||The Mammals of Texas -
Carnivora : Family Felidae : Felis
Description. Small, slender-bodied,
long-tailed, unspotted, weasel-like cat; size somewhat
larger than the ordinary alley cat; legs short for a cat;
two color phases. Grayish phase: upperparts grizzled,
salt-and-pepper gray; underparts slightly paler; more
black in winter pelage. Red phase: upperparts reddish,
intermixed with blackish; head and legs more brownish;
lips and throat usually whitish. Dental formula as in the
lion. External measurements of
an adult male: total length, 1,070 mm; tail, 572 mm; hind
foot, 137 mm; females usually smaller.
Distribution in Texas. Brush
country of extreme southern Texas in Cameron, Hidalgo,
Starr, and Willacy counties where it is rare.
Habits. Jaguarundis are denizens
of the dense, thorny thickets of southern Texas where
cacti, mesquite, cat claw, granjeno, and other
spine-studded vegetation abounds. There, these cats live
a life of relative safety because such thickets are
almost impenetrable to both dogs and man which are their
chief enemies. They spend most of their time on the
ground, but they are expert climbers and garner part of
their food in the trees and bushes. They are largely
active at night but move about a good deal in the
daytime, often going to water to drink at midday. One of
us (Davis) saw an individual cross the highway early one
afternoon near the city of Victoria, Tamaulipas, Mexico,
using a graceful gait somewhat like that of a disjointed
lope. The cat disappeared immediately in the
"wall" of brush and could not be followed.
Their food consists of rats, mice,
birds, and rabbits. They also are reputed to make inroads
on poultry. Robert Snow has stated that their chief food
is birds and that the young in the dens are fed a similar
diet. He reported seeing one old cat spring about 1.5 m
into the air and knock feathers out of a low-flying dove.
An analysis of stomach contents from 13 Venezuelan
jaguarundis revealed the remains of lizards, rodents,
small birds, cottontail rabbits, and grass.
Their breeding habits are not
well-known. F. B. Armstrong was of the opinion that they
have no regular breeding season. He found young in both
summer and winter, born probably in March and August.
This suggests two litters of two young each year. Snow
has found their dens under fallen trees grown over with
grass and shrubs and in thickets. They were merely
"forms" in this protective cover. He has found
young in the den only in March, the number always being
three. The young of a litter may all be slate blue, all
chocolate brown, or some of them may be blue and the
others brown. He reported finding several litters in the
vicinity of Raymondville, Willacy County. No information
is available on their home life, growth, and development.
This cat is too rare in the United
States to be of economic importance. Its pelt is of
little value on the fur market. The clearing of
brushlands in the Rio Grande Valley threatens to destroy
its habitat in Texas, and it is now regarded as
endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Photo credit: John L. Tveten.