Leopardus guignakodkod

Geographic Range

Leopardus guigna is also known as the kodkod, guigna, or Chilean cat. It can be found in central and southern Chile, Chiloé Island of Chile, Guaitecas Island of Chile, the Andes Mountains, and western Argentina. ("Kodkod, Chilean cat", 2009; Acosta and Lucherini, 2008; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002; Wilson and Reeder, 2005; Postanowicz, 2008)


Kodkods are terrestrial and arboreal, dwelling in moist temperate forests, particularly in coastal regions like the islands of Chile. The types of forest where they are traditionally found include evergreen temperate rainforests, deciduous temperate moist forests, sclerophyllous scrub, and coniferous forests (The World Conservation Union, 1996). Kodkods are somewhat tolerant of disturbance, as they can be found in primary forest and secondary forest and scrub, as well as on the outskirts of cultivated areas (The World Conservation Union, 1996). They are commonly observed in Chilean Valdivian and Araucaria forests. Characteristics of these forest habitats include altitudes between 1,900 and 2,500 meters, complex canopy layers, bamboo, lianas, and epiphytes (Acosta and Luch, 2008). Additionally, kodkods are found in Argentinian moist montane forests, which also have bamboo, lianas, and epiphytes (The World Conservation Union, 1996). (Nowak, et al., 2005; "Kodkod, Chilean cat", 2009; Acosta and Lucherini, 2008; Dunstone, et al., 2002; Nowak, et al., 2005; "KodKod", 1996)

  • Range elevation
    50 to 2,500 m
    164.04 to ft

Physical Description

Leopardus guigna is the smallest cat species in the Western Hemisphere, averaging no larger than a typical house cat Felis catus (Postanowicz, 2008). They weigh between 1.5 and 3 kg (Postanowicz, 2008). Kodkods have body lengths from 40 to 52 centimeters, with tail length between 19 and 25 centimeters (Nowak, Kays, and Macdonald, 2005). They have smaller heads and shorter, thicker tails relative to their large feet and claws, which help them to climb trees (Kodkod and Chilean cat, 2009). The main fur color is gray brown or reddish brown, with dark spots, stripes on their tails and dorsal sides, and pale-colored venter and sides (The World Conservation Union, 1996; Postanowicz, 2008). Some kodkods have eyespots on the backs of their ears because of their characteristic black on white fur markings (Postanowicz, 2008). Melanistic, or darker colored, kodkods are not uncommon and their stripes and spots are often detectable in bright light (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002). They are similar in appearance to Geoffroy's cats (Leopardus geoffroyi) except kodkods have less distinct stripes on their head and shoulder regions and they have thicker tails (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002). ("Kodkod, Chilean cat", 2009; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002; Nowak, et al., 2005; Postanowicz, 2008)

There are two subspecies: Leopardus guigna tigrillo and Leopardus guigna guigna. Leopardus g. tigrillo is found in the southern Patagonia region and can be identified by its overall paler coat color without spot markings on the feet (The World Conservation Union, 1996). Leopardus g. guigna is found in central Chile and can be recognized by its smaller body size, brighter colors, and spot markings on the feet (The World Conservation Union, 1996).

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    1.5 to 3 kg
    3.30 to 6.61 lb
  • Average mass
    2.2 kg
    4.85 lb
  • Range length
    40 to 52 cm
    15.75 to 20.47 in


There is minimal information about the mating systems of kodkods because of their rarity. The larger home ranges of males may indicate that they range widely in search of multiple mates. (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002; Sanderson, et al., 2002)

Kodkods have litter sizes that range between 1 and 4 offspring (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002). They have a gestation period between 72 to 78 days. Breeding interval and seasonality have not been reported. Sexual maturity is reached at approximately 24 months for both males and females (Postanowicz, 2008). ("KodKod", 2009; "Kodkod, Chilean cat", 2009; Nowak, et al., 2005; Postanowicz, 2008; "KodKod", 1996)

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding interval has not been reported.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding seasonality has not been reported.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 4
  • Range gestation period
    72 to 78 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    24 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    24 months

There is minimal information on parental investment in kodkods. Like other small cats, kodkod females are likely to provide the only parental care. They invest significantly in gestation and lactation and may provide extended care for the young, teaching them to hunt before they become independent. (Acosta and Lucherini, 2008; Nowak, et al., 2005)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


Kodkods can reach 11 years old in the wild. ("KodKod", 2009; "Kodkod, Chilean cat", 2009; Postanowicz, 2008; "KodKod", 1996)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    11 (high) years


Kodkods are arboreal and tend to climb when trying to find shelter, safety from pursuers, or an ideal lookout place to find prey (The World Conservation Union, 1996). Kodkods are more likely to be nocturnal in areas populated by humans and diurnal in more wild areas (Postanowicz, 2008). They are solitary carnivores with males ranging more widely than females (Sanderson, Sunquist, and Iriarte, 2002). (Postanowicz, 2008; Sanderson, et al., 2002; "KodKod", 1996)

Home Range

One study reported an average home range of 1.5 square kilometers for a group of 5 kodkods that included males and females (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002). Another study recorded mean home ranges of 2.69 square kilometers with considerable overlap between individuals (Dunstone et al., 2002). In fragmented habitats, males are more likely to leave their home ranges than females (Sanderson, Sunquist, and Iriarte, 2002). (Dunstone, et al., 2002; Sanderson, et al., 2002; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)

Communication and Perception

Due to the rare and secretive nature of kodkods, there is little information regarding communication and perception. Like most small cats, kodkods have excellent vision, hearing, and sense of smell. They are likely to use chemical cues in communication as well as vocalizations, body postures, and tactile cues. (Acosta and Lucherini, 2008; Nowak, et al., 2005)

Food Habits

Kodkods are carnivorous, eating mainly small rodents, reptiles, birds, and large insects (Kodkod, 2009; Postanowicz, 2008; The World Conservation Union, 1996). Observed prey species include Norwegian rats (Rattus norvegicus), Austral thrushes (Turdus falcklandii), southern lapwings (Vanellus chilensis), chucao tapaculos (Scelorchilus rubecula), huet-huets (Pteroptochos tarnii), geese (Anser anser), chickens (Gallus gallus), and Chiloé lizards (Liolaemus pictus chiloeensis) (Sunquist, and Sunquist, 2002). They sometime prey on domestic poultry, bringing themselves into direct conflict with humans, often resulting in farmers killing kodkods (Postanowicz, 2008). ("KodKod", 2009; Postanowicz, 2008; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002; "KodKod", 1996)

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats terrestrial vertebrates
  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • reptiles
  • insects


Known predators of kodkods include humans and domestic dogs (Lucherini and Merino, 2008). Kodkods are cryptically colored and secretive, avoiding most predators. (Lucherini and Merino, 2008)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Although more studies are necessary, research suggest kodkods help to control rodent populations (The World Conservation Union, 1996). ("KodKod", 1996; "KodKod", 1996)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Kodkods have been hunted for their fur. However, their small body size makes them less popular among hunters (Postanowicz, 2008). In rural areas kodkod pelts are still found displayed as trophies. Kodkods may help to control rodent populations, which decreases rodent depredation on crops and rodent population outbreaks that spread disease (The World Conservation Union, 1996). (Postanowicz, 2008; "KodKod", 1996)

  • Positive Impacts
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Kodkods have been known to occasionally prey on domestic poultry. ("KodKod", 1996)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Kodkod populations are declining, especially in central Chile. They are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN and are on the CITES Appendix II list (Kodkod and Chilean cat, 2009). They are threatened by domestic dogs and hunting by humans, and habitat fragmentation and loss due to deforestation. Their main threat is fragmentation and destruction of their preferred habitat, temperate moist forests (Acosta and Lucherini, 2008). Human sentiment towards kodkods in rural areas is generally negative. Education, awareness, and stricter law enforcement are needed to improve human attitudes towards kodkods and their protection (Silva-Rodgrquez, Ortega-Solis, and Jimenez, 2001). There are laws in place to protect kodkods and other small cats from hunters, but only in some areas and enforcement is generally weak (Lucherini and Merino, 2008). Fortunately, kodkods are relatively tolerant of disturbed habitats, which is reflected in their current conservation status as vulnerable rather than critically endangered. ("KodKod", 2009; "Kodkod, Chilean cat", 2009; Acosta and Lucherini, 2008; Acosta-Jamett and Simonetti, 2004; Acosta-Jamett, et al., 2003; Guerrero, et al., 2006; Lucherini and Merino, 2008; Sanderson, et al., 2002; Silva-Rodgrquez, et al., 2001; "KodKod", 1996)

Other Comments

The common name, kodkod, originated from the Araucanian Indians. Guigna is the common name used in Chile and Argentina (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002). (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)

Recent genetic analysis suggests that Leopardus guigna is closely related to Leopardus geoffroyi (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002). (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)


Christina Gersch (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor, instructor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


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.

bilateral symmetry

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


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

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.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


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.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


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.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


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.


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.


The World Conservation Union. 1996. "KodKod" (On-line). IUCN / SSC Cat Specialist Group. Accessed April 11, 2009 at http://www.catsg.org/catsgportal/cat-website/20_cat-website/home/index_en.htm.

2009. "KodKod" (On-line). Wild Cat Species and Distribution. Accessed April 11, 2009 at http://dialspace.dial.pipex.com/agarman/bco/kodkod.htm.

2009. "Kodkod, Chilean cat" (On-line). British Broadcasting Corporation. Accessed April 11, 2009 at http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/wildfacts/factfiles/47.shtml.

Acosta-Jamett, G., J. Simonetti. 2004. Habitat use by Oncifelis guigna and Pseudalopex culpaeus in a fragmented forest landscape in central Chile. Biodiversity and Conservation, 13: 1135-1151.

Acosta-Jamett, G., J. A. Simonetti, R. O. Bustamante, N. Dunstone. 2003. Metapopulation approach to assess survival of Oncifelis guigna in fragmented forests of central Chille: A theoretical model. Journal of Neotropical Mammalogy, 10/2: 217-229.

Acosta, G., M. Lucherini. 2008. "Leopardus guigna" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed April 11, 2009 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/15311.

Dunstone, N., L. Durbin, I. Wyllie, R. Freer, G. Acosta Jammett, M. Mazzolli, S. Rose. 2002. Spatial organization, ranging behaviour and habitat use of the kodkod (Oncifelis guigna) in southern Chile. Journal of Zoology London, 257: 1-11.

Guerrero, C., L. Espinoza, H. Niemeyer, J. Simonetti. 2006. Using fecal profiles of bile acids to assess habitat use by threatened carnivores in the Maulino forest of central Chile. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural, 79: 89-95.

Lucherini, M., M. Merino. 2008. Perceptions of Human–Carnivore Conflicts in the High Andes of Argentina. Mountain Research and Development, 28/1: 81-85. Accessed April 11, 2009 at http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1659/mrd.0903?cookieSet=1.

Nowak, R., R. Kays, D. Macdonald. 2005. Walker's Carnivores of the World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Accessed April 11, 2009 at http://books.google.com/books?id=0q5aHw2mFi8C&dq=walker%27s+carnivores+of+the+world&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=Ea_XSYuyBJPIMo-i2PQO&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7#PPA252,M1.

Postanowicz, R. 2008. "KodKod" (On-line). Lioncrusher's Domain -- Carnivora Species Information. Accessed April 11, 2009 at http://www.lioncrusher.com/animal.asp?animal=56.

Sanderson, J., M. Sunquist, A. Iriarte. 2002. Natural History and Landscape-use of Guignas (Oncifelis guigna) on Isla Grandede Chiloé, Chile. Journal of Mammalogy, 83/2: 608-613.

Silva-Rodgrquez, E., G. Ortega-Solis, J. Jimenez. 2001. "Human Attitudes Toward Wild Felids in a Human-dominated Landscape of Southern Chile" (On-line). International Society for Endangered Cats (ISEC) Canada. Accessed April 11, 2009 at http://www.wildcatconservation.org/Human_Attitudes_Towards_Wild_Cats_In_Chile.html.

Sunquist, M., F. Sunquist. 2002. Wild Cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Accessed April 11, 2009 at http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=hFbJWMh9-OAC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=oncifelis+guigna&ots=XpXYVFT-br&sig=Al6Q23eZzu-STTBdciKO9jKugAs#PPA211,M1.

Wilson, D., D. Reeder. 2005. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd Ed). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Accessed April 11, 2009 at http://books.google.com/books?id=JgAMbNSt8ikC&printsec=frontcover.