The margay (Leopardus wiedii) also called tiger cat or tigrillo is a small wild cat native to Central and South America.
It is found from southern Mexico, through Central America and in northern South America east of the Andes.
Margays live almost exclusively in areas of dense forest, ranging from tropical evergreen forest to tropical dry forest and high cloud forest.
The average lifespan for margays is from 12 to 14 years in the wild, while in captivity individuals may live up to 24 years.
The margay has a body length of 48 to 79 cm (19 to 31 in), and a tail length of 33 to 51 cm (13 to 20 in). It weighs from 2.6 to 4 kg (5.7 to 8.8 lb)
Coloration varies from pale gray to deep brown with dark markings such as spots, stripes, bands, and black-edged blotches. The undersides are paler, ranging from buff to white, and the tail has numerous dark bands and a black tip.
The margay is nocturnal, but has also been observed hunting during the day in some areas. During the day, it usually rests in relatively inaccessible branches or clumps of lianas.
It prefers to spend most of its life in trees, but also travels on the ground, especially when moving between hunting areas.
This wild cat is very agile – its ankles can turn up to 180 degrees, it can grasp branches equally well with its fore and hind paws, and it is able to jump up to 3.7 meters (12 feet) horizontally.
The margay is one of only two cat species with ankles flexible enough to climb head-first down trees – the other is the clouded leopard.
It has been seen to hang from branches with only one foot, and can run upside down beneath branches.
Since margays are such great tree climbers, they often eat other mammals that live in trees such as big eared climbing rats, squirrels, opossums, small monkeys, and sloths. They also eat tree frogs, lizards and birds. They also will sometimes eat insects, eggs, grasses and sometimes even fruit.
A margay has been observed to mimic the vocalisation of a pied tamarin infant while hunting. This represents the first observation of a Neotropical predator employing this type of mimicry.
Margays have large home ranges of 11 to 16 square kilometres (4.2 to 6.2 square miles).
Like most cats, they are solitary – the adults usually meet only to mate.
Margays are serially monogamous, which means that they pair up for the mating season and during that time they spend days with a specific individual.
Gestation lasts about 80 days, and generally results in the birth of a single kitten (very rarely, there are two).
When hand-reared from a kitten, the margay reportedly is easily tamed – as an adult, however, it may become unpredictable.
Since 2008, the margay has been listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List because the population is thought to be declining due to loss of habitat following deforestation.
In the past, thousands of individuals per year were harvested for their fur. Hunting pressure has decreased considerably following international protection, although some illegal harvesting still occurs locally.
Its past range included the southern United States.
The margay is very similar to the larger ocelot in appearance. It is a much more skillful climber than its relative and is sometimes called the tree ocelot.