Leopardus pajerospampas cat

Geographic Range

Pampas cats (Leopardus pajeros) are found in the Neotropical region in South America. They are located in Ecuador, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. They are commonly found on the eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains. ("A revised taxonomy of the Felidae. The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group", 2017; Carilla, et al., 2013; García-Olaechea, et al., 2013; Lucherini, et al., 2016; Ruiz-García, et al., 2012)

Habitat

Pampas cats are terrestrial mammals that inhabit highlands of the eastern Andes Mountains, and lowlands of northwestern, central, and southern Argentina. Although they are more predominately found in lowlands, rather than highlands, their elevation ranges from 0 m (sea level) to 5,000 m. In coastal Peru, Zeballos et al. (2000) found that pampas cats had an average elevation of 400 m. In mountainous northern Peru, pampas cats were found at elevations of 4,982 m.

They tend to be found near available water sources, such as swamps and marshes. In Peru, they are known to live in grasslands and forests. (Cossíos, et al., 2009; García-Olaechea, et al., 2013; Garcia-Perea, 1994; Hurtado and Pacheco, 2015)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 5,000 m
    0.00 to ft

Physical Description

Pampas cats are predators that weigh an average of 3,935 grams. Their body length ranges from 464 mm to 750 mm. Male pampas cats tend to be larger than female pampas cats. However, measurements comparing males to females are not available.

Male and female pampas cats seem to resemble an orange tabby house cat (Felis catus) because their pelage tends to be orange-brown. Dorsally, their fur has spots that can be either white or darker brown. In addition, they have brown or black horizontal stripes on the ventral portion of their fur. Pampas cats have two rust or cinnamon-colored stripes on their cheeks. Their fur color and patterning remains the same from when they are young until adulthood. Detailed information about pampas cats when they are kittens is not available.

Their dental formula is 3131/3121. Skull structure differs across ages. Juveniles lack a sagittal crest; instead, they have a pair of temporal ridges. As they get older, their sagittal crest starts to lengthen, while their temporal ridges reduce in size.

Pampas cats are nearly identical to another species of South American cat called colocolos (Leopardus colocolo). Colocolos are generally larger in length and height and have greater cranial measures than pampas cats. Colocolos have red tones in the fur and darker spots, rather than an orange appearance like pampas cats. (García-Olaechea, et al., 2013; Garcia-Perea, 1994; García Yelo, 2014)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Average mass
    3935 g
    138.68 oz
  • Range length
    464 to 750 mm
    18.27 to 29.53 in

Reproduction

There isn't much information about the mating system of pampas cats. They breed seasonally from April to July. Females engage in cheek rubbing when attempting to get the male's attention to breed. Also, after the formation of mating pairs, they copulate 5-10 times a day. The likelihood of conception is 0.6. This is calculated per estrus which lasts for about 5 days. Other information regarding mating systems is unstudied.

Because ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) fall in the same genus as pampas cats, it is possible that they might have similar mating habits. Ocelots are a solitary and polygynous species where a single male mates with several females. This is also true for tigrinas (Leopardus tigrinus) and margays (Leopardus wiedii>>). During estrus periods, female ocelots attract males by making loud noises which are similar to that of domestic cats (Felis catus).

Pampas cats also make loud noises, with levels measuring an average of 2.230 kHz. (Moreira, et al., 2001; Nowak, 1999; Peters and Peters, 2010; "Wild Cats", 1996)

Pampas cats breed once a year from April-July. Pampas cats are iteroparous, meaning they breed more than once in a lifetime. Beyond that, information about pampas cats can be suggested by comparisons to other members of their genus.

Gestation periods of other Leopardus species, for comparison, are 73 to 78 days in tigrinias (Leopardus tigrinus), 70 to 85 days for ocelots (Leopardus pardalis), and 76 to 84 days for margays (Leopardus wiedii). There is confusion in the taxonomy of pampas cats as they are often grouped with colocolos (Leopardus colocolo); colocolos have a gestation period of 80 days with two or three offspring per litter. It is likely that pampas cats have a similar gestation period and litter size.

Moreira et al. (2001) developed a study involving female Leopardus cats, including ocelots, tigrinas, and margays. They found that these cats have high levels of estrogen and inconsistent ovulation periods. Tigrinas experience spontaneous ovulation, while ocelots and margays experience induced ovulation, so clear conclusions cannot be made for comparisons to pampas cats.

Trolle (2003) performed a camera survey in Brazil, that identified a lactating ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) female during May and July. This falls in line with breeding times for pampas cats. (Fowler and Cubas, 2001; Mansard, 1997; Mehanna, et al., 2016; Moreira, et al., 2001; Swanson and Brown, 2004; Trolle, 2003)

  • Breeding interval
    Pampas cats breed once yearly
  • Breeding season
    April-July

Patterns of parental care are unknown. Pre-independence information about ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) suggest that ocelot mothers show on-and-off patterns of staying close to their offspring and leaving them unattended. This information could apply to pampas cats, as well.

Days until independence has not been reported for pampas cats. Margay (Leopardus wiedii) kittens stay with their mothers for at least 58 days past birth, so it is likely that pampas cats do the same. Mothers show their kittens what to eat, then observe kittens as they are wandering around their home. If a kittens is threatened, it will cry to attract its mother. (Mansard, 1997; Mares, et al., 2008)

Lifespan/Longevity

Information about the lifespan/longevity of pampas cats in the wild and captivity is not currently known. Pampas cats are thought to have similar lifespans of other members in the Leopardus genus, including: ocelets (Leopardus pardalis) at 28.2 years, margays (Leopardus wiedii) at 24 years, Geoffroy's cats (Leopardus geoffroyi) at 23 years, little spotted cats (Leopardus tigrinus) at 21.9 years, and colocolos (Leopardus colocolo) at 19.6 years.

Pampas cats are not usually kept in captivity because it causes them stress, and even death. (Weigl, 2005)

Behavior

Pampas cats are solitary terrestrial mammals. While they are reported to be diurnal in Argentina, they have been observed to be nocturnal in areas of the Andes at higher elevations. Similarly, in Brazil, ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) can be nocturnal or diurnal. Within ocelot home ranges, they engage more often with the opposite sex (intrasexual territoriality) than the same sex.

Males participate in cheek rubbing as a communication tactic to notify nearby pampas cats that the current location is safe. In females, this technique is used when the female is in estrous and seeking mates. Cheek rubbing is also used when they detect a scent.

Males commonly use urine marking as a technique to mark an area as safe or as their territory. Another technique that indicates safety to other pampas cats involves leaving claw marks on trees. This technique may also help shed loose nails. Males do this more frequently, so it is predicted to be a method of protection.

In closely-related colocolos (Leopardus colocolo), their tail often quivers before urinating to mark their territory. Male colocolos engage in chin rubbing to relay safety cues. Flehmen is a behavior when an animal puts their nose in the air with their mouth slightly open to sniff an odor. This is used by colocolos when they are sniffing an object, or often, other cats. Colocolos sniff other cats directly, too. It is likely that pampas cats exhibit similar behaviors. (Antonio, et al., 2017; Gardner, et al., 2010; Hunter and Caro, 2008; Mellen, 1993; Monticelli and Nogalii, 2019; Peters and Peters, 2010; Trolle, 2003)

Home Range

No information is found about pampas cats' home range and territory size. However, densities have been reported as 0.74-0.79 individuals per km^2.

Ocelets (Leopardus pardalis) have a home range of 3.19 km^2 to 37.09 km^2. Male ocelets have a bigger home range than females. This information could be used to infer that male pampas cats have a larger home range than females, in order to provide security and food. Colocolos (Leopardus colocolo) have an average range of 3.86 km^2. (Brodie, 2009; Mellen, 1993; Ruiz-García, et al., 2012)

Communication and Perception

Pampas cats use visual and olfactory senses to perceive danger and relay messages. They leave claw marks on nearby tree trunks to mark territory, or to communicate that a particular location is safe. Before clawing the tree, they sniff it. Pampas cats also mark their territory by urinating. Male pampas cats use this method more frequently than female pampas cats.

Both sexes rub their cheeks against objects after they urinate to mark their territory. Females do this to notify males that they are ready to breed. This is a tactile and chemical form of communication as they have pheromones on their cheeks.

Pampas cats arch their backs to express fear and to signal alert to other pampas cats; typically the females exhibit this to the males. Also, they vocalize at a higher frequency when they are in a close-canopied habitats (forests) and lower frequency in open habitats (grasslands). (Monticelli and Nogalii, 2019; Peters and Peters, 2010)

Food Habits

Pampas cats are opportunistic carnivores. Maule tuco-tuco (Ctenomys maulinus) and olive grass mice (Abrothrix olivaceus) are common rodents that pampas cats eat. García Esponda et al. (2009) examined the diet of pampas cats in Argentina and found that 92% of their diet consisted of rodents (order Rodentia).

They primarily feed on rodents because this prey is often abundant in their habitats. They prey on other mammals smaller than themselves, as well as iguanas (suborder Iguania; 5.3% of the diet) and passerine birds (order Passeriformes; 2.7% of the diet). (García Esponda, et al., 2009; García-Olaechea, et al., 2013; García Yelo, 2014; Tabeni, et al., 2012)

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

Predation

Predation information is limited. Pampas cats are primarily threatened by dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis), pumas (Puma concolor), and jaguars (Panthera onca) are the likely predator of colocolos (Leopardus colocolo). This information could possibly apply to pampas cats as well. Anti-predation adaptations are unknown. (Lucherini, et al., 2016; Oliveira, 2014; Shostell and Ruiz-García, 2012; Silveira, 1995)

Ecosystem Roles

Pampas cats contribute to the biodiversity of the South American region by preying on small mammals. Predators of these cats are unknown. Trypanosome parasites in the genus Leishmania use pampas cats as hosts, causing leishmaniasis. (Monjeau, et al., 2009; Tolention, et al., 2019)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Trypanosomes Leishmania

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Before conservation efforts were enacted, humans hunted pampas cats to sell and trade their fur through international shipment until 1987. (Ruiz-García, et al., 2012)

  • Positive Impacts
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no negative economic effects of pampas cats on humans.

Conservation Status

Pampas cats are classified as "Near Threatened" by the IUCN Red List. They are listed under Appendix II of CITES. Being listed under Appendix II means trade has been completely banned, even species that looks like pampas cats. There is no special status on the US Federal List and State of Michigan List.

Hunting was a threat until conservation efforts took place in 1987 and their pelts were no longer allowed to be sold or traded. Hunting is prohibited in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador and Uruguay. Viruses, such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, can be a threat to pampas cats, as well. ("A revised taxonomy of the Felidae. The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group", 2017; García-Olaechea, et al., 2013; Shostell and Ruiz-García, 2012; Teixeira, et al., 2012)

Contributors

Nicole Ray (author), Radford University, Lauren Burroughs (editor), Radford University, Logan Platt (editor), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, Galen Burrell (editor).

Glossary

Neotropical

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

World Map

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.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

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

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

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

iteroparous

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).

marsh

marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

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.

nocturnal

active during the night

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

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

solitary

lives alone

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

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.

savanna

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.

temperate grassland

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.

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

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