Pampas Cat - the little grass cat
The Pampas Cat is another of the small Wild Cats that makes its home in South America partially sharing territory with another tiny cat - the elusive and shy Kodkod. Although they occur throughout a wide range of diverse habitats, they prefer moist jungles and open plains of Patagonia, residing at times at high altitudes, yet they have been studied very little in the wild. This lack of information on this cat, makes it difficult for conservationists to develop an effective plan to protect them. As their name implies, they inhabit open grassland but they also take range in humid forests, open woodlands, savannas, mangrove swamp areas as well as dry thorn scrub. Unlike the Jaguar who thrives in the Amazon Rainforest as optimal habitat, the Pampas Cat are absent from the lowland rainforest. Throughout the Andes mountains they are known to range up anywhere from 100 to 5,000 meters where they share territory with the Andean Mountain Cat. To the south they can be found in the semi-arid desert of the Patagonia, further north in southwestern Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia into the Peruvian Andes.
Their stature is similar to that of a domestic cat, with soft thick fur in colder mountainous climates thinning as necessary to suit the arid desert environment. They can grow up to a little over 2 feet in length with a tail of approximately 12 inches. Coloring varies ranging from yellowish to shades of grey and browns. Their coat may carry reddish grey spots or, be completely unmarked, with dark bands only around the feet and tail. Ears are pointed and are gray on the back and have a central white spot in the cats living in northern parts in contrast to the southern dwelling felines which have plain ears. Mainly terrestrial, tho they will climb trees when being chased. Although little is known of their hunting and breeding habits, they are primarily nocturnal hunters with large eyes providing excellent night vision. Prey consists of other smaller nocturnal mammals, ground nesting birds such as penguins and their eggs, lizards and large insects and domestic livestock. It is also known to take domestic poultry in areas were it lives close to human habitation, notably along the coastal areas of Chile. The pampas cat is hunted throughout its range for its fur and is listed in CITES Appendix 2.
Pampas Cats come into estrus halfway into the year, in the months of May, June and give birth to a small litter of two kittens on average after a pregnancy lasting nearly eighty days. Maturity is reached at around twenty one months. Longevity in captivity is known to be up to sixteen years, though the average lifespan is about half of this.
They are very tolerant of human interference but have lost significant amounts of territory to development of agricultural land with their prey also reduced. Hunting is regulated in Peru, but Brazil and Ecuador offer no legal protection for the Pampas Cat.
Heavily hunted in the 1970's for its fur, the Pampas Cat is now protected as a species and pelt trade is illegal, allowing the cat to reach the current status of Least Concern even as habitat and prey loss continue to take a toll on this beautiful feline. In 1987, the international trade in their pelts was suspended. Throughout South America their status varies widely from endangered in Peru, rare in Paraguay to unknown in Brazil.