Wild Cat Species and Distribution - South America
Geoffrey's Cat, named after the 19th century naturalist, Geoffrey St Hilaire, is found throughout southern South America, east of the Andes. With individuals found inhabiting areas around the Straits of Magellan, along with the Puma it is the most southerly of the worlds wild cat species.
Large adult males can measure up to 700mm in the body and have a tail of a little over half of this length again. However the body size of geoffrey's cat varies considerably throughout its range - cats found in the northern areas are generally somewhat smaller than those found in Southern Argentina and Patagonia. The base fur coloration is also greatly dependent on location. Cats to the north have a ground colour of reddish/yellow fur, whilst cats to the south have grey base coloration, with considerable variation between theses extremes through other parts of its range. The cat is marked by small black spots of equal size, spaced evenly over its body, these coalesce into stripped markings around the neck, chest and face. The undersides of the body and chin are lighter and the tail is covered with black bands ending in a solid black tip. The backs of the ears, in common with many species of wild cat, are black with a central white spot. Melanistic cats are sometimes common to the north of the cats range.
Geoffrey's cat is associated with a wide variety of habitat types. However it appears to have a preference for thick cover and scrubby vegetation and is not commonly found in tropical rain forest or at elevations much above 3,000 metres. This preference for dense ground cover enables geoffrey's cat to share much of its range with the Pampas Cat which is more closely associated with open woodland and grasslands.
Described as primarily nocturnal, crepuscular activity has also been observed in this predominantly solitary cat. Although spending much of its time, hunting and foraging on the ground, there is much evidence to suggest extensive arboreal activity. Observed to be agile climbers, geoffrey's cat often sleeps in the lower branches of trees and research has shown that a high proportion of the cats faeces are deposited above the ground in the crooks of larger branches. Mating activity has also been noted to take place above the ground and kittens at the age of six weeks are able to climb well and are fearless of heights.
Little is known of the prey species taken by the geoffrey's cat and although arboreal hunting for birds and small mammals may take place, it is thought that primary hunting takes place on the ground. In common with other small cats, common prey types will include reptiles, small mammals, amphibians and birds. In addition, research has shown that fish also supplement the cats diet in certain areas and the geoffrey's cat has been describes as a good swimmer able to navigate fast flowing waters.
Territorially, the home range of the geoffreys cat is considered small. The females range being approximately 2.5 km2 and the males about three times this size - it is common for the range of several females often overlap. The males home range is reported to encompass that of several females but not to overlap those of other males. Because of their relatively small home range and general abundance of diverse prey species, in a suitable habitat it is thought that the population frequency of the geoffrey's cat is quite high. It is therefore considered to be the most numerous of the South American wild cat species.
After mating it appears that the male takes little part in the raising of the young. The litter size is usually small, between 1- 4 (typically two) kittens and they are born after a gestation period of approximately 72 - 78 days. The kittens weigh between 65 - 90g at birth and have been noted as developing quickly. Kittens can almost stand at about four days and are often independent of their mother at about eight months.
Hunted extensively throughout its range for its fur, geoffrey's cat is one of the most hunted of wild cat species. However, geoffrey's cat is still the most highly populated of all South American wild cats and it is possibly due to this large population that as many as 150,000 pelts are traded annually. Geoffrey's cat is now listed in CITES Appendix 2 as threatened.
- use a world map to view the species distribution
Find the species by their continental distribution
Europe & Middle East
Body Length(mm) - 550-700
Weight (kg) - 3-5
Litter Size - 1-4 average
Life Span - 14
Status - Least Concern
O.g.euxanthus - Bolivia
O.g.geoffroyi - Central Argentina
O.g.paraguae -S.Brazil, Uraguay, Paraguay
O.g.salinarium - Chaco Region