Do jaguarundis live in the US?

Jaguarundi in captivity
Jaguarundi in captivity. Photo: as per image.
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What the question in the title is asking is whether jaguarundis live IN THE WILD in the United States and the answer to that more precise question is officially NO. I say officially because sometimes we see reports of sightings of this small wild cat in America. I’ve seen reports of sighting in Florida for instance. These are probably escaped ‘pets’. But this cat does not live in the wild in Florida. One possibility for the sightings is that escaped pets have mated and started a little colony! I suppose it is just about plausible to suggest that there has been some informal rewilding into Florida of the jaguarundi!

If you are unsure, the jaguarundi is a small, rather strange looking small wild cat species that looks a little like a weasel! It has a plain ‘ticked tabby’ type coat.

Jaguarundi distribution
Jaguarundi distribution per IUCN Red List as at Dec 2019 – 2022. Not in Florida as per this organisation.

Some people do keep them as an exotic pet although they don’t make good pets. They are undomesticated. It has taken 10,000 years of the domestication of the African wildcat to produce the current version of the domestic cat and it is said they are barely domesticated. I think a lot of cat owners would agree.

Although many people are drawn to the idea of keeping an exotic pet in the form of a small wild cat species, the advice is don’t unless you want to have a mini private zoo-like arrangement as they can’t live in the home unless you want urine sprayed up your walls and being kept awake all night.

Jaguarundi carried by small cat specialist and expert Jim Sanderson PhD.
Jaguarundi carried by small cat specialist and expert Jim Sanderson PhD. The picture is by him.

So, you can tame a jaguarundi and they can be quite tame but that’s different to domestication. The official distribution of the jaguarundi can be seen on the IUCN Red List website. That’s the definitive source of this kind of wild cat species information. For many years they’ve shown the distribution as going no farther north than Mexico. South America is the main home of this cat species where their population size is consistently diminishing due mainly to habitat loss and fragmentation.

People sometimes also ask if this cat species lives in Arizona. That’s a reasonable question because Arizona is on the border between the United States and Mexico. As mentioned, the jaguarundi is found in Mexico. Perhaps it is feasible to suggest that some individuals have migrated to Arizona but I think not. Officially once again there are no jaguarundi, in the wild, in Arizona.

Is the jaguarundi in Arizona? No.
Is the jaguarundi in Arizona? No. Map: PoC based on IUCN Red List map (2022).

There was a sighting in Massachusetts.

Below are a couple more pages on this cat but there are more. Please search if you are interested.

What’s the difference between the jaguar and jaguarundi?

20 facts about the jaguarundi

2 thoughts on “Do jaguarundis live in the US?”

  1. I know for a fact that jaguarandi do live in the US I have seen them as well as recorded them calling back and forth to each other on my property in rural pottawatomie county oklahoma. My neighbors have also seen them. When you see one there’s no mistaking what it is. Very easy to identify.

    • Yep, there are a lot of people who’d agree with you. I think they originate in escaped pets or from zoos. They then procreate. The US is not within the official distribution of this wild cat.


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