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10 Lesser Known Wild Cats

By Sharon Omondi May 25 2017

Geoffroy's cat, a type of wild cat that is similar in appearance to the domestic cat.
Geoffroy's cat, a type of wild cat that is similar in appearance to the domestic cat.

10. Oncilla

An oncilla sleeping in tree in Ecuador.
An oncilla sleeping in tree in Ecuador.

The oncilla is a small spotted cat which is also called the northern tiger cat. It is characterized by long legs, a long tail, and a slim graceful body. The oncilla is a rare cat that is normally found in forests in Central America, especially Brazil. It is an endangered species as it is vigorously hunted for its fur. The conversion of its habitat to agricultural land is also a threat to the oncilla cat’s population.

9. Pampas cat

The pampas cat’s habitat is in the Andes Mountains of South America. The cat has five subspecies and inhabits places that are between 1800 and 5000 m high in elevation. It mostly hunts birds and rodents in the night. There are three variations of the pampas cat. The first type is generally greyish in color with spots on the underpants and brown stripes on the legs. The second type is made up of large, reddish brown flanks, rings on the tail and dark brown stripes on the legs. The third type of pampas cats has paler background color than the second one. The pampas cat has been listed as "Near Threatened" by the IUCN Red List.

8. Ocelot

An ocelot in Costa Rica.
An ocelot in Costa Rica.

The ocelot is a medium sized wild cat with long powerful legs and a graceful body. It also has brown eyes which turn golden when exposed to light. The ocelot is both nocturnal (active at night) and crepuscular (active at dusk). It is a solitary animal that is generally territorial. The ocelot is found in dense jungles of Latin America in places such as Mexico and South America. It has been listed on the IUCN Red List as "Least Concern".

7. Pantanal cat

The pantanal cat is small - about the size of a domestic cat. It has brown or yellowish fur and dark brown spots on its sides. The pantanal cat has two subspecies, namely Leopardus braccatus braccatus and Leopardus braccatus munoa. It is known to inhabit grasslands, savannas, shrub lands and deciduous forests in Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina in South America. Pantanal cats are diurnal (active during the day) and solitary. They are also carnivores who feed on small lizards, snakes and cavies among other small animals.

6. Geoffroy's Cat

Geoffroy's cat.
Geoffroy's cat.

Geoffroy’s cat is similar to the domestic cat in size. It is about 60 cm in length - the tail alone being about 31 cm. The cat has black spots on several parts of its body. It can also stand on its hind legs while it scans around its habitat. It is mainly found in Argentina. However, it can also be spotted in Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil. The Geoffroy’s cat has better sight in the night and normally preys on hares, insects, small lizards, and fish for food. The cat becomes sexually active at the age of 24 months for males and 18 months for the females. It is listed on the IUCN Red List as "Least Concern".

5. Kodkod

The kodkod is known to be the smallest cat in America. The body of a kodkod is dark spotted. It also has a pale belly and a ringed tail. The kodkods are active both in the day and in the night. Their gestation periods last between 72 and 78 days. There are two subspecies of kodkods: the Leopardus guigna guigna is found in Southern Chile and Argentina while the Leopardus guigna tigrillo live in Central Chile. The kodkod cats are being threatened by the spread of agriculture and logging of its habitat. They have been listed on the IUCN Red List as "Vulnerable".

4. Serval

A serval in the savannah.
A serval in the savannah.

The serval is a wild cat found in the grasslands of sub-Saharan Africa. Its name is derived from a Portuguese word meaning “wolf-deer.”The serval is a graceful cat with features such as long legs, a short tail, and large rounded ears. It camouflages very well in its habitat. Servals are carnivorous in nature and so they hunt rodents, reptiles, small deer, and small birds for food. They can jump 12 feet into the air. This feature helps them to nab fleeing birds mid-air. Servals are found near water, marshes, and river beds. They are listed on the IUCN Red List as "of Least Concern".

3. Bay cat

The bay cat is a very secretive wild cat. It has a rust-red fur on the body and white fur on its belly. It also possesses stripes on its body. It is the size of a large domestic cat. The first studies on the bay cat were done in 1874 using its skull and torn skin. These artifacts had been sent to England by a naturalist by the name Alfred Russel Wallace. It is only until 1992 that a live bay cat was captured for studies. Bay cats live in Borneo Island only. They are feared to be endangered species.

2. Asian golden cat

An Asian golden cat in a zoo.
An Asian golden cat in a zoo.

The Asian golden cat is nocturnal and is found in China, Nepal, some parts of India, Sumatra, Malaysia, and Thailand. It is medium sized and has a head-body length of 66-105 cm. It weighs 9-16 kg which is twice or thrice a domestic cat’s weight. The Asian golden cat has three subspecies. The cat hunts reptiles, rodents, ungulates and young sambar deers for food. It is listed as "Near Threatened" on the IUCN Red List. This is due to the threats of deforestation and poaching for its fur.

1. Marbled cat

The marbled cat is characterized by a long tail, large feet, and unusually large canine teeth. The length of its body is between 45 and 62 cm, and that of the tail is 35-55 cm. Most marbled cats weigh 2-5 kg. There are two subspecies of marbled cats: Pardofelis marmorata charitoni and Pardofelis marmorata marmorata.The marbled cats can reproduce from the age of 21-22 months. Their gestation period is 66-82 days. Researchers have observed that most marbled cats are found in forests located in Asia in places such as Sumatra, Borneo, and Malaysia. They hunt rodents, squirrels, reptiles, and birds. The major threat faced by the cat is deforestation. The marbled cat has been listed on the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened.

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