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Geoffroys - One tough cat

 

The Geoffroy Cat is the most common wild cat of South America, and is one ofMelanistic ( black ) Geoffroys Cat the most southerly of all cats. They are the only shorthaired wild cat south of the equator. They live in forest, at high altitudes, on salt flats and in high wind areas. It seems these little guys can survive anywhere. Discovered by the nineteenth century French naturalist Geoffroy St Hilaire, it is nearly the size of a domestic cat with a weight around 5-10 lbs. These little felines are strong swimmers that regularly enter the water, and have been recorded frequently swimming fast flowing rivers 100 feet wide. Once common in zoos and the private sector, this easily kept species has disappeared from zoo's. Private breeders have undertaken the task of breeding this cat in captivity. Not an easy task due to its Appendix I status under CITES, as additional specimens from range countries are not easily obtained. Without new founders, the extant population is nonviable.

 

Color and size vary through its range. 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.

 

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 Geoffroy’s sticks to dense ground cover which separates the two ecologically. They are versatile hunters and prey on a variety of animals including rodents, hares, fish, reptiles, birds, and various small mammals. They are agile climbers and are often seen residing in trees, preferring a habitat of underbrush as seen in tropical rain forests.

 

After a gestation of approximately 72-78 days, females produce a litter of 2 to 4 kittens that mature at a prodigious rate, being able to standGolden Spotted Geoffroys Cat at four days of age and climb trees at few weeks. Females are the sole parents and take extra care in choosing the birthplace. Totally mobile at six weeks, kittens gain independence at eight months. They are solitary in the wild, and the females will have overlapping home ranges, males however, will not. They are nocturnal and partially arboreal. The males and females will come together for mating.

 

The biggest threat has been the exploitation of its pelt for the fur trade, which sadly still exists. The good news is that commercial hunting has virtually ceased, and the kills from which the pelts are derived are from cats killed as pests and livestock predators. This has helped reduce the numbers from what was an average of 55,000 animals per year to considerably less (exact figures not known). Deforestation from human encroachment is also a problem facing this little cat, but since so little is known of its habits, the extent of the damage is unknown at this time.