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Pampas Cat Facts

Pampas Cat


Common: Pampas Cat
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Felinae  (Oncifelis)
Species: colocolo
Photo by:  Francisco Erize

Misc.: The taxonomic evaluation of 96 museum specimens has lead to the conclusion that given the geographic differences of this cat, the “Pampas Cat” may actually be 3 distinct species: Lynchailurus pajeros (high Andes from Equador to Patagonia and throughout Argentina), L. braccatus (Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay), and L. colocolo (Chile). Molecular analysis is planned for these specimens to prove this theory.

Size and Appearance: Its appearance is different from the other South American cats and resembles more the European Wild Cat with its broad face and pointed ears. It appearance also varies in different parts of its range. In the high Andes its gray-colored with reddish stripes broken up into spots and resembles the Andes Mountain Cat. In Argentina, the coat is longer, more of a yellow-brown color with a muted pattern. In Brazil, a young male was a rusty color with dark, irregular black stripes over its entire body when it was immature, but by the time it was older the stripes were only visible on the limbs and under parts. It has longer hair on its back forming a “dorsal mane”. Their ears are grey, but in the northern animals they also have a white central spot. They weigh from 6-15 lbs., stand 12-14 inches high and are 32-42 inches long.

In captivity, Pampas Cats have lived 16 years, but the average is 9.

Habitat: Primarily open grasslands and humid forests.

Distribution: Patagonia, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Equador and Brazil.

Reproduction and Offspring: After a gestation of 80-85 days they produce a litter of 1-3 young. They reach maturity at around 21 months in captivity. They are also believed to have a set breeding period of April to July in captivity.

Social System and Communication: Unknown. No studies have ever been done on this cat in the wild.

Hunting and Diet: It has been observed preying mainly on small mammals such as guinea pigs, and on ground dwelling birds such as penguins and chicken. They are also believed to be terrestrial and mostly nocturnal.

Principal Threats: Habitat destruction throughout their range remains to be their primary threat, as well as the reduction of its prey base. Trade of their pelts ceased in 1987

Status: IUCN: Indeterminate. CITES: Appendix I.

Photo By:  Anthony Bannister

Felid TAG 2000 recommendation: Pampas cat (Oncifelis colocolo). Pampas cats have seldom been imported for any purpose, their appearance being less striking than that of the Geoffroy’s cat. Not endangered in nature, the pampas cat now numbers less than one half dozen in zoos. This species is not recommended for support in North America.

How rare is this cat ? The International Species Information Service lists 4 worldwide, with 3 being in the U.S.  There are 0 living on Easy Street.

Information taken from the natural History of Wild Cats, and With Permission from IUCN Wild Cats.

More about saving Pampas Cats:

2 Comments

  1. One more thing – Juan told me the cat was about one meter long and was not aggressive to humans as it preferred to run away when spotted.

  2. My friend Juan took me to some land his family owns on the coast just north of San Clemente, Ecuador. He told me that he and the other workers clearing the land have seen several wild cats he called colocolo in the area and once he walked up behind one on a hillside and got tow within fifteen feet or so before the cat ran away. He said that one was mostly red stripes, but he has seen others that are more brown.

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