How do margays get their food?

The question in the title asks how do margays hunt prey and then catch prey. This is my interpretation of the question in the title. It needs to be said right away that the margay is an incredibly agile small wild cat species which has physical adaptations allowing the cat to climb trees with great agility. You can read more about that on this page.


There's not been much research and very few observations of the hunting behaviour of wild margays. The limited research and information indicates that this cat species does much of its hunting above the ground.

In Guyana it was reported that the margay feeds on large arboreal mammals such as porcupines and capuchin monkeys. Although this report is unreliable. Recent analysis of the stomach contents and faeces of the margay indicates that they feed mainly on small rodents, insects, fruit and birds.

Most of the margay's prey are arboreal (living in trees) and nocturnal (active by night). However, this cat species also hunts on the ground.

One scientist radio collared a margay travelling from one hunting area to another on the ground. They probably kill whatever suitable terrestrial prey they encounter while moving between hunting areas.

In Brazil another scientists watched the margay spent 20 minutes trying to catch a bird. The bird was 6 meters up in a bamboo club. The cat was in the bamboo clump himself and when the bird flew off the cat came to the ground. The same scientists recorded a margay eating an amphibian beneath the tree.

In Venezuelan, the stomach contents of 2 margays contained the remains of three spiny pocket mice, a cane rat and a squirrel. Of these three items of prey, the squirrel was the only one which is arboreal.

In Chiapas, Mexico it has been reported that the margay preyed on field mice, rabbits and young pacas and agoutis. These are all ground dwelling animals.

In Panama, a margay's stomach contents contained the remains of a common opossum.

In Brazil the stomach contents of another margay contained the remains of a guinea pig, the fur and bones of a water rat and the feathers of a tinamou.

In Belize it was found that the climbing rat was the most common element of the margay's diet. It occurred in almost half of the 27 faeces collected.

Fruit occurred in 14% of the samples of faeces taken from margays in Belize. Insects were found in the third of the faeces (scats).

As to the actual method of hunting and killing prey this would be very similar to the domestic cat's methods which means stalking, pouncing and then killing often by a bite to the nape of the neck to sever the spinal cord.

I hope that answers the question in the title.

Source: Myself and Wild Cats Of The World by the Sunquists.

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