Puma yagouaroundijaguarundi

Geographic Range

The current range of jaguarundis is from southern Texas and Arizona to northern Argentina. Sightings in Arizona and Texas are often not well documented, thus the status of jaguarundis in these states is not well known. Sightings have also been reported in Florida. These sightings are most likely a result of a human introduced population. ("Jaguarundi: Herpailurus yaguaroundi ", 2003; "Listed Cats of Texas and Arizona Recovery Plan (With Emphasis on the Ocelot)", 1990; de Oliveira, 1998; Nowak, 1999)


Herpailurus yaguarondi demonstrates habitat flexibility. These cats have been recorded in grasslands/savannas, shrub lands, tropical rainforest, tropical deciduous forest, dense chaparral, thickets, and scrubland. They are often sighted near water and may inhabit swamps and areas near streams, rivers and lakes. Jaguarundis are most often found in secondary vegetation but are also found in primary habitats, and have been sighted in forests near villages. They live up to an elevation of at least 3200 m. ("Jaguarundi: Herpailurus yaguaroundi ", 2003; de Oliveira, 1998; Denis, 1964; Emmons, 1990; Mares, et al., 1989; Nowak, 1999)

  • Range elevation
    sea level to 3200 m
    to 10498.69 ft

Physical Description

Superficially, jaguarundis resemble members of the family Mustelidae. This caused early German zoologists to refer to the species as the “weasel cat.” Compared to other small neotropical felids, jaguarundis have a more elongated body, smaller, more rounded ears, and shorter limbs relative to body size. They are unspotted. The species that most resembles jaguarundis is Prionailurus planiceps, commonly referred to as flat-headed cats. However, jaguarundis can be easily distinguished from this other species, and are slightly longer and heavier. ("Jaguarundi: Herpailurus yaguaroundi ", 2003; de Oliveira, 1998; Denis, 1964; Emmons, 1990; Guggisberg, 1975; Hershkovitz, 1999; Leopold, 1959; Nowak, 1999)

Jaguarundis are slightly larger than domesticated house cats. The head and body length may range from 505 to 770 mm. The tail is long, ranging from 330 to 600 mm. Shoulder height is approximately 350 mm, and the weight ranges from 4.5 to 9.0 kg. Males are slightly larger and heavier than females of the same population. ("Jaguarundi: Herpailurus yaguaroundi ", 2003; de Oliveira, 1998; Denis, 1964; Emmons, 1990; Guggisberg, 1975; Hershkovitz, 1999; Leopold, 1959; Nowak, 1999)

Two color morphs are present in H. yaguarondi. One is dark grayish-black, and the other is reddish in color. This caused the species to be originally classified as two separate species: “eyra” for the blackish coat and “jaguarundi” for the reddish coat. Local villagers sometimes refer to jaguarundis as “eyras.” Despite the differences in coat color, it has been determined that the two color morphs do mate, and litters are observed containing both. The coat is generally uniform in color, but may be slightly paler on the ventral side. Populations inhabiting tropical rainforests are generally darker and populations inhabiting dryer habitats are often paler than other populations. It has been hypothesized that the coats of jaguarundis get darker during the winter. Kittens are sometimes spotted at birth but lose their markings before adulthood. ("Jaguarundi: Herpailurus yaguaroundi ", 2003; de Oliveira, 1998; Denis, 1964; Emmons, 1990; Guggisberg, 1975; Hershkovitz, 1999; Leopold, 1959; Nowak, 1999)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    4.5 to 9 kg
    9.91 to 19.82 lb
  • Range length
    505 to 770 mm
    19.88 to 30.31 in


Little is known about the mating system of jaguarundis. Recently, pairs have been sighted occupying a territory, and more than one pair may often occupy the same territory, but the reproductive significance of these associations is not known at this time.

Members of the family Felidae are generally polygamous. ("Cats: Reproductive biology", 2003; Guggisberg, 1975; Hulley, 1976; McCarthy, 1992)

Female jaguarundis reach sexual maturity at about two to three years of age. In most of its tropical range, H. yaguarondi has no definitive reproductive season, and breeding may occur year-round. In Mexico, the breeding season is reported to occur during November and December. Litters are often sighted during both March and August, but it is unknown whether a particular female produces more than one litter during the same year. ("Jaguarundi: Herpailurus yaguaroundi ", 2003; de Oliveira, 1998; Denis, 1964; Guggisberg, 1975; Hulley, 1976; Leopold, 1959; Nowak, 1999)

The estrous cycle lasts about 54 days, with the female showing signs of estrus for approximately three days. When in estrus, female jaguarundis will urinate in several locations around their territory, and give out faint cries. A female then rolls on her back as a sign of receptiveness. Mating is accompanied by loud screaming and during copulation the male bitesthe female on the neck. (de Oliveira, 1998)

Dens are typically constructed in hollow logs or dense thickets. Litters ranging in size from one to four kittens are born after a gestation period of 63 to 75 days. Approximately 21 days after birth, the mother starts bringing the kittens small amounts of food, and after 28 days the young are found venturing away from the den. Within 42 days, the kittens are able to eat by themselves. It is unknown how long jaguarundi kittens remain in their mother’s home range. However, in other small cat species, young may remain in the territory for up to one year, with females remaining longer than males. ("Jaguarundi: Herpailurus yaguaroundi ", 2003; de Oliveira, 1998; Denis, 1964; Guggisberg, 1975; Hulley, 1976; Leopold, 1959; Nowak, 1999)

  • Breeding interval
    Jaguarundis breed during one, possibly two times per year.
  • Breeding season
    Populations of jaguarundis in Mexico have a breeding season from November to December; elsewhere breeding occurs year-round.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 4
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    63 to 75 days
  • Range weaning age
    21 to 30 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 to 3 years

Like most Felids, young jaguarundis are born deaf and blind. However, they are well furred and may be spotted at birth. It is the mother that provides the kittens with food and protection. Until the young can eat solid food, she nurses them. She brings them bits of food when they are between 21 and 30 days old. She also provides protection and will move the den when disturbed. Little is known regarding whether the male provides any protection or care to the kittens, but in most other felids the male plays no role in raising young. ("Cats: Reproductive biology", 2003; de Oliveira, 1998; Hulley, 1976)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • altricial
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


It is not known what the lifespan of H. yaguarondi is in the wild. In captivity they have lived up to 15 years of age. In captivity the causes of death have included respiratory diseases, disorders of the urogenital system, cardiovascular disease, and diseases of the digestive system. There have also been reports of cancer, choking, and poisoning in captivity. (de Oliveira, 1998)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    15 (high) years


Jaguarundis are known as very secretive animals. It was once believed that they were solitary except during the breeding season. Recent reports of pairs suggest that they may be more social than once thought. Pairs are often sighted in Paraguay, but individuals in Mexico are believed to be solitary. They are mostly diurnal, with their peak in activity occurring around 11 in the morning. Some activity does occur at night, and they are often reported as being nocturnal and diurnal. Jaguarundis are terrestrial but are also good climbers and swimmers. (de Oliveira, 1998; Denis, 1964; Emmons, 1990; Guggisberg, 1975; Leopold, 1959; Mares, et al., 1989; McCarthy, 1992; Nowak, 1999)

  • Range territory size
    7 to 100 km^2

Home Range

The home ranges of jaguarundis vary greatly between populations. The home ranges of males have been reported to range between 88 and 100 square kilometers in one population, while a male of another population had a home range of 17.6 square kilometers. The home ranges of two radio-tagged females of different populations were reported to be 20.1 square kilometers and 6.8 kilometers squared. (de Oliveira, 1998)

Communication and Perception

Felids characteristically have well developed senses of sight, hearing, and smell. Jaguarundis have a larger vocal repertoire than other members of the family occupying the same range. Thirteen distinct calls have been reported in captivity including contact calls, greeting and attention calls, and warning signals. Mothers often call their kittens with a short purr and the kittens answer with repeated short peeps. When warning others to stay away, a jaguarundi will give a loud hiss and/or spit. Faint cries are given by a female to signal that she is in estrus. She also urinates to leave chemical signals that she is in heat. Other scent marking habits include urine spraying, head rubbing, and claw scraping. Behaviors such as flehmen, hind feet scraping, and neck rubbing have also been observed in captive jaguarundis. (Hulley, 1976; Vaughan, et al., 2000)

Tactile communication occurs between a mother and her offspring, as well as between mates (males bite the necks of females during copulation). Visual signals, although not specifically reported in jaguarundis, are common in cats, and are likey to occur in this mainly diurnal species. (de Oliveira, 1998; Nowak, 1999)

Food Habits

Jaguarundis are carnivores and hunt a variety of small mammals, reptiles, birds, frogs, and fish. Besides animal matter, jaguarundis stomach contents often contain a small amount of plant material and arthropods. Birds are often the prey of choice and the jaguarundi diet usually includes junglefowl.

Mammals that are preyed upon: eastern cottontails, short-tailed cane mice, Brazilian guinea pigs, and spiny rats.

Reptiles: South American ground lizards, rainbow whiptails, and green iguanas. ("Jaguarundi: Herpailurus yaguaroundi ", 2003; Bisbal, 1986; de Oliveira, 1998; Emmons, 1990; Guggisberg, 1975; Manzani and Monteiro Filho, 1989; Mares, et al., 1989; McCarthy, 1992; "Jaguarundi: Herpailurus yaguaroundi ", 2003; Bisbal, 1986; de Oliveira, 1998; Emmons, 1990; Guggisberg, 1975; Manzani and Monteiro Filho, 1989; Mares, et al., 1989; McCarthy, 1992)

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats terrestrial vertebrates
  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • fish
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves


The predation pressures that jaguarundis face as well as anti-predator adaptations are unknown.

Ecosystem Roles

Jaguarundis are predators of many small mammal species as well as reptiles, birds, frogs, and fish. Jaguarundis also compete for resources with other carnivores including margays, ocelots, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and mountain lions. However, jaguarundis avoid direct competition with margays and ocelots through their diurnal and terrestrial behavior.

Several known parasites use jaguarundis as hosts. These include several species of tapeworms, hookworms, and acanthocephalans. ("Listed Cats of Texas and Arizona Recovery Plan (With Emphasis on the Ocelot)", 1990; de Oliveira, 1998; Guggisberg, 1975)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

By preying upon rabbits, mice, and rats, jaguarundis help to control the populations of several agricultural pests. ("Jaguarundi: Herpailurus yaguaroundi ", 2003; Bisbal, 1986; Mares, et al., 1989)

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Jaguarundis often prey upon poultry and are considered a pest to villagers in rural Belize for this reason. (de Oliveira, 1998; Guggisberg, 1975; Leopold, 1959; McCarthy, 1992)

Conservation Status

The pelts of jaguarundis are of poor quality, but jaguarundis are caught accidentally in traps meant for other animals. This does not affect the population numbers significantly. The major threats to jaguarundis are loss of suitable habitat and prey. ("Listed Cats of Texas and Arizona Recovery Plan (With Emphasis on the Ocelot)", 1990; Cat Specialist Group, 2001; Leopold, 1959; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2004; UNEP and CITES, 2003)

The IUCN Redlist classifies H. yaguarondi under least concern, meaning that they are widespread in their habitat. CITES lists only the populations of Central and North America in Appendix 1, classifying them as threatened with extinction. South American populations are included in Appendix II of CITES. Four of the eight subspecies of jaguarundis are included on the endangered list by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and are protected in this country. These subspecies are the four that inhabit Central and North America (H. yaguarondi cacomitli, H. yaguarondi fossata, H. yaguarondi panamensis, and H. yaguarondi tolteca). ("Listed Cats of Texas and Arizona Recovery Plan (With Emphasis on the Ocelot)", 1990; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2004)

To help protect jaguarundis, more information needs to be gathered on their natural history. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has outlined a plan to gain more information on the populations inhabiting Texas and Arizona. They hope to determine whether inbreeding is affecting the populations, what diseases might be present in the populations, as well as the effects that pesticide runoff is having. The Fish and Wildlife Service has also started to implement programs to protect the habitat of jaguarundis in the United States, particularly the corridors connecting small, isolated areas of habitat. ("Listed Cats of Texas and Arizona Recovery Plan (With Emphasis on the Ocelot)", 1990)


Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Jessica Rick (author), Michigan State University, Barbara Lundrigan (editor, instructor), Michigan State University.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


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


Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  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.

female parental care

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.


referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.


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.

native range

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


active during the night


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


"many forms." A species is polymorphic if its individuals can be divided into two or more easily recognized groups, based on structure, color, or other similar characteristics. The term only applies when the distinct groups can be found in the same area; graded or clinal variation throughout the range of a species (e.g. a north-to-south decrease in size) is not polymorphism. Polymorphic characteristics may be inherited because the differences have a genetic basis, or they may be the result of environmental influences. We do not consider sexual differences (i.e. sexual dimorphism), seasonal changes (e.g. change in fur color), or age-related changes to be polymorphic. Polymorphism in a local population can be an adaptation to prevent density-dependent predation, where predators preferentially prey on the most common morph.


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.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


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


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


lives alone


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


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.

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.


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.


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.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


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Mares, M., R. Ojeda, R. Barquez. 1989. Guide to the Mammals of Salta Province, Argentina. Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2004. "Threatened and Endangered Species System (TESS)" (On-line). Accessed April 01, 2004 at http://ecos.fws.gov/tess_public/TESSSpeciesReport.

UNEP, , CITES. 2003. "Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora" (On-line). Appendices I, II and III. Accessed March 25, 2004 at http://www.cites.org/eng/append/appendices.doc.

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de Oliveira, T. 1998. Herpailurus yagouaroundi. Mammalian Species, 578: 1-6. Accessed March 28, 2004 at http://www.science.smith.edu/departments/Biology/VHAYSSEN/msi/pdf/i0076-3519-578-01-0001.pdf.