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El gato colorado - The Jaguarundi

Updated on December 7, 2018
Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw has 7 cats at present, he loves cats all, both large and small.

Puma yagouaroundi - The jaguarundi


If you love cats for the monster predators, and obligate carnivores they are, as I do; then you love to learn about a new one. There is nothing new about this cat at all, of course, but here in the USA you don't hear much about the jaguarundi, and so maybe you would like to know a little about it.

The jaguarundi is a fearsome wild cat, not a pet, regardless of your desires to have one. This wildcat isn't particularly large at all. It does have a build that is strikingly different from the most of the cats you will see. Mr. and Mrs. Jaguarundi have rather short legs for their body's size, and very long tails. Then there is that face, that face that screams I am NOT your pet cat!

Sometimes called the 'otter cat' - a jaguarundi

Sometimes the jaguarundi is referred to as the otter cat. There is definitely something about the face of the jaguarundi that isn't exactly cat like. The ears are smaller than normal for a cat, and this makes the cat's whiskers appear to be much more prominent. A jaguarundi doesn't necessarily have to be gray. They also come in an orange variety. They simply do not do stripes or spots, whatever color their coats are, the coats will be relatively uniform throughout. From the same liter of kittens may come an orange jaguarundi, and a dark grey one. They're cool like that.

An orange jaguarundi


The jaguarundi isn't a particularly big cat at all. It is a particularly wild cat though. They generally weigh between seven and twenty pounds. They stretch between twenty and thirty inches in length, not counting the tail, which is typically around three quarters the length of an individual's body.

While these cats are mostly found in the Amazon basin, they also live as far North as southern Texas. They occupy the same range of territory as do the larger ocelots, but the jaguarundi aren't afraid to live further to the South in South America than do the ocelots. While gulf coastal Mexico and south Texas were always traditional haunts of the jaguarundi, Florida never was. This does not mean there are no wild jaguarundi in Florida, there are; as someone had imported some, released them, and now there is a small wild population. From Florida some of the cats have made it over into Alabama. Sightings of jaguarundi in either Florida or Alabama are rare, but the cats are likely out there.

The jaguarundi prefers to live and hunt in lower elevation grasslands or thickets near a water source. They're not quite the jungle loving cats. They have been seen in elevations near eleven thousand feet, and they do get spotted in thick jungles, those places just aren't the norm or the preference for the jaguarundi. You know how it goes, cats are curious, and they like to stalk and kill things. A meal is a meal.

Camouflaged in a tree, the jaguarundi


Most everyone knows about how the lions of Africa are social creatures, living in prides. Outside of lions though, cats aren't very social animals. The jaguarundi are more social than other cats, but they do not run in prides. There are lots of anecdotal stories of them sort of banding together here and there, and in captivity they're tolerant of each other. Still, like all cats other than lions, the jaguarundi is mostly a solitary predator.

The image above displays how the jaguarundi are capable climbers. You can bet they'll hunt and kill from up a tree too, should the opportunity present itself. This shouldn't lead you, however, to believe this is any sort of norm. Jaguarundi are mostly terrestrial hunters of the diurnal persuasion.

Jaguarundi - in their two primary colors, and with those long, long tails


From looking at the jaguarundi, you may have had the notion the cats are related to cougars or mountain lions. You'd be quite right about that. The much larger cougar and the small jaguarundi both fall under the Puma genus. They've got very similar genetic structure and chromosome count. A common ancestor came to the Americas approximately eight million years ago. Insofar as the big cats of Africa go, both the cougar and the jaguarundi are most closely related to the cheetah, and most certainly share a common ancestor with the cheetah from long long ago.

What does a jaguarundi eat? Just about anything it can kill, any rodent, opossums, rabbits, fish, arthropods, any lizard, any bird, a very small amount of vegetation, and...marmosets when they can get them. What is a marmoset? Glad you asked, a marmoset is a small new world monkey. It is kinda sad to me whenever anything eats a primate, but there's not a lot of room for pity at any cat's dinner table.

Marmosets, a favorite meal of the Jaguarundi


Like most every other species of cat you've ever heard of, the jaguarundi like to mark off their territory with urine, uncovered up feces, and by scratching claw marks on trees and such. Unlike other cats you've familiarized yourself with, the jaguarundi make a lot of different sorts of verbal noises for communication, these include purrs, whistles, yaps, chattering sounds, and even a bird-like chirps.

The jaguarundi - mostly this vid is pictures and some info.

The life of the jaguarundi

There are eight subspecies of the jaguarundi, the subspecies are according to region. You are what you eat, of course, and there are different prey available in the far flung different regions where the subspecies of jaguarundis live. The jaguarundis who live in Texas and Arizona are the truly rare ones, and the most endangered ones too. That said, four of the eight subspecies of the jaguarundis are considered endangered. Very rightly, it is a crime to shoot one of these beautiful cats. They aren't a threat to your livestock, except for your chickens or turkeys, or rabbits. Keep your small domestic critters well caged, my friends.

It is fortunate for the jaguarundi its coats are not particularly sought after. So humans are not the real threats to the jaguarundi, except for the ever growing suburbia problems eat up the cat's territories.

The jaguarundi will mate at any damn time they feel like mating. They don't care at all for any sorts of restrictions or mating seasons. I applaud them for that. You should too, as you probably do the same sort of thing. Females go into heat for three to five days, and it is literally come one, come all, serve yourself. Seventy to seventy five days later, and here comes a litter of one to four little otter cats with long long tails and color varieties from dark to orange. The kittens do have spots on their undersides at birth, but those spots don't last. At about six weeks of age the cute little kittens can take solid food, and you know what that means, it means dead dead meat. Jaguarundis have utterly rejected the vegan lifestyle, and this should be encouraged in humans as well. In about two years the cats are sexually mature and totally on their own. They're relatively short lived for cats, they only live ten years in captivity, so it is likely quite a bit less in the wild. Thanks for reading.

Jaguarundi mom with kitten


© 2016 Wesman Todd Shaw


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    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      I have never heard of this creature but it's fascinating. I'm not surprised it's sometimes called the 'otter cat' as I can see the resemblance in the second photo.




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