Tuesday 24 August 2021

Jaguarundi - the cat that looks the least like a cat

This photograph of the jaguarundi reminds me that this wild cat is the one that looks the least like a cat. And I am not the only person who might think it. It is the most widely distributed and commonly seen cat in Central and South America although you will be hard-pressed to see one! But it's biology and behaviour are still largely a mystery (as at 2002). And the experts have said that "Taxonomically, the jaguarundi is an enigma".

Jaguarundi. Photo: unattributed.

The scientists have put this cat by itself when categorising it i.e. they have assigned the jaguarundi to its own genus (as at 2002). This cat has 38 chromosomes while all other small South American cats have 36 chromosomes. It is also unique in that it has five pairs of E group chromosomes and no F group chromosomes. it has been suggested that the jaguarundi is more closely related to the cheetah and puma than to the other South American cats.

It has been difficult to categorise this cat taxonomically partly because of its appearance as it hardly looks like a cat at all. Its appearance is reminiscent of a marten while some cat experts have compared it to a weasel or an otter. It is said to superficially resemble a blackish-brown neotropical mustelid called a tayra.


It has two main colour phases, grey morph and a red-brown morph. The pic shows the gray morph.


The picture is one of the best that I have seen of the jaguarundi. It comes from The Board Panda website but is unattributed. In the language of the cat fancy and domestic cats, its coat is ticked tabby.

In America, particularly in Florida, some people like to keep them as pets and sometimes they escape which leads to the belief among a certain section of society that they still exist in Florida, USA. They don't not according to the official records anyway. They don't make good pets. Damn, they aren't pets at all. They want to escape.

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