The Geoffroy’s cat is a wild cat native to the central and southern regions of South America, particularly Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina. Similar to a domestic cat in size and appearance, the feline prefers tropical and subtropical terrestrial climates that include temperate forests, scrubland, savanna, wetlands, and broadleaf forests. These habitats may be dry or wet, and vary in vegetation density, but must provide enough ground cover for the Geoffroy's cat to hunt. They are flexible animals that can adapt to environmental conditions inside and outside of their natural habitat. The cat will leave its habitat for agricultural lands during planting and harvesting seasons in order to take advantage of the high rodent population. Male Geoffroy’s cats tend to venture further from their home range than females. When the Geoffroy's cat's natural habitat is close to agricultural lands, movement between the two habitats is common, and the cat can permanently relocate to agricultural land when predator activity increases. Additionally, their territories can overlap depending on the presence of predators and prey.
Geoffroy’s cats are carnivorous and predominantly prey on birds, insects, snakes, and small rodents. In rare occasions, they may also venture into the water in search of fish. In Brazil, the cats are known to hunt cavies, marsh rats, and coypu, while they feed on grass mice and vesper mice in the drylands of the Monte desert. In Patagonia, they feed on European hares, and waterfowl make easy prey in wetlands. The cats are highly adaptive and can switch their diet between seasons. They possess the typical feline strategy of stalking and ambushing prey. In captivity, they have been observed climbing walls and trees to reach prey, and can stand on their hind legs when stalking on dense vegetation. The Geoffroy's cat can crush the bones of animals that weigh about 60% of its body mass.
Geoffroy’s cats are terrestrial animals but spend significant amounts of time resting in trees. In the wild, they are solitary animals and only come together when mating or when a female is caring for kittens. However, in captivity the cats exhibit social behavior, resting together and grooming each other. Geoffroy's cats are predominantly nocturnal, but became diurnal and less active during winter. During summer, males become more active than females, and can travel more than 3 miles in a single night in search of prey.
While Geoffroy’s cats are predators to small rodents, they can be prey to larger animals such as pumas, jaguars, culpeo foxes, great-horned owls, and buzzard eagles. However, humans remain the greatest threat to Geoffroy's cats, especially when they were hunted for fur from the 1960s to the 1980s. Vehicle collisions, poaching, and domestic dogs kill more Geoffroy’s cats than natural predators.
In 2014, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) downgraded the status of the Geoffroy's cat from "Near threatened" (NT) to "Least concern" (LC). However, the Geoffroy's cat continues to be a protected species, and therefore capturing, trading, or hunting the cat is prohibited across its entire range. Despite gains made by conservationists, the Geoffroy's cat is still considered vulnerable in Brazil and is rare in Chile. The cats are negatively impacted by population pressure around their habitat.