Are Andean mountain cats dangerous?

Although you would never get the chance to test whether an Andean Mountain cat is dangerous or not because they live in a very remote place and there are so few of them, I would suggest that they are not inherently dangerous but if they weren’t socialised, they could certainly deliver a nasty bite or scratch like any feral cat might. Although I have the impression that they are more pliable and agreeable than your typical feral cat.

Andean mountain cat
Andean mountain cat. Photo believed to be in the public domain.
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What I gather from reading about this small wild cat species is that they are inherently quite tame or mild-mannered. This I think is because they see so few humans, they aren’t frightened of them. They don’t recognise humans as dangerous despite persecution from some locals. Therefore, I would have to argue that they are not that dangerous partly because of their small size and partly because I think they are fairly agreeable cats. They are about the size of a domestic cat and when scientists have observed them, they have been able to get close to them.

For example, Mel and Fiona Sunquist in their book Wild Cats of the World, state:

“The scientists who were lucky enough to see the elusive mountain cat in Argentina managed to follow it at close range (20 to 30 meters) for two hours.

In another observation, which occurred on November 1988 near the Salar de Surire by a wildlife photographer, Ziesler, at an elevation of about 4,600 m in the Chilean Puna, an Andean cat appeared early in the morning shortly after sunrise. They were there to hunt. The photographer watched the cat for an hour as it searched unsuccessfully for prey under the rocks.

The cat was not “in the least shy and paid no attention as long as he remained 20-30 feet away”, according to Mel and Fiona Sunquist. The photographer also recounted seeing an Andean cat killing a viscacha directly in front of the guardhouse in the Vicuna Reserve Pampa Galeras in Peru.

And the well-known small wild cat scientists and specialists, Jim Sanderson PhD, saw an Andean mountain cat at Salar de Surire on three different days. The cat appeared not to be frightened of his presence and sometimes approached to as close as 3 meters from him. The cat was hunting in a colony of mountain viscachas. This is the classic prey animal of the Andean cat.

Andean mountain cat (2022)

All these observations at close quarters indicate, to me, that this cat would be amenable to being domesticated and is less fierce, for example than the Asiatic leopard cat which is known to be very independent-minded and quite fierce. This is surprising because the Asiatic leopard cat is the wild cat half of the very popular and domestic Bengal cat. Perhaps the wrong wild cat was chosen to be the wild element in a wild cat hybrid.

The Andean mountain cat is a special animal. It really is. It is very rare and it lives in a few particular places in South America (see distribution below). It is still one of the least known cats. In many ways this wild cat species looks and behaves like a domestic cat. Sadly, it is persecuted for superstitious reasons by local natives (religious ceremonies) and there are very few left in the world at an estimated 1,378 mature individuals with a decreasing population and a severely fragmented distribution. This is a tiny number and dangerously close to an unviable number for survival due to inbreeding I would suggest.

Why is the Andean mountain cat endangered?

Andean mountain cat distribution as at 2022
Andean mountain cat distribution as at 2022. Source: IUCN Red List.

It is confined to high rocky places in the treeless Andes of southern Peru, south-western Bolivia, north-eastern Chile and northern Argentina as at 2002. They live in arid and barren areas about 5000 m above sea level.

Andean Mountain Cat Facts

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