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Andean Mountain Cat - Oreailurus jacobita

By: C.M.Shorter

The Andean Mountain Cat is one of the five most endangered cats in the world and probably the rarest Wild Cat in South America. The body structure of the Andean Mountain Cat is similar in size and build to a domestic feline. Though almost double that size, this more athletic version has very stout legs and large feet with blackish bars & spots and grayish-brown soles.

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Andean Mountain Cat
Andean Mountain Cat
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Not only is the Andean Mountain Cat one of the rarest cats on our planet but they are the only one of our small Wild Cat to have STRIPES! This agile climber has a very fine, silky textured coat, approximately 2" in length of a pale silver or reddish-gray color fading to white on the undersides which nature designed for excellent camouflage. Indistinctly patterned rusty rosette spots frequent their sides with a faint brown stripe marking its body and flanks which may darken to almost black. Their tail is ringed with five to eight dark bands, with the tip always the body color. They navigate rough, rugged terrain using their tail for balance which comprises nearly 30% of their body length.

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This reclusive, small carnivore (10 lbs average weight) lives exclusively in the remote high altitude deserts of the Andes with territory crossing the country borders of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. The Andean Mountain Cat prefers rocky, cold, sparsely vegetated extreme elevations. Andean Mountain Cats were first described to science as far back as 1865, but it was not until 1980 that a positive sighting occurred. Some Scientists speculate the Andean Mountain Cat is closely related to Geoffroy's Cat or the Pampas Cat. Similar to the Himalayan Pallas Cat, the fur on their stomach is very, very thick - a natural protection for animals existing in harsh, cold climates.

The Andean Mountain Cat has claims territory in one of the most forbidding, rugged terrains of our planet making its behavior and biology difficult to study and there are no known records of any having been kept in captivity. Found at elevations from 10,000 to 15,000 feet, sometimes above the snow line, in Peru, northern Chile and Argentina, they are reported to hunt seeking Chinchilla (nocturnal), mountain viscacha (diurnal), birds, reptiles and other small rodents. They use their long tails much like the Cheetah, or Snow Leopard as an aid to balance when chasing these rodents and their habitat seems to coincide with the distribution of these large rodents.

The Andean Mountain Cat is most closely related to the Ocelot, another South American feline found mainly in tropical forest. The presence of a highly developed unique tympanic bulla, which gives increased sensitivity to sounds has resulted in the Andean Mountain Cat's separate genus classification, Oreailurus.

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Scientific Name: Oreailurus jacobita
Common Name(s): Andean Mountain Cat, Andean Highland Cat, Mountain Cat
Range: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru
Average Weight: 3 - 6 kg (7 - 15 lbs)
Length: 95-130 cm (37 - 52") Tail typically in excess of 30% of body length
Diet: Carnivorous. Andean Mountain Cat's prey consists mostly of Chinchilla, mountain viscacha, birds, reptiles and other small rodents
Gestation Period: Unknown (Similar to other small Wild Cat Species)
Cub Maturity: " "
Cubs Per Litter: " "
Lifespan: " "
Predators: Man, Young to Birds of Prey.
Social Structure: Solitary (except during Mating Season)
Territory Size: 15-30 miles
Conservation Status: Andean Mountain Cats are extremely rare and protected over their entire range being placed on Appendix I of CITES, Endangered Species Act. The IUCN, World Conservation Union has placed an "urgent" priority on field studies for this Species to try to uncover whether their rarity is a natural phenomenon, attributable to human actions, or a misconception merely arising from lack of observations. There are no records of international trade in Andean Mountain Cat pelts.

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