|Range of Leopardus geoffroyi|
Geoffroy's cat (Leopardus geoffroyi) is a wild cat native to the southern and central regions of South America. It is about the size of a domestic cat. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List because it is widespread and abundant over most of its range.
The Geoffroy's cat is about the size of a domestic cat, but has numerous black spots and dark bands on the cheeks, head and neck as well as on the tail and limbs. The background colour of its fur varies from a brownish-yellow coat in the northern part of its range to a more grayish coat in the south. The underbelly hair is cream-coloured or even white. The backs of the ears are black with white spots. Black individuals are common.
Its size is about 60 cm (24 in) in head and body with a relatively short tail of about 31 cm (12 in). It weighs between 2 and 5 kg (4.4 and 11.0 lb), though individuals up to 7.8 kg (17 lb) have been reported. Males are usually larger than females, and Geoffroy's cat in the south are larger than those from the north.
Distribution and habitat
The Geoffroy's cat occurs in Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. It inhabits pampas and savanna landscapes in the Gran Chaco from southern Bolivia to the Straits of Magellan. In the Andes it occurs up to altitudes of 3,800 m (12,500 ft). It prefers open woodland or scrubland with plenty of cover. It also occurs in grasslands and marshy areas. It seems to be common in central South American regions. In Bolivia, it is the second most common cat after the ocelot.
Ecology and behaviour
The Geoffroy's cat is nocturnal and a solitary hunter that contacts conspecifics only during the mating season. Geoffroy's cats have been observed to stand up on their hind legs to scan the surrounding landscape and use their tail as a support, an unusual behaviour among cats. It is able to climb trees but rarely does, except to leave faeces to scent mark its territory.
It is at the top of the food chain in its range and preys primarily on rodents, hares, small lizards, insects, and occasionally frogs and fish. Females maintain home ranges about 2 to 6 km2 (0.77 to 2.32 sq mi) in size, while males range over up to 12 km2 (4.6 sq mi).
The breeding season for Geoffroy's cats lasts from October to March. During this time, the female comes into estrus for periods of up to twelve days, between three and five weeks apart. Mating during this time is brief and frequent, often taking place on a high ledge or similar site.
The kittens are born blind and helpless, weighing about 65 to 95 grams (2.3 to 3.4 oz), and develop rather more slowly than in the domestic cat. The eyes open after from eight to nineteen days, and they begin to eat solid food at six or seven weeks. Kittens become independent of their mother at around eight months, but are generally not sexually mature until 18 months for females and 24 months for males.
The oldest recorded captive Geoffroy's cat was at least 20 years old.
Geoffroy's cat is named after the 19th century French zoologist Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772–1844). It was identified as Felis geoffroyi in 1844 by French naturalists Alcide d'Orbigny and P. Gervais on the basis of three specimens that d'Orbigny had collected on the banks of the Rio Negro in Patagonia during his travels in South America between 1826 and 1833. Five subspecies have been described based on geographic dispersement:
- L. g. geoffroyi: Central Argentina
- L. g. euxantha: Northern Argentina, Western Bolivia
- L. g. leucobapta: Patagonia
- L. g. paraguae: Paraguay, Southeastern Brazil, Uruguay, Northern Argentina
- L. g. salinarum: Northwestern and Central Argentina
Genetic studies have shown that Geoffroy's cat is most closely related to the kodkod. At times it has been placed in the separate genus Oncifelis, together with the kodkod and colocolo, but it is now more commonly placed in Leopardus, a larger genus of small South American cats, which also includes the ocelot.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, Geoffroy's cats were hunted extensively for their pelts for the international fur trade, but little trade took place after 1988 and the species was upgraded to CITES Appendix I status in 1992. Legislation introduced in the late 1980s made hunting and domestic trade of their pelts illegal in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. International trade in Cites Appendix I listed species is now prohibited, except for non-commercial purposes.
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