Andean Mountain Cat - Rare and Elusive
The surviving examples of the Andean Mountain Cat line in the remote and exalted world of the high Andes, where the nighttime temperatures regularly fall below freezing, and are the last of this little-known species. Very little is known about this elusive species, which is represented by only a few specimens in museum collections. The Andean mountain or highland cat is about the size of a large domestic cat, similar to the pampas cat which is found in the same region. They are often compared to the Snow Leopard due to living similar lives in similar habitats.
As protection against its cold environment, the Andean Mountain Cat has long, thick fur that has a pale silver gray body with rust colored spots and stripes.
The chest and front legs have markings of gray stripes. On the underside of the body, the coloration is pale with dark spotting. They have a bushy and long tail that is marked with up to nine rings that are brown. The tip o the tail is often white. The sides of the face, mouth and the eyes have areas of white and running down from each eye is a dark stripe. Older cats normally have less spots with a lighter coat. With juveniles having slightly more spots and thin tail bands.
The andean mountain cat is believed to be an opportunistic in its feeding habits. Prey species include such small animals as viscachas, insects, chinchillas, lizards and birds. Their social structure is unknown as is their reproductive habits, due to the remote areas that it lives in. They are elusive rarely observed in the wild.
As the name implies, the Andean Mountain Cat occurs in the high Andes. Distribution is limited to arid regions of Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Bolivia. These areas are free of trees and are very rocky, cold, windy and dry. Of the specimens collected for the official description, most have been collected above 9500 feet and one in Peru above 15,000 feet. Occasionally they will enter areas of snow.
Their range is very restricted so total numbers cannot be large. The Andean Mountain Cat exist only in scattered areas in high altitudes of the Andes in rocky and dry, harsh areas. Its population density is low and lives far from settlements of humans. There appears to be no sub-species of this cat. Conservation and exact numbers in the wild are unknown due to lack of research. No specimens are known to exist in captivity.