Andean Mountain Cat Facts

Common Name: Andean Mountain Cat

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Genus: Felinae (Oreailurus)

Species: jacobitus

Misc.: The information for this cat comes from museum skins and skulls, and there have only been a handful of sightings in the wild. Only 2 scientists had the opportunity to observe and photograph this animal and it was only for a 2-hour period. To date, that is the only finding of this cat in the wild for study.

Size and Appearance: The Andean Mountain Cat is a small but sturdy cat with long soft fur, which is a pale silvery gray in color. It is striped irregularly with brown or orangy markings down the sides from the back, with dark gray bars across the chest and forelegs. It has rosette-like spots on the sides, and its belly is pale with dark spots. The tail is thick and long and banded with dark rings.

Longevity of this cat is unknown, both in captivity and in the wild.

Habitat: Only found in the rocky-arid and semi-arid zones of the high Andes above the timberline.

Distribution: Andes Mountains of Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and Peru.

Reproduction and Offspring: Unknown.

Social System and Communication: Unknown. Due to the fact that the only individual ever seen in the wild was alone, it is concluded that this cat is solitary in nature. It showed no fear of humans.

Hunting and Diet: Reports of this cats diet include mountain chinchillas and mountain viscachas. These prey are “ricochettal” rodents, meaning that they bound off rock faces unpredictably to escape predators. Because of this, it is believed that the long tail of this cat is used to enable it to quickly change direction during a chase. Other animals with relatively long thick tails are the Cheetah (hunts gazelles and hares that change direction swiftly during high-speed chases), Snow Leopard (which hunts high among cliffs), Clouded Leopard, Marbled Cat and the Margay (species with highly developed arboreal capabilities).

Principal Threats: So little is known of this cat that it is hard to determine if its rarity is a natural phenomenon, is attributed to man, or is just a misconception due to lack of sightings. Therefore, the principal threat to this beautiful little cat is lack of knowledge.

andeanmtncat.jpg (10945 bytes)Status: IUCN: Insufficiently known. CITES: Appendix I.

Felid TAG 2000 recommendation: Mountain cat (Oncifelis jacobita). One of the least known cats of South America, this species’ remote habitat and legal status make it unlikely that this species will ever be available to North American zoos or other holders.

Information taken With Permission from IUCN Wild Cats.

Photos By:
Jim Sanderson, Ph.D.
Center for Applied Biodiversity Science
Conservation International
1919 M Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036-3521 USA
202 912-1803 FAX: 202 912-0772

We wish to express our deep gratitude to Dr. Jim Sanderson for sharing these photos of the Andean Mountain Cat with us.  These are the only photos every taken of this elusive little creature and had it not been for Dr. Sanderson’s dedication to this small cat we would never have had the opportunity to marvel at it’s beauty.  The cat showed no fear of humans and Jim was able to follow it for five hours.  None others have ever been seen alive by modern man. Help save exotic cats in captivity by clicking the link below.

See Conservation Work Funded By Big Cat Rescue here:

2023 Saving Andean Mountain Cats

It has been a busy year full of field work in the Andes Mountains for the Andean Cat Alliance that is partially funded by Big Cat Rescue.  Check out this report dated 6/2/2023:

I would like to inform you about the activities that I have generated with my group in local schools and communities. I will try to be short, but I think some of the stories will be interesting for you and your team.

During the first half of the year we completed our awareness activities related to art for conservation. We completed the first mural related to Pampas cat in a local school in the region (Coquimbo) and the country (Chile). We are proud to tell you that we worked for 1 week with local children to develop wild cats conservation awareness. The Pampas cat is locally called Colo-Colo, and it’s also the name of the most famous soccer team in the country. Unfortunately, the awareness related to the cat is poorly understood. Thus, this is our mission along the country.

At the same time, in another region of Chile (Santiago) we created the local group called “Guardianes del Gato Andino” (Andean Cat Guardians) in order to train local wild cat’s enthusiasts with ecology and detection techniques for wild cats. This training has the goal to teach our volunteers to be local guides and monitors to value their heritage against any project that could destroy wildcat’s habitat (e.g., urbanization and investment projects), and to start tourism activities around Andean wild cats. This training has the final goal to create a diploma that will be recognized by one of the most important universities in the country (Universidad de Santiago). We have a member (Darío Moreira, PhD in Ecology) who is a professor at this university.

In addition, we finished one of the best Andean cat murals in our history of art for conservation (pictures attached). We signed a deal with the principal local administration in the most human populated Andean cat habitat in Chile (Municipalidad de San José de Maipo, in the capital region). We performed this activity with local women and their children. 

We will continue our conservation activities in these two regions, and we need to expand to another region, because of urbanization and mining pressure in Andean cat habitats. 

Please see the attached video from yesterday that shows a young Andean cat looking for water in a local Andean school and with an interesting human habituation behavior.

Rodrigo Villalobos |  Seeking Andean Wild Cats   

The Wildlife Conservation Network is an organization that shares our belief that the money should go to the animals and not be wasted on salaries and benefits for those who are doing the fundraising.  If you contact them and say you want 100% of your donation to go to the Andean Mountain Cats in the wild, that is exactly what will happen. Dr. Jim Sanderson has been responsible for igniting a passion in local peoples for the Andean Mountain Cats when he took the first photographs ever of them in the wild.  He introduced us to Lilian Villalba who is currently camera trapping these elusive little felines in Bolivia.  She and her team of researchers are supported in part by Wildlife Conservation Network

All conservation insitu work:

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