The cat few people ever see: Simon Barnes on Jaguarundi SEARCH NEWS


A Jaguarundi at Mexico's Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve. Image credit: Roberto Pedraza Ruiz.


The jaguarundi is the cat of the shadows, the cat nobody notices, the cat most people have never heard of, the cat unrecognised even by my spell-checker. It has its being in obscurity and owes its continued existence to its lack of good looks.

A jaguarundi is about twice the size of the cat on your hearthrug. It has no flashy spots or stripes or rosettes; a solid coat of grey or reddy-brown that no one wants to wear, making it the cat the furriers never bothered with.

They can be found from southern Texas down to central Argentina. They can make a living in rainforest, cloud forest, deciduous forest, savannah, thorn scrub, mangrove and desert. They work mostly on the ground, though they climb well and swim readily.

They prefer to hunt in the day but they’re still brilliant at keeping out of sight: big home ranges and mostly solitary. They look almost more weasely than catty: long slender body and comparatively short legs. Like other gracile – savour the word – carnivores, they are good at hiding and are deceptively strong and swift.

They are perhaps the most numerous wild cats in the western hemisphere, and the least studied. Well, they’re hard to study: it’s hard enough even to know they are there.

So far as anyone can tell, they’re not in any danger; certainly they are categorised Least Concern. I don’t need to tug your heartstrings by begging you to adopt a jaguarundi before the last one has gone.

But jaguarundis are part of nature, and all of nature needs our concern: not our least concern but the best concern we can possibly muster up. Forests are constantly fragmented and broken, and so is every other kind of wild habitat. Everything that lives needs our best concern now.

We need to do all we can to stop the slow and subtle nibbling away of wildness. If we do that, we will help a cat that hardly anyone has heard of and few people ever see: and there’s real glory in that. This is the cat that walks by himself: we must make sure he has plenty of places to walk in.

Read more about the work by World Land Trust (WLT) partners to protect the habitat of Jaguarundi across Argentina, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Paraguay.


By supporting WLT’s Action Fund you can help protect the threatened habitats which Jaguarundi and many other species depend upon for their survival.

Find out more about the Action Fund

If you would like to donate to the Action Fund and support species such as the Jaguarundi, please click on the button below.

Jaguarundi kittens at the entrance to their den in Buenaventura Reserve, Ecuador. Image credit: Fundacion Jocotoco.

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