Categories: Margay

What does the margay eat?

Margay. Photo: Wikipedia but substantially cleaned up and enlarged.

The margay is a small wild cat species in between the size of an ocelot and an oncilla. They are fabulous tree climbers with double jointed ankles which allow them to behave like monkeys when climbing. You can read about the species in straightforward terms on a page that I wrote some time ago. In short, however, it is a small wild cat and therefore we would expect its feeding habits to be similar to those of a domestic cat which they are. We don’t have a lot of information about their feeding ecology across their range but based on stomach contents and analyses of scats (faeces) we know that they mainly feed on small rodents, birds, fruit and insects. This cat is unusual in that it likes fruit!

Margay. Collage by PoC.

Most of their prey live in trees (are arboreal) and nocturnal (active at night). However the margay, although a wonderful tree climber, also hunts on the ground.

They will kill whatever suitable ground living prey that they encounter while moving between hunting areas. One scientist (Azevedo), in Brazil, observed a margay spending 20 minutes attempting to catch a bird that was 6 metres up in a bamboo clump. The bird flew off and the cat descended to the ground. The same scientist, on another occasion, observed a margay eating an amphibian beneath a tree.

Tame Margay Cat. Photo by Mark Low!

Research into margays living in Venezuelan, indicated that they fed on squirrel, cane rat and spiny pocket mice based upon stomach contents.

In Chiapas, Mexico it is reported that margays feed on field mice, rabbits and young pacas and agoutis. These prey items are all terrestrial i.e. they live on the ground. In Panama the stomach contents of one margay contained the remains of a common opossum.

Margays and Mayans

Some articles on the margay. There are more. Please use Google custom search (top of the page):

While in Brazil analysis of the stomach contents of a margay indicated that it had fed on a guinea pig, a water rat and a tinamou (a ground-dwelling tropical American bird that looks somewhat like a grouse). Margays often eat insects and insects were found in a third of their scats. Somewhat surprisingly, fruit occurred in 14% of the samples analysed. Captive margays like to eat figs and they are even known to eat lettuce.

The information comes from the celebrated book Wild Cats of the World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist who referred to numerous references the details of which you can obtain from me should you wish by requesting them in a comment below. I thank you for your patience.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a 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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