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Leopardus wiedii - Margay

Physical Description:

The Margay is in the Felidae, therefore it possesses cat-like features.  It is smaller than the more common ocelot, which it is often compared to in many ways.  The total head and body length averages around 45cm-70cm.  The tail, which is longer than the typical ocelot, is 30-49 cm.  Margays weigh 4-9 kg.  The coat pattern is a yellow-brown with black and rosette spots that are lighter in the center with a dark rim.  The tail is encircled with black stripes.  The cat’s fur located on the neck and shoulders is upturned, in other words the fur orients in the opposite direction than the rest of the body.  (Macdonald 2001)


The species is found in the Neotropic region from northern Mexico to northern Argentina to north-east Paraguay and Uruguay.  Margays inhabit humid tropical forests, including forest near the base of mountain ranges and from sea level to altitude as high as 3,000m.  They are an arboreal cat spending most of their time in trees. (Redford & Eisenberg 1992)

Geographic distribution of Leopardus wiedii.

Image from

Ontogeny and Reproduction:

Litter sizes of Margays are from 1-2 kittens.  Interestingly, this is all the mother can support with her one pair of nipples.  Gestation term is an average of 81-84 days, and the females usually give birth in July and early August.  The new born kittens weigh an average of 165g and open their eyes at 11-16 days.  Kittens leave the dens at 5 weeks and are weaned by 8 weeks.   The desirable den is a hollow log or a burrow. (Oliveira 1998)

Ecology and Behavior:

Margays almost entirely live in forests, which include rain, deciduous and evergreen forest.  They have also been observed in humid savanna swamps.  Territorial areas have been recorded by radio collared males to be 10.95-15.9 km2. 

The diet of Margays includes a vast array of animals from arboreal mammals like monkeys, rats, squirrels, opossums, and sloth.  They also feed on reptiles and amphibians.  Most of their diet has been studied through scat investigation.

Like many Felids, Margays have large eyes that allow them to see well at night.  They are mostly nocturnal.  Other well adapted senses include hearing.  The cats can vocalize by purring, meowing, barking, moaning, hissing, spitting, growling and snarling.  (Oliveira 1998)


Additionally, the Margay is adapted to arboreal life because of their hind feet have an ability to rotate 180 degrees.  This allows for descending down trees head first and hanging from limbs by their paws.  (Oliveira 1998)

Literature Cited:

Macdonald, David.  2001.  The Encyclopedia of Mammals pp 34. 

Oliveira, Tadeu G. de.1998. Mammalian Species No. 579, pp 1-6. Published by the American Society of Mammalogists.

Redford, Kent H. and John F. Eisenberg. 1992. Mammals of the Neotropics the Southern Cone Volume 2 Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay.  Pp169-70.  The University of Chicago Press.

The Cat Survival Trust.  September 1996 The Cat Survival Trust, The Centre, Codicote Road, Welwyn, AL6 9TU, England. Accessed 29 November 2004.

Reference written by Teresa Stanley, Biology 378 (Mammalogy), University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point.  Edited by Christopher Yahnke. Page last updated August 8, 2005.

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