Geoffroy’s cats live in a variety of subtropical and tropical terrestrial habitats. These habitats include dry mountain grasslands and scrublands, coastal flooded grasslands, savannahs and wetlands, temperate grasslands, savannahs and scrublands, and dry broadleaf forests. Habitats may be wet or dry, and vary in vegetation density, but still provide enough cover to allow L. geoffroyi to hunt effectively. Geoffroy’s cats demonstrate some degree of habitat selection plasticity and will move between naturalized parks and adjacent ranch-lands. Movement between these locations is often driven by predator avoidance and to take advantage of high rodent populations on agricultural lands. (Cuellar, et al., 2006; Johnson and Franklin, 1991; Manfredi, et al., 2004; Nascimento, 2014; Pereira, et al., 2015; Pereira, et al., 2012; Ximenez, 1975)
Geoffroy’s cats are small felines spotted on their dorsal and ventral body. Their spots are dark and either solid round or elliptical shaped, ranging 15 to 20 mm in diameter. On the dorsal body spots are roughly arranged in longitudinal rows. Occasionally, these spots may be aggregated together especially along the spine, giving the illusion of black stripes. Smokey gray to yellowish-brown colored pelage surrounds the spots on the dorsum. On the ventral side, spots are surrounded by cream-colored to white pelage. Geoffroy’s cats can also exhibit a melanistic coat.
The head and ear pelage ranges from smoky gray to yellow-brown. The dorsal side of their ears are black with a centralized white spot. The cats’ hairs around the eyes and lips, chin, throat and cheeks are colored whitish-grey. Their cheeks have two dark longitudinal stripes; the top stripe connects with a dark eye stripe. Four or five rows of spots or blended spots are found in the area around the vibrissae. The bottom row of vibrissae spots continues to the top of their lips. Geoffroy’s cats have a dark incomplete hyoid stripe. Their nape and sides of the neck may have several longitudinal dark stripes. The tops of the cats’ heads have two longitudinal stripes where spots may be found in-between the stripes. These head stripes can connect with nape stripes, and stripes and spots above the eye. The facial spotting and striping pattern is diagnostic of this species, and is used to distinguish them from the closely resembling kodkods (Leopardus guigna). The base pelage color of limbs are similar to the color of the dorsal and ventral body. The limbs are spotted on their dorsal side and these spots become smaller moving distally along the limb. The tail has similar coloring to the dorsal base pelage. Their tails are ringed with dark transverse bands and have black tips. The hair is fine along the flanks of , and coarse elsewhere. Their hair is the shortest on the head, longer on the flanks, and the longest in the inguinal region. Their hairs have a backward facing awn and are described as “harsh”.
Geoffroy’s cats are small sized and exhibit sexual dimorphism with males being larger in body size than females. The average mass ofis 4.3 kg. Body mass can vary for this species and is linked with its geographical location. The smallest cats are found in the Monte Desert of Argentina where male average mass is 4.0 kg and female average mass is 3.0 kg. The largest cats are found in Campos del Tuyú, Argentina where average mass for males and females are 7.4 kg and 4.2 kg respectively. The head-body length of Geoffroy’s cats range between 498 to 750 mm for males and 390 to 515 mm for females. Geoffroy’s cats’s tails are relatively long compared to their body length and range in length between 300 to 410 mm for males and 265 to 275 mm for females. Their hind feet length ranges between 115 to 150 mm for males and 110 to 216 mm for females. This species has very round ears varying in length between 45 to 62 mm for males and 47 to 57 mm for females. Body size is not correlated with latitude in this species. In locations where are relatively large, the degree of sexual dimorphism is greater than locations were the cats are smaller. Geoffroy’s cats have a total of 51 vertebrae: seven cervical, 13 thoracic, seven lumbar, three sacral, and 21 caudal. They have 9 ribs on each side.
Their skull lengths average 105.6 mm for males and 97.8 mm for females. They have short rostrums with an average length of 37.1 mm in males and 32.9 mm in females. The nasal bones of their rostrum are curved anteriorly and become narrower at the articulation with the frontals. Geoffroy’s cats have forward-facing orbits that are found in the anterior portion of the skull. Their interorbital region is narrow. The postorbital bars ofare incomplete. The zygomatic arches of the cat are well-developed expanding laterally and forming a plate at base of the orbits. Males have broader zygomatic arches than females. Their frontal bone is slightly convex and well-developed, forming a large portion of their braincase. Geoffroy’s cats have large braincases that are oval shaped. The average greatest breadth of the braincase is 42.2 mm for males and 44.3 mm for females. Older males have more developed and larger sagittal crests than females and younger males. Between the third premolars, the palate width ranges between 32.8 to 42.5 mm in males and 30.7 to 41.3 mm in females. The palate is either as long as it is wide or shorter than its width. The posterior margin of their palate has a u-shaped edge. This margin can have a deep or shallow medial notch. Two lateral projections may be found on each side of the notch, and this can be used to distinguish Geoffroy’s cats from other cat species. If the notch is absent, the palate margin may have a projection that can also be used to identify the species.
The average height and length of mandibles for males are 31.5 mm and 68.8 mm respectively. In females, the average mandible height is 26.8 mm and average length is 61.0 mm. Geoffroy’s cats’ mandibles have deep and broad masseteric fossa, and strong condyloid processes. Their condyloid processes are bar-shaped and align with occlusional surfaces of the lowest teeth. The coronoids are well-developed in this cat and resemble a hook. The cats’ angular processes are relativity large and round.
Geoffroy’s cats have a total of 26 teeth and their dental formula is: I 3/3 C 1/1 P 3/3 M 1/0. The average length between the first canine and first molar is 32.0 mm for males and 29.4 mm for females. The average length between the third premolar and first molar is 23.2 mm and 21.6 mm for males and females respectively. In this species, parastyles are absent from their third premolars and their fourth premolars usually have a paracone. (Bisceglia,, et al., 2008; Lucherini, et al., 2006; Nascimento, 2014; Pereira, et al., 2012; Ximenez, 1975)
Due to the sexual dimorphism in body size, it is thought L. geoffroyi experiences high intra-sexual competition. However, in captivity a lack of courtship behavior and increased social grooming suggests pair-bonding between mates. (Lucherini, et al., 2006; Nascimento, 2014; Ximenez, 1975)
Most information regarding reproduction has been gleaned from captive Geoffroy’s cats. Male Geoffroy’s cats reach maturity at 50 months of age, and females reach maturity at 47 months in captivity. Maximum reproduction occurs between 49 to 88 months of age in males and 37 to 73 months of age in females. Copulation may continue in males until they are 17.3 years old and in females until they are 15 years old; however, these copulations do not always lead to successful pregnancy. During the pre-estrus period, female appetite decreases, and they avoid males and decrease their affiliative behavior with conspecifics, becoming more solitary. While the females are in estrus, males show an increase in aggression and decrease in playing behaviors. During the estrous period, the species increases vocalizations and flehmen. When housed in captivity in North America, L. geoffroyi peak estrus occurs between February and August. In their natural southern hemisphere range, peak estrus is thought to be the reverse of what is observed in North America. In the wild, female Geoffroy’s cats are believed to be monoestrous. In captivity where food is abundant, females are polyestrous. Estrus lengths range between 1 to 12 days and older females experience longer estrus periods. In captivity, the time period between estrus, ranges between 10 to 60 days. In captivity, mating attempts occur throughout the day. When females are receptive to copulation, they will go into the lordosis position or crouch on the ground, move their tail to the side and allow the male to mount them. Often males drag females by their nape and move them to another location to mate. In their native habitat, under periods of food shortage, individuals may not be able to successfully reproduce. After successful mating, zygotes implant into both uterine horns and gestation ranges between 62 to 72 days. During this time pregnant females decrease running and jumping activity. When females are close to parturition they increase their genital grooming, pacing, and elimination. In captivity female L. geoffroyi build nests within nest boxes from ground litter. In their native habitat, females and young have been found in tree cavities and under tree roots. To prepare for birth, females will pluck hairs from around their nipples and their vulvas. Parturition occurs in either a standing or sitting position and can last 170 minutes.
In captivity, litters of 1 to 4 cubs are born between April and October. In Uruguay Geoffroy’s cats give birth to one litter of 2 to 3 young between December and May. In captivity there appears to be a sex-biased at birth ratio of more males than females being born. Cubs are born fairly altricial, having closed eyes. The cubs are born with spotted fur and can weigh between 90 to 122 g. The cubs’ eyes open between 13 to 28 days after birth, and at this time they increase their activity in the nest.
When females are housed separately from males until their young have been weaned, they typically return to their estrus periods 8 months after parturition. The time period until their first postpartum estrus may vary depending on the survival of their young and housing arrangements with conspecifics. During the summer months, L. geoffroyi increases nocturnal movements, which may be correlated to an increase in male territory marking and females acquiring additional food for their young. (Anderson, 1977; Johnson and Franklin, 1991; Law and Boyle, 1984; Lucherini, et al., 2006; Manfredi, et al., 2011; Pereira and Novaro, 2014; Pereira, et al., 2006; Ximenez, 1975)
Once young are born, the mother will groom them. If the cubs leave the nesting area prematurely, mothers will “cub-carry” them back to the nest. Once the cubs are 35 to 45 days old, they venture out of the nest and play with each and their mother. Play among cubs and their mothers include approach-retreat play and tail-play. Female L. geoffroyi start to wean young once they reach 50 days old, and completely wean cubs by 90 days. In captivity when females leave their young, they cover them with leaf litter. Generally, older females are more successful at rearing kittens than younger, first-time mothers. When females are stressed or in poor condition, they commit infanticide or neglect their young. (Anderson, 1977; Foreman, 1997; Law and Boyle, 1984)
Geoffroy’s cats are mostly a terrestrial species, but are able to climb well and use trees for resting spots, transition paths or defecation sites. Geoffroy’s cats are solitary, and the only observations of conspecifics together in the wild have been of females their kittens. When housed together in captivity the cats are sociable, and will rest together and groom each other. Predominately a nocturnal cat, most of their activities occur during two peak periods. These peaks vary depending on location, and range between 21:00 to 22:00 and 1:00 to 5:00. During the winter months Geoffroy’s cats become less active. These cats can also be active during the day, and when prey abundance is low they may increase their diurnal activity. In captivity, Geoffroy’s cats are often crepuscular and are active around feeding times. During periods of inactivity they rest in tree middens and cavities, root hollows or tall vegetation. (Cuellar, et al., 2006; Johnson and Franklin, 1991; Manfredi, et al., 2006; Manfredi, et al., 2011; Pereira, 2010)
In the Argentinian grasslands, Geoffroy’s cats are more active during the summer months than winter months. This difference in seasonal activity may be correlated with changes in prey abundance and/or the reproductive cycle of the cats. The activity levels of this species are also associated with nocturnal luminosity that is site specific. During periods of activity, males move further and more frequently than females. Males are capable of travelling over 3000 m in one night. Activity increases when they inhabit areas that experience higher human disturbances, such as parks and ranchlands. In captivity, males and females show no difference in activity levels. (Foreman, 1997; Johnson and Franklin, 1991; Manfredi, et al., 2006; Manfredi, et al., 2011; Pereira, et al., 2006; Pereira, et al., 2012)
Male Geoffroy’s cats disperse further away and inhabit their home ranges for less time than females. When native habitat and ranch-lands are situated near each other, dispersal is more common between ranches, and from native habitats to ranch-lands. Home ranges are larger in these ranch-lands than native habitats. In the scrublands of Argentina, average male home ranges are 207.5 ha during the autumn and winter months. In Argentinian grasslands home ranges vary between 248 ha to 342 ha. Male Geoffroy’s cats have larger ranges than females, and overlap more with other males’ ranges. The size and degree of range overlap with conspecifics can change depending on prey abundance and avoidance of predators such as pumas (Puma concolor). (Foreman, 1997; Johnson and Franklin, 1991; Manfredi, et al., 2006; Pereira and Novaro, 2014; Pereira, et al., 2012)
Little is known about L. geoffroyi communication in their native habitat. They do not bury their feces and will use a location repeatedly for defecation. These fecal latrines are conspicuous, and are found in tree platforms, rock shelters, grass tussocks and along trails. It is thought their latrines are means for olfaction and visual communication among conspecifics. Geoffroy’s cats will scratch objects with their front claws as a way of olfactory communication. In captivity, these cats exhibit flehmen, an open mouth grimace that is followed by sniffing an object or another cat. They can be sociable with conspecifics when housed together and will rub their foreheads against another cat, and groom and sniff each other. Geoffroy’s cats will follow behind each other in captivity. Geoffroy’s cats’ acoustics include a “gurgle bo” noise associated with friendly close-range communications. More aggressive communications include hissing and growling vocalizations. (Foreman, 1997; Johnson and Franklin, 1991; Manfredi, et al., 2006; Mellen, 1993; Peters and Tonkin-Leyhausen, 1999; Soler, et al., 2009)
Geoffroy’s cats are carnivorous. Throughout their range, they predominately prey on small mammals, but will prey on other organisms such as birds, snakes, insects, amphibians and fish depending on abundance and encounter rate. In southern Brazil, Geoffroy’s cats prey on cavies (Cavia species), Brazilian marsh rats (Holochilus brasiliensis), Oligoryzomys species, Necromys species and copyus (Myocastor coypus). In the Monte desert they prey mostly heavily on mammals especially Molina’s grass mice (Akodon molinae), drylands vesper mice (Calomys musculinus), and Eligomondontia typus. In southern Patagonia they eat mainly European hares (Lepus europaeus) and in wetland areas they prey more heavily on waterfowl. Geoffroy’s cats will prey on tuco tucos (Ctenomys azarae), cavies and sigmodontine rodents found on ranch-lands. Prey switching can occur between the seasons and can result in a narrowing or broadening of their food niche.
Geoffroy’s cats hunt by the typical feline ambush strategy. They actively search for and stalk prey undetected and then ambush. In captivity they have been observed to tunnel beneath ground-litter and also sit upright on their haunches or stand on their hind legs. These behaviors may be potential mechanisms used in the wild for prey capture. Geoffroy’s cats are able to crush bones of prey that weigh up to 60% of their own body mass. When L. geoffroyi consume hares, they can destroy and ingest ribs and vertebrae. (Bisceglia,, et al., 2008; Branch, 1995; Canepuccia, et al., 2007; Foreman, 1997; Johnson and Franklin, 1991; Manfredi, et al., 2004; Pereira, et al., 2012; Sousa and Bager, 2008; Ximenez, 1975; Álvarez, et al., 2012)
Geoffroy’s cats are preyed on by ‘Pumas (Puma concolor)’ and potentially by ‘Jaguars (Panthera onca), ‘culpeo foxes (Lycalopex culpaeus)’, and large birds of prey such as ‘black-chested buzzard eagles (Geranoaetus melanoleucus)’ and ‘great-horned owls (Bubo virginianus). Humans do not typically hunt L. geoffroyi for their meat. The greatest source of mortality for these cats is from human-related causes including poaching, vehicle collisions and direct persecution on ranches. ‘Domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)’ on ranches also kill Geoffroy’s cats. In Argentina, they are less likely to survive living on ranch-lands than in adjacent natural parks. (Altrichter, 2006; Foreman, 1997; Johnson and Franklin, 1991; Pereira, et al., 2010; Pereira, et al., 2015)
Where L. geoffroyi range overlaps with ‘oncillas (Leopardus tigrinus )’ in Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, ecological partitioning occurs and each species is thought to use different niches. In the Bolivian dry forests, L. geoffroyi may avoid areas where its range and the range of ‘ocelots (Leopardus pardalis)’ overlap.
Geoffroy’s cats are not known to contract rabies. Geoffroy’s cats are a reservoir host of Toxoplasma gondii. In captivity L. geoffroyi can become infected with the picobirnavirus in Uruguay. L. geoffroyi can host fleas such as Delostichus phyllotis and human fleas (Pulex irritans), and the tick species Amblyomma parvum. The spread of novel pathogens from domestic dogs and cats to L. geoffroyi could have serious implication for the species. Diseases and pathogens spread from domestic dogs and cats to Geoffroy’s cats include canine distemper virus, feline panleukopenia virus, heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis), feline roundworm (Toxocara catti), domestic cat hookworm (Ancylostoma tubaeforme), trematodes (Alaria alata), and tapeworms (Taenia hydatigena). A potential spill over disease from domestic cats into L. geoffroyi is feline immunodeficiency virus. (Beldomenico, et al., 2005; Cuellar, et al., 2006; Fiorello, et al., 2006; Gillman, et al., 2013; Trigo, et al., 2013; Uhart, et al., 2012)
Geoffroy’s cats prey on rodents that frequent rice plantations and ranch-lands. These cats will consume road-killed hares and large rodents. In many areas throughout their range, Geoffroy’s cat will prey heavily on introduced European hares (Lepus europaeus).
Between the 1960s and 1988, Geoffroy’s cats were excessively harvested for their pelts. In 1988 the species became protected and harvesting the species became illegal throughout its range.
Geoffroy’s cats have been known to prey on poultry and are often considered a pest on agricultural lands. They will occasionally eat dead lambs found in pastures.
Due to the movement of L. geoffroyi into ranch-lands, diseases and parasites can spread between them and domestic cats (Felis catus) and dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Domestic cats in Uruguay can acquire parasitic Alaria alata and spiruroid species from Geoffroy’s cats. Likewise, L. geoffroyi may acquire diseases common to domestic animals, such as canine distemper virus, thinned-necked bladderworm (Taenia hydatigena), heartworm (Difrofilaria immitis), feline roundworm (Toxocara catti), and domestic cat hookworm (Ancylostoma tubaeforme). (Beldomenico, et al., 2005; Castro, et al., 2009; Cuellar, et al., 2006; Pereira, et al., 2015; Sousa and Bager, 2008; Uhart, et al., 2012)
As of 2014, the IUCN Red List reassessed the conservation status of L. geoffroyi and changed it to least concern. Previously in 2008, the species was classified as near threatened. They still continue to be a protected species; hunting and trading across their entire range is prohibited. Geoffroy’s cats are considered rare in Chile, vulnerable in Brazil and of least concern in Argentina.
Population densities vary depending on habitat type and location. In the Bolivian dry forests, estimates for Geoffroy’s cats range from 10 to 40 animals per 100 km^2. In the semi-arid scrubland of Argentina, L. geoffroyi density estimates range between 190 to 220 animals per 100 km^2.
Geoffroy’s cats face habitat loss and fragmentation, which could negatively impact their population. Although they are able to adapt to some agriculturally converted habitats, they must expand their home range and prey searching to meet energy requirements. Climate change leading to increase frequencies of droughts in the Monte desert of Argentina could lead to population declines in this species. Illegal poaching of Geoffroy’s cats for pelt trade still occurs. (Cuellar, et al., 2006; Manfredi, et al., 2011; Pereira and Novaro, 2014; Pereira, et al., 2010; Pereira, et al., 2015)
Geoffroy’s cats have previously been referred to by many taxonomic names including Felix geoffroyi and Oncifelis geoffroyi. The currently accepted taxonomic name is Leopardus geoffroyi. The definitions of L. geoffroyi subspecies and their locations have changed many times. Extreme variation in spotting patterns and pigmentations were previously used to differentiate between geographical populations to distinguish subspecies; however, these pelage variations can be found in many different populations and are no longer used as defining characteristics. Only one subspecies exists and it contains high levels of genetic diversity. Geoffroy’s cats are part of the ‘ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)’ lineage and are a sister species to ‘kodkods (Leopardus guigna)’. In an area of overlapping ranges in southern Brazil, L. geoffroyi and ‘oncillas (Leopardus tigrinus)’ hybridize.
Nicole Kaminski (author), University of Manitoba, Jane Waterman (editor), University of Manitoba, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.
uses sound to communicate
living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
flesh of dead animals.
either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
active at dawn and dusk
in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
parental care is carried out by females
union of egg and spermatozoan
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.
chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species
rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.
communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them
scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
breeding takes place throughout the year
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