What do Andean mountain cats eat?

Andean mountain cats eat any small mammal, birds and lizards. In the altiplano (Andean Plateau where the Andes are at their widest), despite the arid looking landscape, there is a surprising array of possible prey animals such as rabbits, hairy armadillos, various rodent species and mountain viscachas. There is also a variety of ground-dwelling birds such as seed-snipes and earth creepers. Ducks, wading birds and geese are also potential prey. There are lakes in the Andes.

Andean mountain cat and the place where it lives
Andean mountain cat and the place where it lives
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There have been some interesting records by scientists of Andean mountain cats hunting. Jim Sanderson in 1998 saw one at Salar de Surire. He saw the cat on three occasions getting as close as three meters because these small wild cats are still unaware of the dangers posed by humans. Each time the Andean mountain cat was hunting in a colony of mountain viscachas.

At the same place in the same year, a wildlife photographer, Günter Ziesler, was watching mountain viscahas at sunrise in an area of boulders near a spring. An Andean mountain cat arrived on a hunting expedition. The cat was unsuccessful and Ziesler watched for an hour. The cat was unafraid of his presence about 30 feet away.

Andean mountain cat
Andean mountain cat. Photo believed to be in the public domain.

I.R. Grimwood in Notes on the distribution and status on some Peruvian mammals published in 1969 reported observing a Andean mountain cat at 4,300 meters above sea level stalking viscachas on Hacienda Cala Cala in Peru, near Azangaro.

In another encounter a fox was seen running away from an Andean cat apparently frightened and considering that it was a prey animal for the cat. Perhaps this is an indication of the fierce nature of this endearing small wild cat when hunting.

I am indebted to Mel and Fiona Sunquist the authors of Wild Cats of the World. Buy the book if you are interested in the world’s wild cats.

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