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Geoffrey's Cat

Geoffrey's CatGeoffrey's Cat, named after the 19th century naturalist, Geoffrey St Hilaire, is found throughout southern South America, east of the Andes. With individuals found inhabiting areas around the Straits of Magellan, along with the Puma it is the most southerly of the worlds wild cat species.

Zoological name: Oncifelas geoffroyi

Species: All-black or melanistic specimens are quite common; melanism is controlled by a single dominant allele. Long known as a member of the Felis genus it has also been placed with the ocelot as a Leopardus species. Species in the Leopardus and Oncifelis genera have only 36 chromosomes, other cats have 38. It has also been placed in the same genus (Oncifelis) as the closely related pampas cat and the kodkod.

Five subspecies have been described:
F. (O.) g. geoffroyi Central Argentina
F. (O.) g. euxantha Northern Argentina, Andean Bolivia
F. (O.) g. leucobapta Patagonia (Disputed)
F. (O.) g. paraguae Paraguay, south east Brazil, Uruguay, north Argentina
F. (O.) g. salinarum North west to central Argentina

Physical appearance: One of the small cats about which little is known, this cat has a uniformly patterned coat of small black spots of nearly equal size and spacing. The ground color tends to be more of an ochre color in the northern part of their range to a gray in the southern part. Black (melanistic) individuals are common. Males weigh an average of 10 pounds, and females average 8.

Presence on the planet: Versatile in its utilisation of habitats, Geoffroys cat is at home in scrub woodlands, open bush, rocky terrain and riverine forest. Recorded at Cochabamba in the Bolivian Andes at 3500 metres, its geographical range covers practically all of the continent of South America south of the Gran Chaco in Uruguay and Paraguay, the Brazilian Rio Grande do Sul and the mountains of southern Bolivia, northern Chile and Jujuy in northwest Argentina. It is not found further south than the Straits of Magellan.

Habitat: They occupy a wide variety of habitats, from the pampas grasslands and arid Chaco shrub and woodlands, up to alpine saline deserts. It is absent from tropical rain forests, broad-leaved forests, and open areas. It occupies the same areas as the Pampas Cat, but the Geoffroys sticks to dense ground cover which separates the two ecologically.

Diet: Geoffroys cats hunt small birds, lizards, insects and rodents. They will eat eggs and in captivity have been observed to chew green hay stems. Cats eat vegetation to aid digestion and to assist vomiting and the elimination of fur balls.

Geoffrey's CatReproduction & Offspring: After mating it appears that the male takes little part in the raising of the young. The litter size is usually small, between 1- 4 (typically two) kittens and they are born after a gestation period of approximately 72 - 78 days. The kittens weigh between 65 - 90g at birth and have been noted as developing quickly. Kittens can almost stand at about four days and are often independent of their mother at about eight months.

Conservation status: Status: CITES: Appendix I. IUCN: Not listed.

Hunted extensively throughout its range for its fur, geoffrey's cat is one of the most hunted of wild cat species. However, geoffrey's cat is still the most highly populated of all South American wild cats and it is possibly due to this large population that as many as 150,000 pelts are traded annually. Geoffrey's cat is now listed in CITES Appendix 2 as threatened.

Life span: 14 years
Adaptive wonders!

Versatile and tolerant of moderate deforestation, Geoffroys cat can adapt to human presence better than other small cat species in South America. Rather than flee from disturbed areas, they seek them out and take advantage of the lack of competition from other species. They are easily trapped and tamed, and many natives keep them as pets and rodent control agents. In some areas, they are considered a threat to domestic poultry and shot on sight. In other areas, they are considered a culinary item.

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