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[jah gwuh ruhn' dE] Herpailurus yaguarundi


This member of the cat family is often mistaken for a weasel or otter and is even known as an "otter cat" in parts of its range. It has a long slender body, very short legs, small flattened head, and small rounded ears, is 3-4 feet long, including a tail that is up to 2 feet long, stands 10-24 inches at the shoulder, and weighs 8-16 pounds. Jaguarundis come in one of two colors, rusty-brown or charcoal gray. Unlike most other wild cats of the Americas, jaguarundis do not have spots except as juveniles, but those that are gray usually have two white patches under the nose and rusty-brown ones may have a white or cream throat.

Distribution and Habitat

The jaguarundi ranges from extreme southern Texas, through Mexico and Central America, to northern Argentina. It lives in a variety of habitats but is most common in dense, thorny shrublands. It makes its home in a natural cave, under a bank, or in tall grass.


The jaguarundi preys on birds, rabbits, and small rodents. Prey is usually stalked and then pounced upon, but jaguarundis have been seen climbing into trees after prey, and will also spring straight up into the air to catch birds on the wing. They will also readily enter water to catch fish.


Breeding may occur any time of the year. One to four spotted kittens are born after a gestation period of 70-75 days. They are weaned at about one month of age, are independent by their tenth month, and are sexually mature at two to three years. A jaguarundi can live up to 15 years in the wild.

Other Habits and Behaviors

Jaguarundis appear to be solitary except for breeding. They maintain unusually large home ranges, but it is not known whether they actively defend them. They are very vocal, with over a dozen separate vocalizations known, including purrs, whistles, screams, chatters, yaps, and even bird-like chirps.

Jaguarundis are threatened by habitat destruction, but their elusiveness makes it difficult to determine how many of them exist in the wild.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Mammalia
order Carnivora
family Felidae
genus & species Herpailurus yaguarundi

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The Robinson Library >> Order Carnivora >> Family Felidae

This page was last updated on June 15, 2018.