This member of the cat family is frequently called the otter cat because of its unusual appearance. It is also known as the eyra.
The confusion over the name of these cats came about because of their colouration. Originally the colour variants were thought to be separate species: the name eyra was given to all the red forms and the name Jaguarundi to all the darker forms. Genetic studies have revealed the Jaguarundi is closely related to the puma, in spite of differences in their appearance. This cat often spends time in the trees, becoming more active towards dusk, when it will descend to hunt on the ground.
Jaguarundis live in a range of habitats, from arid shrublands and exposed grasslands to steamy jungles and mountain forests up to 3,200m (10,500 ft). They are often found near waterways and swamps. With small heads, short legs and long bodies, Jaguarundis most resemble the flat-headed cats of South-East Asia. Jaguarundis tend to have unspotted fur, either brownish-grey or reddish in colour. Cubs are sometimes spotted at birth but they lose these markings in their first two years.
With their long bodies, dark fur and rounded ears, Jaguarundis have a passing resemblance to small mustelid carnivores, such as weasels and otters. This led early zoologists to name them "weasel cats".
In tropical regions, where food is available all year round, Jaguarundis may produce two litters per annum. Elsewhere, breeding is confined to summer. When not breeding, they live a secretive and solitary existence. They hunt by day and return to dens at night.
Distribution: Range extends from southern US states such as Texas and Arizona, down through Central and South America to northern Argentina. Has been introduced to Florida.
Habitat: Grassland, shrubland and tropical forest.
Weight: Females 4.4 kg (10 lb); males 5.9 kg (13 lb).
Length: 88 – 138 cm (35 – 54 in), including tail; up to 35 cm (14 in) tall.
Maturity: About 24 months.
Gestation Period: 70 – 75 days
Breeding: Average 1 – 4, but can be up to 5; weaning occurs at 42 days.
Food: Carnivorous, hunting rodents, birds including domestic chickens, as well as frogs, fish and small mammals.
Lifespan: Up to 15 years.
Status: Common, although rare in North America.
The head is slender, with small ears, rounded at their tips.
A greyish-black Jaguarundi is seen here. All young of this species are spotted at birth.
The tail is very long – accounting for up to 61 cm (24 in) of the cat’s total length.
Although short, the legs are powerful and the feet are equipped with strong daws.
Two distinctive colour variants exist — greyish-black and russet red. Even so, the depth of colouration is an individual feature.