Jaguarundi showing strong ticked tabby coat. Photo: Pinterest.


The jaguarundi 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. 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™.


There is more to know about the Jaguarundi, despite being the most commonly seen wildcat in Central and South America. At the time of publication of the Wild Cats Of The World (2002) only three research projects have captured and radio tracked this wild cat. And of those only one tracked more than three cats. This page was written in June of 2009. The date is important for all articles on wildcats because their populations and ranges are declining and shrinking – i.e. changing, making older information out of date.

Note: You can click on these pictures to see them in a larger format.

A series of three photographs all of which are copyright Jim Sanderson Ph.D. They show the cat with Jim (top left) and in captivity. Thanks Jim. Jim Sanderson is probably the foremost expert on the small wildcats.


To a person who might not be that involved in wildlife, this animal does not look much like a cat or at least the cat with which we are familiar, the domestic cat. Certainly, the photograph below bears this out. It somewhat has the appearance of a weasel or an otter (or perhaps a marten) at first glance, but the videos at the base of this page, despite being not of the best quality, show us a small wildcat albeit one with a rangy, gangly body, small had, small ears, long tail and a heavily ticked (agouti gene) coat. The heading photo below shows off the banding in the individual hairs.

The ears sit substantially on the side of the head and as mentioned are small. Perhaps a cat with ears that are almost an opposite are those of the Serval. In addition, unusually for a wildcat, there are no white or light spots (ocelli) at the back of the ears, which serve a communication function (to signal an aggressive mode).

Jaguarundi – Concerned as I am to provide a credit for the above photograph I have lost the details, for which I apologise. Could the photographer come forward?

As I said the coat is ticked and there are two colour types (“phases” as the experts have called it ). The colours are (a) grayish (“gray morph” – “morph” means: one of the distinct forms of a species) and (b) brownish (see above). The gray colour varies from gray with white ticking (as opposed to the yellow ticking that can be seen in the photograph below) to brownish black and sometimes black, while the brown varies from tawny to bright chestnut. The chestnut colour is shown below and the darker brownish black above.

This is a small wildcat with weights ranging from 3.75 kg (in Belize the lower end of weight range and a female) to 7 kg in Suriname (a female). 7 kg is 15.4 pounds and 3.75 kg is 8.3 pounds. The average domestic cat weight covers a similar scale so this cat is the size of a largish domestic cat – see Largest Domestic Cat Breed.

See three more pictures of this interesting wildcat.

The Name

The name is interesting to me. It would seem to be an amalgam of “jaguar” and “undi”. “Undi” means undies in Spanish! I don’t know where that takes us.

Update: The name jaguarundi is derived from Tupi-Guarani. They domesticated them, and the original form is jawarundi, which drifted to jaguarundi in american spanish. In Tupi is actually the word for cat (yaguara) which became jaguar, and shadow (undi)…My thanks to Bearcat M. Şandor.

Local names are:

  • Halari or Jaguaroundi (src: Mongabay website)
  • Eyra Cat (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ (Red List)

The scientific name is

  • Puma yagouaroundi.
  • Herpailurus yagouaroundi – Synonym (a synonym is another older and perhaps outdated scientific name for a species)
  • Herpailurus yaguarondi – Synonym (name invalid)

Classification of the Jaguarundi

Taxonomy is the practice of classifying and naming living organisms. And this cat has proved a bit problematic in this regard. It is not the same as the other South American wild cats. This cat is different to the other small South American cats at a genetic level in that it has 38 chromosomes and not 36. Molecular research indicates that his cat is more related to the cheetah and puma than to the other South American wild cats.

This image (above) comes from the website as is reproduced with their permission – thanks guys. The photo is by Rhett A. Butler.

Range, Habitat and Ecology

As at 2002, the Jaguarundi range extended from Southern Texas going south to coastal Mexico and on through Costa Rica, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras and Panama, and then to the South American countries of Ecuador, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. It is unclear if it occupies Uruguay. And it is now thought to be extinct in Texas (as at June 2009, the date of this article). It seems that perhaps the last sighting in Texas was a Jaguarundi killed by traffic and which was on or near the road in 1986.

These countries can be shown on a map. The best map by far is produced by the Red List, which can be seen here. Wikipedia have produced the following map (published courtesy published under Wikimedia® creative commons license = Attribution-ShareAlike License)

Below is an interactive map of the range based very closely on the Red List map. The map can be moved around – hold left click over the map and move mouse:

View Jaguarundi Geographic Range in a larger map

Jaguarundi Range takes you to a larger version of the above and a guide as to how to make the map better.

They are found from sea level to 3,200 metres. Their habitat overlaps with (sympatric with) ocelot, margay and oncilla. The ocelot is a threat to his species survival – see below. They are, it seems, tolerant of habitat occupying a wide range of types from semi-arid to wet grassland. The map above indicates to me, though, that this cat prefers the latter and in fact the Jaguarundi likes dense cov er with some open areas and they like to hunt along the edges of open areas. As is the case for a number wild cats they like water courses (e.g. Asian Leopard Cat).

What does this habitat look like on the ground. One place which is their habitat in Belize is the Cockscomb Basin. Here are two photographs. The first (see right) was taken in Cockscomb Basin and is of a Jaguarundi that was slightly tame it seems. This is not uncommon apparently as they quickly become tame and friendly.

The second is a picture of the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Reserve in Belize:

The Jaguarundi preys, mainly, in the daytime – diurnal (4 am to about 6 pm) and on the ground. The opposite is “nocturnal” meaning night time. In common with all wildcats they are agile, athletic, good jumpers and good climbers.

The prey of this cat is:

  • small, most easily available and less than 1 kg in weight usually, which means:
  • rodents including rats (Belize),
  • birds
  • reptiles
  • fish
  • marmoset

In Belize research indicated the following percentages of prey found in “scats” (excrement, dung):

Prey Percentage
Small mammals 90
Arthropod (invertebrate animals that include the insects, crustaceans, arachnids, and myriapods having an exoskeleton) 72
Birds 21
Opossums 13
Fruit 11
Leaves 7


Jaguarundi cat – photograph by by Jorge Montejo under creative commons license: Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Jaguarundi – Land Use – Social Organisation

This is not well known. In captivity they appear to be gregarious. They are solitary in the wild except when in pairs at the time the female is in oestrous (heat and receptive to mating). What little is known is that their ranges are as follows:

Area – country Range size – notes
Belize 88 and 100 km² (2 males) – an extremely large area. Travelled average of 6.6 km daily
Belize 20 km² (adult female). Travelled average of 6.6 km daily
Brazil subtropical forest 6.8 km²
Mexico 8.9 and 8.3 km² (males and females respectively)

As to vocalizations, the question for me is, “do they meow?” Well they:

  • chirp
  • make the wah-wah call
  • purr (like domestic cats)
  • whistle
  • scream
  • chatter (domestic cats chatter when they are practicing killing birds) and
  • yap….and they
  • hiss (see video below)
  • see and hear jaguarundi kittens screaming at each other!

Other forms of communications are similar to domestic cats:

  • urination (spraying for domestic cats)
  • leave uncovered faeces
  • leave scent by head rubbing objects (domestic cat equivalent: head butting etc.)
  • leave claw marks

They don’t appear to meow, therefore!


Not enough is known about breeding seasons to make a useful comment. Estrus lasts about 3-5 days. The oestrus cycle last about 53 days. Mating seems to be similar to other cats including domestic cats. The male grasps the back of the neck in his teeth and the female screams when he removes himself (because of barbs on his penis – see cats mating). Gestation is 70-75 days and the usual litter is 1-4 offspring. The family live in dens in thick cover. The mother does not leave the offspring alone for long periods. By aged 6 weeks they can eat solid food. In zoos that live to more than 10 years of age.

Above: the heavy ticking is apparent: Photo by alumroot

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ (Red List) Assessment – Threats – Conservation

Assessment is classified as Least Concern (LC):

Least concern means: Least Concern (LC or LR/lc), lowest risk. Does not qualify for a more at risk category. Widespread and abundant taxa are included in this category (src: Wikipedia). If for one do not understand this category in relation to wild cats, any wild cats. Humans are in the same category!

The Red List just ifies this classification as follows (summarized):

  • there is not enough information to place the Jaguarundi in the next category up, Near Threatened. It is under review. Despite that argument they say:
  • this cat is much less abundant that thought
  • it is under threat of habitat conversion (a euphemism for human activity that destroys its habitat)
  • there is a threat from ocelots
  • they have a low density (cats per certain area) – usually at “0.01-0.05/km² or lower” (Red List). This seems very low.
  • only the large reserves can sustain viable populations
  • the population is falling. No overall population size is quoted.

I would suggest that the time to reclassify has distinctly arrived.


  • traps catch them that are set for “commercially viable species” (note: all traps are wrong, period)
  • low level hunting
  • habitat loss – major threat
  • fragmentation of habit – major threat
  • farmers kill them as they kill poultry (probably because there is a scarcity of prey due to habitat loss).


  • University of Michigan
  • Red List
  • Wild Cats Of The World (major) – a great book
  • Wikipedia
  • Free Dictionary
  • Dial Pipex agarman website

Photos: published under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs creative commons License — this site is for charitable purposes in funding cat rescue.

From Jaguarundi to Wild Cat Species

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • We saw one at lake Whitney bosque co.texas.this cat was bigger than a cat with a thick grey coat with a pointed long tail not round like a cat.its ears were bigger and its head was squared off.its shoulders and hips were more muscular than a cat.its eyes were big and teeth bigger than a cat.this is perfect habitat lots of dense brush with cliffs lake and lots of wildlife.we have seen two mountain lions here in the last few years and lots of deer.

  • My comments are not regarding a sighting as I live with one here in Panama. While doing injections for my cattle two of the workers spotted a large female with baby in tow being run down by a dog pack. The mom escaped leaving baby behind who was caught by my worker. The Tigrillo as many small cats are called here became my "present"! Not having exp.with wild cat types has been a huge challenge and getting nutrition info for a captive Jaguarundi is difficult at best. Any info and guidance would be most welcome at this point. Currently he has approx.5
    mos. Still hissing, spitting and gives a piercing monotone whistle when attention is needed and his antics are amazing.

    • Your comment is very interesting indeed. Thanks for sharing. This cat does make a lot of noise and it is a wild noise!

      I don't have specific knowledge on how to care for a jaguarundi. It'll be an enormous challenge. I have some books on the wild cats so may be able to find something. I'll try and return with a better response.

  • My wife is a nurse, a former United States Military Officer, owns her own business, and is very observant and detail oriented. This past Thursday morning, March 12, 2015, around 10 am, while driving through our neighborhood, she saw a strange looking animal that she described as feline looking, but not a house cat. It also did not have the same size and shape of the Bob Cat that people have seen a time or two around here. She did an Internet search and found an image that fits the feline sighting she observed. It was a "Jaguarundi." We kind of live in the country, just south of Nashville.

    • It would not surprise me if she saw a jaguarundi. There are quite a few sightings of this cat in the USA, or cats with a similar appearance. Some of the sightings will be of the jaguarundi, I believe, and although this wild cat species is not meant to live in the USA, in the wild, according to the experts, there does seem to some and they may be escaped cats from private zoos. Quite a lot of people are interested in this species because it does't look like a conventional cat, as it is weasel-like. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • The contraption is an automatic corn feeder used in OK for deer. I appreciate your reply and will pass on to the others. Have a great day.

    • Thanks Sherry. The look more like dogs to me. That may sound crazy but that is the way I see it.

  • There is a picture on FB showing a black cat taken on game cam that was supposed to be in AR. I have included the picture that started a debate on OK hunting and fishing. A guy said it actually might be a jagrarundi. I would like your opinion on it if possible.

    • Hi Sherry. Thanks for asking. My gut feeling is that this animal is not a jaguarundi but the picture is not clear and the location is not certain. I am not sure the animal is a cat. I have a feeling it is not. If we knew exactly where the photo was taken it would help.

      This animal looks black - melanistic. The tail looks too short for a jaguarundi but it is not clear.

      The legs look to skinny for a cat. The jaguarundi does have a strange appearance but the legs are more muscular. The left foreleg of the animal in the picture is too skinny for a jaguarundi, I feel.

      The jaguarundi is not meant to be in the US. I don't know if jaguarundis can be melanistic.

      The picture is strange. There appears to be a reflection middle left. The sort of reflection you get when you photograph through glass.

      The quality of the image is poor and it is a copy of a published document such as a magazine or newspaper as you can see the dots forming the image.

      Do we know what that strange contraption in the middle of the image is, on legs?

  • I saw a black Jaguarundi near Moravia, Texas five years ago. I drove up behind it one morning and I got a good look before it jumped into some brush. I have heard stories of sightings by reputable people since I was a child.

    • Yes, I have heard of sightings of the jaguarundi too in Texas and Florida. This cat is not meant to be in America but it seems that it is.

  • I have saw this cat 3 times within this past month in the country area outside of Greenville SC. It is on East Georgia Rd Simpsonville SC 29681 It looks to be a brindle like color with a small head. It is only at night when I see it crossing the road. It is staying within a couple mile radius. I have not told anyone and I do not feel anyone is hunting it. Two years previous to this I seen a rather large cougar on this road. My concern is that someone out here has a cat farm that is not able to properly house them.

    • This species of wild cat is not native to America and should not be in Greenville but that said there are quite a lot of reports of this wild cat being in America particularly in the south. It may be, as you suggests, that people are either breeding them or keeping them captive and then one or 2 escape and we have sightings out in the wild. Thank you for visiting and reporting on your sighting.

  • I saw a jaguarundi yesterday,he came out of the bushes on the gravel road chasing a small iguana,grabbed her with its paw a mouth a runned back into the bush. It was like a reddish brown , very agile with a long tail.
    I am in the Colombian llanos , barranca de Upia,Meta.
    Its the second we see, another we photographed,it was greyish with rings on the tail.i'll try to sen picture.

    • Roberto, is this typical for the jaguarundi to chase down and eat an iguana in Colombia llanos? Please upload your jpeg/photo; that would be very good to have on this site. TIA :)

    • Hello. Thank you for telling us about your sighting of the jaguarundi. I think that you are the 1st person from Columbia to make a comment on this site. I'm very pleased that you did. This species of wild cat is actually quite popular and occasionally people in America see this cat although I'm not sure that they are correct because officially this cat does not exist in America. The American sightings are possibly escaped tame jaguarundis.

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