Jaguarundi – a comprehensive and fully illustrated page

Overview: The jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi) is the most common wild cat in South and Central America. It can be tamed and is widely distributed. In has been a difficult wild cat to scientifically classify. It looks more like a marten that a cat (see a nice camera trap photograph). It is the only South American wildcat to have 38 chromosomes rather than 36. It is related more closely to the puma and cheetah that other South American wildcats.

This article is over several pages for technical reasons with links to the next page at the end of each section.

Jaguarundi showing strong ticked tabby coat
Jaguarundi showing strong ticked tabby coat. Photo: Pinterest.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The jaguarundi has few markings and a ticked coat. It has two main color phases: gray and red-brown. This wild cat is distributed from Mexico to Argentina and due to its wide range, it is seen in a variety of contrasting habitats from wetlands to semi-arid thorn forest. They hunt during the day and at night. Their primary prey is small in size (less than 1 kg) and it includes rodents and birds. Its plain pelt has protected it from being hunted for it skin and accordingly it is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List™.

This page has been checked, added-to and republished as at Jan 24, 2022. It was first published on this site in June 2009.

Introduction

There is more to know about the jaguarundi, despite being the most commonly seen wild cat in Central and South America. At the time of publication of the Wild Cats of the World (2002) only three research projects had captured and radio tracked this wild cat. And of those only one had tracked more than three cats. The date of publication is important for all articles on wild cats because their populations and ranges are declining and shrinking – i.e. changing, making older information out of date.

Below is series of three photographs of the jaguarundi, all of which are copyright Jim Sanderson Ph.D. They show the cat with Jim and in captivity. Thanks Jim. Jim Sanderson is probably the foremost expert on the small wild cats.

48 thoughts on “Jaguarundi – a comprehensive and fully illustrated page”

  1. I know for a fact jaguarundi’s live in North Florida because I have twice sighted them here in the Tate’s Hell. Those persons who say the don’t live here, don’t know what they are talking about.

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  2. I have personally seen a Fischer cat in SE Louisiana. And I have the fur to prove it. I kept it in a zip lock baggie. I have tried many times to have the fur tested. LSU and LDWF mostly but could never get anyone to do it.
    However, I was deer hunting , on my parent’s property,in a fairly well concealed ground blind on a very old logging road that was no longer in use and just about completely grown over. But you could still see down it pretty well. Hence, the ground blind. When it was just about dark I see this jet black animal sleaking its way toward me at around 70 yards I’d say. So I raised my rifle to see what it was through the scope and that’s when he busted me. I have no idea how he saw me but as soon as my eye got to the eyepiece he bolted into the woods in one smooth graceful motion. I freaked out because I had no idea what the heck it was. It was way too big to be a house cat or bobcat for that matter. And also it’s tail was proportionally way too long for its body compared to a house cat. But it was smaller than a cougar. I told a friend of mine and he thought I saw a giant Ferrell cat. But, there are too many coyotes around there for any cat besides a bobcat and I have never seen a ferrel cat before then or since the encounter. So, I thought maybe it was a juvenile cougar. Ive spoken to an old timer who said he has seen black cougars in the area twice before but I chaulked that up to a fish story.
    Anyway, not too long after the incident I was coming out of the woods. After hunting a different spot than the ground blind. But, where I emerged from the woods was not too far from where the sighting was. And as soon as I got out of the woods I came across some scat. Usually I wouldn’t care about that but this had jet black fur in it. Not hair, but super soft and clean black fur and quite a bit bit of it. I could not come up with any animal on the property that has jet black fur nothing. Not to mention how soft it was. I would actually say softer than a mink. And I ruled out big foot because there were no giant human bare feet prints on the ground next to this tiny racoon sized poop. So I picked up the scat/ fur and put it in a baggie. And I still have it today. I thought that maybe a coyote ate someone’s cat. But there were no cat bones or chunks of hide etc. Actually I thought it looked like a cat’s scat that had licked a bunch of its fur and swallowed a stomach full. I have always kept it because I still don’t “know” what it was or is. I always hoped that it was a new species of black fur big foot with small feet and don’t weigh a lot.because of the no track thing. I looked all over the internet for someone to test the fur simply to settle my curiosity. The only place I found did forensic hair analysis for trial evidence etc. and they wanted $500. That was years ago so I am sure they cost more now. And of course I didn’t have it performed because $500 is a little much just to satisfy my craving to know what it is. If you would like to prove me wrong that what I saw was not a Fischer. I can send you a portion of the the fur and either you can test it or get someone else to test it. All I want is to know what species it was or is and let me name anything new!!!!!

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  3. Retired Turkey hunter of 50 years I called in
    many a coyotes and bobcats.One morning while
    hunting in Mobile County,Al.I had a jaguarundi
    run up within 30 feet of me,he was black with
    burnt orange spots scattered on his body.
    There’s no doubt that I had met an animal I had never seen in the woods before.

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  4. I live on an island Off west coast of of Fla. On 3/10/16 a cat that I had never seen before ran in front of my car. I’m 83 and have hunted most of my life but this cat was different it had a long tail sleek body, gray very athletic build. It was coming from the beach toward a mangrove maze when I almost hit it with by car. Beautiful.

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    • Sounds like a jaguarundi. Of all the American states, Florida is the place where the jaguarundi is most likely to be seen although officially this cat species does not live in the USA. Thanks, Demi, for your comment. Interesting.

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