Wild cat: The Margay

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The margay is a small cat who lives in dense forests in South America. They are solitary and nocturnal, occupying large territories which they indicate using scent markings. They are similar in looks to the ocelot, though smaller, with a shorter head, larger eyes and longer legs and tail.

They spend most of their time in trees, actively avoiding traversing across open ground. They are well adapted to this arboreal lifeand their long tails, which are roughly 70% the length of their bodies, are used as a counterweight.

Margay females are on heat for four to 10 days and attract males using a long, moaning sound. Gestation is around 80 days and only yields one kitten, perhaps explaining why the margay has only two teats, which is unusual for a cat. This, coupled with difficulty reproducing in captivity, a high infant mortality rate, the destruction of their natural habitat and the trade in pelts, means that the margay population is dwindling.

Margays are solitary, nocturnal forest dwellers and are found in the dense, evergreen forests in South America

Baby margays are born as single kittens between March and June. They weigh less than 170g at birth, open their eyes at two weeks and eat solid food at seven to eight weeks

The margay’s prey

  • Rodents
  • Tree frogs
  • Lizards
  • Eggs

The Margay by numbers

2.3-4.9kg: The weight of an adult

48-79cm: The length of a margay’s body

85-170g: The weight of a kitten at birth

80 days: How long a female carries her young before birth

7-8 weeks: The age kittens start to eat solid food

50%: The mortality rate of margay kittens

Text: Deanne Dudley
The full article appears in the October issue of Animaltalk.

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