The jaguarundi is a wild cat native to the Americas that possesses some unique and fascinating characteristics. Though not as well known as larger cats like the jaguar and puma, the jaguarundi is a remarkable animal that deserves recognition. Here are 10 fascinating facts about jaguarundis:
1. Jaguarundis Have an Otter-Like Appearance
Unlike most other cats, jaguarundis have an elongated, slender build and a flattened head which gives them an otter or weasel-like appearance. Their body and tail can reach up to 130cm and 60cm long respectively, but they only stand around 25cm tall at the shoulder. This distinctive build allows them to move easily through dense vegetation when hunting prey on the ground.
2. They Come in Two Main Color Morphs
Jaguarundis display color variations from dark gray or black to light reddish-brown or chestnut red. Kittens of both colors can even occur in the same litter! It was once thought these color morphs represented separate subspecies, but they are now recognized as the same species that can exhibit different coat colors.
3. Jaguarundis Are Closely Related to Cougars
Despite their difference in size, jaguarundis share a common ancestry with cougars. Genetic evidence suggests jaguarundis diverged from the puma lineage around 4-7 million years ago 1. Both cats are adept climbers and secretive hunters.
4. They Inhabit a Wide Range of Habitats
From rainforests and swamps to deserts and scrublands, jaguarundis can thrive in diverse environments across their range. As long as there is adequate ground vegetation for cover, jaguarundis are quite adaptable cats. They even occupy disturbed or secondary growth areas near human settlements.
5. Jaguarundis Are Skilled Hunters
Though small in stature, jaguarundis regularly take down prey like rabbits, rodents, birds, reptiles, and fish up to 2kg in size. They may even snatch birds straight out of the air with impressive 2-meter-high leaps! Stealthy stalking and quick pouncing make them effective hunters.
6. They are considered Least Concern by the IUCN
The IUCN Red List categorizes jaguarundis as Least Concern, meaning they are not at immediate risk of extinction. However, habitat loss and fragmentation have caused decreasing populations in parts of Central and South America. Conservation action is still needed in many areas.
7. Jaguarundis are Diurnal Cats
Unlike many felines, jaguarundis are most active during the day, especially in the early morning and evening. Their large eyes and acute hearing adapted to their daytime hunting habits. They rest at night but may occasionally hunt then as well.
8. They are Solitary Cats
Jaguarundis lead a solitary lifestyle and are only social during mating season. Males interact with females only to mate, after which they continue hunting and living alone. Mother jaguarundis will stay with their kittens until they reach independence.
9. They are Very Vocal Cats
Jaguarundis have an impressive vocal repertoire with over 13 different calls recorded! These vocalizations include yaps, chirps, whistles, screams, and purrs that help communicate with other jaguarundis. Mother jaguarundis purr to their kittens.
10. Jaguarundis Can Have Up to 4 Kittens
After a 75-day gestation period, female jaguarundis give birth to a litter of 1 to 4 kittens. The kittens are born blind and helpless but develop quickly under their mother’s care. By 10 months old, young jaguarundis will leave their mother to begin solitary lives 2.
In summary, jaguarundis are truly remarkable and unique cats of the Americas. Their versatile hunting skills, vocalizations, color variations, and adaptable nature allow them to thrive in diverse environments. While not considered globally threatened, many populations are decreasing, making continued conservation efforts important for this fascinating wild cat.