(Herpailurus yagouaroundi)

Common Names:

English - Otter Cat, Weasel Cat

French - Jaguarondi

German – Yaguarundi, Wieselkatze, Eyra

Spanish – Yaquarunidu, onza, gato moro, gato eyra

Belize – halari

Bolivia – gato griz

Honduras – gato cerban

Brazil& Uruguay – maraca-preto, gato-preto, gato mouriscu

Columbia – gato pardo, gato servante, ulama

Peru & Costa Rica – leon brenero

French Guiana – Jaguarondi, chat noir

Surinam – boesikati, Jaguarundi Kitten

Guatemala – tejσn, mbaracaya-eira

Kekchi – kakicoohish

Mayan – ekmuch

Panama – tigrillo congo, togrillo negra

Peru – leoncillo, anushi-puma

Venezuela – gato cervantes

US – H.y. cacomitli known as the Gulf Coast Jaguarundi, H.y. tolteca called the Sinaloan Jaguarundi


Felidae; member of the cat family


H.y. armeghinoi – Western Argentina

H.y. carcomitli – Southern Texas, Mexico

H.y. eyra – Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina

H.y. fossata – Mexico, Honduras

H.y. melantho – Peru, Brazil

H.y. panamensis – Nicaragua, Ecuador

H.y. toteca – Arizona, Mexico

H.y. yagouaroundi – Guyana, Amazon Basin

Related Species:

Mountain Lion and Jaguar; similar to the Ocelot and Margay Cat.


Head and body 20-30 in. long; tail 13-24 in. long; 10-14 in. tall at shoulder


6 - 20 lbs


Slightly larger than a domestic cat; appearance is unlike any other cat – looks more like a large weasel or otter; uniform in color with a dark gray-brown to chestnut brown coat; darker animals usually found in the dense forest while the lighter individuals are found in more arid and open areas; body is long and low with short legs; small, flattened head with weasel-like ears and narrow brown eyes; long, flattened tail.


Wild – 15 years; Captivity – 16 - 22 years


Native to Central America and the North and Central countries of South America; now rarely found in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona; introduced to Florida in the 1940’s – population still survives; may be extinct in Uruguay.

Population in the US:

Rarely seen in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas, however a project to plant native shrubs and restore habitat is improving their chances.


Prefers lowland habitat with good cover, forest margins, swamps, savannah woodlands, primary forests and scrublands; less commonly found in dense tropical vegetation; not found above 6500 ft; in arid regions, they live in thickets of cacti, mesquite, cat claw, and granjeno that protect them from humans and dogs.


About 10,000 cats in the world population.

Relatively common throughout range – particularly abundant in the Amazon, but extremely rare in the US.


Diurnal or crepuscular (active during the morning and evening twilights).

Solitary hunter, but social while rearing young.

Rarely found far from running water.

Climbs well, and is a good swimmer.

Moves in a quick weasel-like manner.

Can jump 5 ft into the air from a standstill to catch birds.

Will rest in the trees.

Often travels during the day in search of drinking water.

Female home ranges vary from 13 to 20 sq km.

Male home ranges usually range from 88-100 sq km.

They do not perform regular boundary patrols of the territory.

Maintain a well-protected den.

13 distinct calls are used for communication.

Communicate using facial expressions.

When startled or frightened they will snarl and hiss.

If unable to run, will bristle fur and appear lighter in color – undercoat is lighter than outer guard hairs.

Sleep in natural dens of tall grass or caves.

Will not dig their own dens.

 Preyed upon by larger cats and dogs.

Special Adaptations:

The solid coat may be an adaptation to hunting on the ground during the day - as opposed to the spotted cats’ habits of hunting in the trees – therefore not needing camouflage.


One or two litters born each year.

Mate in Nov- Dec.

Courtship and mating is noisy with screaming and fighting.

Copulates with screams, the male stops with biting the female in the neck.

Gestation lasts 70 days.

Cubs born in March and August.

Litter size ranges from 1-4.


Blind, furred and spotted at birth.

Weaned at 6 weeks.

Spot are lost after 3-4 months.

Mature at 22-24 months.

Reach sexual maturity after 2-3 years.


Preys upon fish, birds, small mammals, rodents, reptiles, rabbits, armadillos, opossums, quail, wild turkey, frogs, domestic poultry, rats, mice, and lizards.

Will also eat fruit, grass and insects.

Hunts during the day, most often in early morning and evening.

Expert fisher – probes the water with its agile front paws.

Flattens body as it stalks as close as possible to prey before striking.

Prefers to hunt on the ground.

Will spring into the air to catch prey.

Human Interests:

Fur is not commercially valuable.

Will hunt domestic poultry.

Important for pest control.

Often caught in traps set for other animals.

Threatened by deforestation and habitat loss.

Persecuted by farmers for its reputation as a poultry raider.

These agile cats are not easily trapped or shot.


4 sub-species listed as endangered in the US in 1976.

Listed as “least concern” in the IUCN Red Book.

Hunting is prohibited in Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Columbia, Costa Rica, French Guiana, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Surinam, Uruguay, the US, and Venezuela.

Hunting is regulated in Peru.

No legal protection exists in Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Guyana.

Interesting Facts:

Can be most closely likened to the larger felids (puma and jaguar) in having 38 chromosomes, while the other small felids of America only have 36 chromosomes.

A descendant of the ancestral puma who emigrated from Asiaand survived the Pleistocene extinction.

Fills the same niche as the raccoon, weasel, otter, and stoat.

Reported to be easily tamed by Central American natives who keep them to hunt rodents.

One of the only cats not to have contrasting colors on the back of the ears.

The H.y. eyra sub-species was once considered a separate species, Felis Eyra, because its pelt is a bright red.

Most adaptable to diverse environments of all American cats.

A male will have a home range several times larger than that of the jaguar, who weighs over 10 times more than a jaguarundi.

The least studied of all American cats.