The jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi) is a wild cat native to South America, coastal Mexico and south Texas. Though closely related to the larger cougar, the small size and distinct proportions of the jaguarundi have led some to refer to it as the “otter-cat”.
Slightly larger than domestic cats, jaguarundis are 3 to 4 ½ feet long (including tail) and weigh 8-20lbs. They have long, slender bodies with proportionally short legs and small, rounded ears. Unlike most New World cats, jaguarundis do not have spots, but do come in several color morphs ranging from red to grey across their eight subspecies.
Jaguarundis can usually be found in lowland brush areas close to a source of running water. Though they are agile climbers, they are more terrestrial than most cats and spend much of their time on the ground. Though shy and reclusive, jaguarundis are diurnal and can occasionally be spotted during daylight hours.
Typical of a cat of its size, the jaguarundi’s diet consists primarily of small rodents and reptiles, with larger prey such as rabbits, marmosets and opossums taken when available. Despite their short legs, jaguarundis have been known to jump nearly six feet into the air to swat small birds out of sky as well.
The behavior of the jaguarundi is not extremely well known. They are primarily solitary animals, but seem to tolerate the presence of others in their territory better than most cats. Home ranges have been reported to be anywhere from 3 to 40 square miles and are marked with scratches and scent markings.
Female jaguarundis give birth to 1-4 kittens after a gestation period of 70-75 days. The kittens are ready to leave their mother after a month and will reach sexual maturity after two years. Jaguarundis have been known to live for over 10 years in captivity, but are currently threatened in the wild due to habitat loss.
There have been rare sightings of the jaguarundi in the U.S. states of Florida and Alabama.
United States Fish & Wildlife Service