the female and do not pay attention to imaginary aggression on her part. As with other cats, during mating, the male bites the female by the neck, while the female screams loudly.
Pregnancy lasts from 70 to 75 days. The female usually gives birth in a shelter – in a hollow tree or dense thickets, from 1 to 4 kittens are born in one litter. Kittens are born with spots on the abdomen, as they get older, the spots disappear. Cubs begin to eat meat from the age of 3 weeks, from 1.5 months, kittens switch to animal food. Predators reach sexual maturity at the age of 1 to 3 years.
In the wild, jaguarundis are preyed upon by pythons, cougars and domestic dogs. When attacked by a python, the animal has little luck.
In addition, the cat must compete for its prey with other predators. Main competitors:
- Long-tailed cats (margai)
- Red lynxes
Jaguarundi manages to avoid direct competition with other wild cats, mainly ocelots and long-tailed cats, due to the daytime lifestyle.
Protection of populations and species
Since 2002, the jaguarundi has been included in the International Red Book as a species of least concern. Representatives of the IUCN note that it is time to reclassify this species as “close to vulnerable”, but the lack of population data has so far prevented these changes. Today, stable populations of jaguarundi are observed only in Mexico and in the Amazon Basin, in other regions the number of animals is decreasing.
The main threats to the predator are the reduction of the natural habitat and food supply, as well as the shooting of farmers for attacks on domestic animals. The fur of the jaguarundi has no value, so poachers do not threaten it.
The hunting of the animal is restricted in Peru, and totally prohibited in the following countries:
- Costa Rica
- French Guiana
- United States
The price of a jaguarundi kitten in the world is about 20-25, 000 dollars; in many countries, animal trade is prohibited, unlike other wild cats – puma, serval, caracal.
The cat is also called the weasel cat and the water jaguar.
The Indians tamed jaguarundis instead of cats and used them to protect the house from small rodents.
In captivity, animals live up to 15 years.
In Latin America, predators often rob plantations together with monkeys – they especially like figs and bananas.