Small paws step softly on the tree branch. It’s dark outside but that’s not a problem. A tree frog sounds off in the near distance. Getting closer now, strong legs prepare to pounce. Then BAM! The tree frog is now being eaten. By what you may ask? An amazing one-of-a-kind wild cat.
There are 36 species of wild cats in the world. The popular tigers, lions, cheetahs, leopards, cougars, bobcats, and lynxes are only a small part of that group. So what are the other 29? They are all smaller cats that few know about. One of these mysterious animals is the Margay (Leopardus weidi). It is probably one of the most beautiful of the rarer species. But like its larger relatives, it’s slowly disappearing. And no one knows it!
Home Sweet Home
Margays live in Central and South America, anywhere between Mexico and Peru, and between Paraguay and Argentina. Their natural habitat is forest areas where they can be in the trees all the time. In these places, it is hotter than where you live. This is because the sun is heating the center of the earth more than the North and South parts of the globe. Now can you imagine living in a place like this with a fur coat?
Margays look a lot like its cousins the leopards and the ocelots. The splotchy dots on their coats are called rosettes. They have a lot of them to help them with camouflaging, which means blending in with their surroundings. The rosettes cover their whole body from their long, thick, fluffy tail to their long legs and small body. The only part not covered in these dot shapes is their head which has small, thin black lines that line the cheeks and forehead. The color under the dark spots is a tawny brown. The end look is a masterpiece, with every individual cat having their own design.
Margays in Trouble
Because Margays coats are really pretty, a lot of people sadly kill them. The coats would be turned into clothing for people. Since this is happening, more and more margays are disappearing and the numbers of cats are dropping to really low numbers. This makes them an endangered species that needs protecting.
Male and female Margays rarely spend any time together except when they want to make a family. When they do, they have one baby at a time. Sometimes they can have twins, but that does not happen a lot. This happens between March and June. After two weeks the kittens can open their eyes. Then they learn to hunt from their mother shortly after when they are around two months old. In no time they can be a great hunter and survivor like their parents.
When nighttime comes, these cats do not go to sleep. They go hunting for food. This is called being nocturnal. What do they eat? Birds, small monkeys, small mammals, lizards, tree frogs and insects! Gross, huh? Well to the Margay it’s tasty and it can all be found in the trees where they live. How can they see at night? They have large eyes that make it easier to see things. Sometimes they come down to the ground to hunt animals there or to get fruit to eat, but mostly “dinner” is in the tropical evergreen forests of home.
Climbing Like a Pro
One of the crazy things about Margays is that they can climb down a tree head first like a squirrel! How can they do this? They have back legs that can rotate 180 degrees. But climbing down is not their only ability in the trees. Most of their time is spent there so their ability to walk up and across branches is really good. They have special claws that help with climbing and gripping. With these claws and their special legs, Margays can move as easily as a monkey does. They can even hang onto a branch by one paw! And it is these qualities that make Margays the best climbers out of all the cats.
By Sarah McCoy