The Andean mountain cat is a small species of wild cat about the same size as a domestic cat. It looks like a domestic cat and almost behaves like one. The word “species” means a certain type or sort of wild cat that is different to the others.
As the name suggests, it lives in the Andes Mountains. These are in South America. This is a bare, cold and rocky place. We must thank Jim Sanderson PhD, a scientist, who knows the small wild cats really well for helping to protect this cat. The most important pictures of this cat have been taken by him.
What It Looks Like
The Andean cat weighs about ten pounds. This is almost exactly the weight of an average domestic house cat. The fur is soft and dense. It is long and thick to keep it warm in a pretty cold climate. The coat is a silvery sort of grey. There are black-brown markings. The underside of the cat is white covered in dark spots. This is typical of many wild cats. The tail is bushy and long with dark bands on it.
The pampas cat, another species of wild cat, shares the same places with the Andean mountain cat high up in the Andes mountains. The pampas cat looks like the Andean cat in these places.
Where It Lives
The cat lives in one area of the world, the Andes Mountains. These mountains run down the left hand side of South America like the spine of an animal. The countries where it can be seen – if you are very lucky – are: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru.
The sort of place where it lives is rocky, high above sea level and there are very few trees. Most of these cats live at about 4,236 meters or 13, 898 feet above the level of the sea. You can see they really do live in the mountains.
As they are very hard to see in the wild they have not been watched that much. This means people don’t know a lot about this cat. It probably hunts and eats any small animal it can find including birds, mammals and lizards. “Mammals” are animals that are warm blooded with a spine and hair on the skin. A favorite prey is the mountain viscacha a rodent that looks like a rabbit (you can see a picture of one on this page). This cat also eats rabbits, armadillos and ducks.
During the times that this cat has been seen, people have been able to get up close, to within about 10 feet on one occasion. That is why I have said this cat is almost tame. It seems not to be frightened of people. Sadly, because of this is it killed by local people. This cat seems to hunt during the day and at night. People are unsure. They think the cat hunts at dawn and dusk mainly.
Sounds: we don’t know what sounds it makes but it will make sounds similar to domestic cats.
Kittens: we don’t know enough to say how long a mother is pregnant and how many kittens are in a litter.
Dangers to the Andean Mountain Cat
One of the biggest dangers to this cat are the local people who consider it a sacred animal. The like to kill the Andean cat by throwing a rock at it. Or they might kill them in some other way. Sometimes they then stuff the cat and use it in harvest festivals. Jim Sanderson is talking to the people about this to see if they can change their ways. This is important because the number of Andean cats is going down each year. They are rare and may become extinct. “Extinct” means no Andean cats in the world anymore. There are none in zoos.
Another danger is that people kill the prey that the cat hunts. This means that there is less food for the cat. This prevents the cat from living. These are the main dangers. The cat is protected by law but the question is, “Is the law followed by the people?”