Jaguar cubs – from heat to independence (2022)

Jaguar cubs are cute and beautiful but you don’t expect to see a picture of one in the wild, do you? The jaguar is pretty rare and elusive with an approximate world population of about 8,000 (2022 but see below) and a minimum of about half that (the experts don’t really know the number, which is partly why I think the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classification of Near Threatened (NT) is generous). I would go further and say this cat is Threatened (Vulnerable) if one compares the long-term past with projections of the long-term future.

Jaguar cub
Photo of jaguar cub ‘Valerio’ by Deric Wagner
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Population size

The Red List is the go-to website for population numbers of any wild species. They do not publish a world population number for the jaguar as at May 4, 2022. It’s described as Near Threatened under their classification (as mentioned) which is not bad and their assessment is dated August 5, 2016. The population is decreasing and fragmented. But they do not have the confidence it seems to me to tell us what they think is the overall population size of mature individual jaguars.

This page, however deals with jaguar cubs; the reproduction and development of the jaguar. The jaguar is one of the four big cats that can roar and roaring, it is thought, brings male and female together to mate. The female travels in search of a male mate and roars! Males then come around and accompany her on her travels.


Female jaguars stay in heat (sexually receptive – oestrus) for about 6-17 days and the period in between oestrous is 22-65 days. The female becomes restless during oestrus and mating is quick and very frequent (up to 100 times a day!).

Click on the image below to see the video on YouTube.

Jacksonville Zoo – Video by Sheryl Staaden

About the video above

The jaguar birth took place on New Year’s Day 2009 (at 8:30 pm). The mother is Zassi who comes from Georgetown, Guyana (Guyana is a south American country – see map below) and the father is Tuco from Houston Zoo. The rarity of these events is highlighted by the fact that it is the first born at Jacksonville Zoo since 1981. So quite a celebration (and some nervousness, I expect).

Map picture

Zassi is a jaguar who was captured as a young animal and subsequently raised by people; thus, making a return to the wild impossible and as a result she was loaned (with her brother who suffered the same fate) to Jacksonville Zoo. Zassi went to a good home as the zoo has the largest number of jaguars in the USA (8).

Pregnancy – newborns – development

Back to pregnancy. Pregnancy lasts for about 100 days and the litter size is 1-4 jaguar cubs. When newly born, jaguar cubs weigh between 700 and 800 grams (about 1.5 lbs). They are born with their eyes closed and they stay that way until between 3-13 days of age. The teeth start to show at about one month of age. Initially, jaguar cubs bleat then gurgle followed by the meow at between 3-6 months of age and finally almost the full range of sounds at one year of age. Males grow faster than females and after one year are about 25% bigger.

Thereafter the timetable might follow the following path:

Until 10-11 weeks of agedependent on mother’s milk
11 weeksstart to eat meat
6 monthscan continue to suckle to this age
15-18 monthsbegin independence and make own kills
About 2 yearsmales 50% bigger than females and cats are independent

Jaguar picking up cub

Independence and dispersal

Jaguar cubs disperse to their own range when they become adult. There is little data on when this takes place (which I find surprising).

However, it would seem to vary between 20 months in the Pantanal, Brazil (for a male and female) and 16-18 months (for two males) in Iguacu National Park, Brazil. There is a large difference in the dispersal behaviour of females and males (which, I have to say, somewhat mimics the dispersal habits of people).

Jaguar cubs
Photo Milwaukee County Zoo / AP – Note I have taken the liberty of publishing this photo here under fair use.

Whereas females might disperse and come back to the “natal area” before finally leaving for good to a home range closer to home than for males; males would leave for good and go three times further away from “home” (the natal range) than females. There are two sad stories in the fine book, Wild Cats of the World, in which two males entirely independent of each other ended up being shot by poachers while searching for a home range or having just settled down (page 512).

A jaguar cub’s growth to independence and desire to leave “home” is not linked to sexual maturity, which occurs after dispersal. Females becoming sexually mature at 2-2.5 years of age and males later at 3-4 years of age.

Click on the image below to be taken to the video on YouTube.

Jaguars do fish and turtles are part of their diet. They have a fishing technique and like water so the video above shows natural behaviour albeit it in unnatural surroundings – see Jaguar Ecology and Behaviour.

Jaguars have the strongest bite of all the cats and they frequently pierce the carapace of the turtle to feed. They are very good at preying on marine wildlife such as caiman – a type of alligator.

Here are some more pages on the jaguar.

The photos on this page are either published under a creative Commons licence or they are in the public domain. If neither apply I would argue fair use on educational basis as this site is non-profit.


  • Wild Cats of the World
  • YouTube
  • Photobucket
  • Wikimedia

Below are some more pages on the jaguar which may interest you.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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