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Oncilla (Leopardus tigrinus)

Posted on Mar 9, 2011 by in Carnivores | 8 comments

Leopardus tigrinus

Number 0359

Today marks two straight weeks of mammals! How do you like them apples? Also, if you look to the right at today’s mammal’s number, you will see that sometime next week, if we continue on this track, we will complete a year’s worth of “daily” mammals! And it will have taken us less than four years…

Moving right along, my mom requested an oncilla. My three-year-old niece, Rae, has a subscription to National Geographic Little Kids, and with the magazine, you get little punch-out animal trading cards. One of the recent ones pictured the oncilla, which is also known as the little spotted cat, and it is a little spotted cat indeed. In fact, it’s one of the smallest wild cats in the world: it’s only as big as a small housecat, weighing in at about 5 pounds on average. Little ol’ thing!

Oncillas live in Central and South America, ranging in a rather patchy way from Costa Rica down to southern Brazil and eastern Argentina. They especially like forests, including two prettily named kinds of forests, elfin forests and cloud forests. Elfin forests are, apparently, forests where the trees are stunted, perhaps because of wind, dryness, mist, or other climate conditions, and cloud forests are forests covered in fog. The cats are nocturnal and solitary, and we don’t know a whole lot about them.


  1. That cat isn’t playing around. That cat means business. I wouldn’t want to be whatever that cat’s got its gaze on, I can tell you!

  2. Bee-you-tiful!

    I hope that it’s not endangered, but I have a sneaky feeling that it is….

  3. Thanks, Jenn. Beautiful drawing.

    • Thanks, Mom! Glad you like it. Kate, you too—and while it isn’t officially endangered right now, it is categorized as “vulnerable,” which the IUCN uses as the step right before “endangered.” (After that is critically endangered, then extinct in the wild, then extinct.) Its threats include habitat destruction—natch—illegal hunting, and revenge killings by people whose chickens have been killed by predators. And as climate and habitats change, other predators are coming into the oncilla’s territory and acting as competition.

  4. Elfin forests! A 5 lb cat with attitude in its eyes! Revenge killings! How unspeakably charming and dramatic.

    “The cats are nocturnal and solitary, and we don’t know a whole lot about them” — I bet they love it that way.

  5. Alexandra, I do believe you’re right. It’s kind of how I am, too, and I’m pretty satisfied with it…And you pick out such great details from my writing—thanks!

  6. Fab. I’d never even heard of it. I love cats, but I know so little about the small cats of the world.

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