Geoffroy's Cat (Leopardus geoffroyi) is found from the Andes eastward from southern Bolivia, Paraguay, and southern Brazil to the southern tip of South America. These cats are found in a wide range of temperate and subtropical habitats from sea level to 3300 m in the Andes. The diet is known to include small rodents, cavies, tuco-tucos, Coypu, birds, fishes, and frogs. In a study in southern Chile, remains of the introduced European Hare were found in more than 50% of feces examined. Geoffroy's Cats forage mostly on the ground, but they are known to be good swimmers and also hunt in the water. They have been observed carrying hare carcasses into trees. Available data indicate that they are mainly nocturnal, with peaks of activity around sunset and sunrise, resting during the day in hollows and tree cavities as well as in dense ground vegetation. They are believed to be mainly solitary, like most felids.
In captivity, gestation period varies from 62 to 76 days (usually 70 to 74). Litter size varies from one to three and kittens weigh 65 to 90 g at birth. Young develop slowly compared to domestic kittens. Weaning begins around seven weeks and the young are nearly as large as their mother by six months. In captivity, both males and females become sexually mature at around 18 months, although there are records of sexual activity as early as 9 to 12 months.
Trigo et al. (2008) documented a narrow hybrid zone (initially identified by Eizirik et al. 2006, cited in Trigo et al. 2008) between Geoffroy's Cat and the closely related Oncilla (L. tigrinus) where their mostly allopatric ranges overlap in southern Brazil (the Oncilla is found roughly from Costa Rica to southern Brazil and northeastern Argentina, but its current distribution is not completely known and may be discontinuous, mainly due to the lack of detailed evidence of its occurrence throughout the Amazon basin). Based on mtDNA analyses, the Geoffrey's Cat and Oncilla lineages are believed to have diverged around 1 million years ago.
Although detailed information about the ecology of Geoffroy's Cat is limited, it is believed to be the most common South American felid. In the past it has been heavily exploited for its pelt (more than 250,000 were sold in 1979-80, but international trade has declined since the early 1990s).
(Trigo et al. 2008 and references therein; Sunquist and Sunquist 2009 and references therein)
- Eizirik, E., C. Indrusiak, T. Trigo, et al. 2006. Refined mapping and characterization of a geographic contact zone between two Neotropical cats, Leopardus tigrinus and L. geoffroyi (Mammalia, Felidae). Cat News 45: 8-11.
- Sunquist, M.E. and F.C. Sunquist. 2009. Geoffroy's Cat (Felis geoffroyi). P. 147 in: Wilson, D.E. and Mittermeier, R.A., eds. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 2. Hoofed Mammals. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- Trigo, T.C., T.R.O. Freitas, G. Kunzler, L. Cardoso, J.C.R. Silva, W.E. Johnson, S.J. O'Brien, S.L> Bonatto, and E. Eizirik. 2008. Inter-species hybridization among Neotropical cats of the genus Leopardus, and evidence for an introgressive hybrid zone between L. geoffroyi and L. tigrinus in southern Brazil Molecular Ecology 17: 4317-4333.
Leopardus geoffroyi occurs throughout most of the southern half of South America. This includes Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Patagonia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uraguay. Tge species is widely distributed with the exception of southern Chile, where it is only found east of the Andes (Garman,1997; Nowak, 1999).
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
Geoffroy's cat is a small wild cat, about the size of a large domestic cat, with males being larger than females. The head and body length of this cat ranges from 422 to 665 mm, with the tail adding an additional 240 to 365 mm to the total length. It weighs from three to five kg and stands about 30 cm high. Its coat color varies from a silver-grey to a yellowish-brown. The color of the fur varies geographically, with the more yellow forms in the northern part of the species' range, and the more silver colored forms in the south. The fur is marked with a pattern of small, uniformly spaced, dark brown or black spots all over the body. Two black streaks run down each cheek. Melanism is fairly common. The tail is ringed. (Nowak, 1999; IUCN,1996; Garman,1997).
Range mass: 3 to 5 kg.
Range length: 422 to 665 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
L. geoffroyi has a widely varied habitat, and occurs from sea level through 3,500 m elevations. It primarily lives along rivers in dense, scrubby vegetation. It has also been found in open woodlands and savannas, marshes and even grasslands, although it avoids open areas. These felids are sometimes arboreal, and a high percentage of its feces is found in trees. They are also very good swimmers (IUCN,1996; Garman,1997).
Range elevation: Sea level to 3500 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: scrub forest
Other Habitat Features: riparian
Habitat and Ecology
In a radiotelemetry study in wet pampas grassland of Argentina, Manfredi et al. (2006) found mean home range size from 2.5-3.4 km², with male ranges 25% larger than females. In Chile's Torres del Paine National Park, in beech forest, home ranges were larger, at 2.3-6.5 km² for two females, and 10-9-12.4 km² for two males (Johnson and Franklin 1991). In Argentina's Lihue Calel National Park, Pereira et al. (2006) found female home ranges of 2.5 km² during a drought period; a single female who had been radio-collared before the drought increased her home range by a factor of two, although no obvious differences in mean daily distance travelled were observed. Six radio-collared cats died of starvation during the drought period, when hare abundance fell from 5.6 to <0.8 per 10 km.
Manfredi et al. (2004) found diet to vary by location in Argentina, consisting primarily of small rodent, but including other locally abundant species such as birds. In Chile, rodents and hares were primarily taken (Johnson and Franklin 1991). Plains vizcachas are also prey (Branch 1995). In southern South America, where vizcachas have become extinct, introduced brown hares (Lepus europaeus) are the major prey, although densities of both hares and Geoffroy's cats were observed to decline markedly during a drought period (Pereira et al. 2006). Fish and frog remains were found in the stomachs of Geoffroy's cats from Uruguay and Brazil (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). Bisceglia et al. (2007) found that small mammals were the most frequent prey of Geoffroy´s cats in Lihue Calel, representing at least the 63% of the food items throughout the year.
Geoffroy's cat is a small solitary felid (4.3 kg), with an average litter size of 1.5 kittens, and predominantly nocturnal activity pattern. It seems to be the most abundant felid of the temperate Neotropics (Oliveira and Cassaro 1995, Lucherini et al. 2006).
This felid is a hunter, and not a very picky one. It includes a wide variety of animals in its diet, which is dominated by introduced prey, specifically European hares. It will eat just about any kind of meat it can get a hold of; however its most abundant food items are hamsters and hares. P. geoffroyi hunts in trees and on the ground, and is also known to fish (Novaro,1999; IUCN,1996).
Foods eaten include: birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, rodents, wild guinea pigs, small agoutis, hares and other small mammals.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; fish
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)
This cat is very opportunistic in terms of what it eats, so it helps to control small animal populations in the wild. It also has a wide range, so it helps control various populations of small vertebrates over a large portion of South America (Novaro,1999).
Geoffroy's cat has a camoflaged pelage, but this is believed to be primarily for their own benefit as predators (i.e. to hide them from prey, rather than to hide them from predators). other possible adaptations to reduce predation have nit been reported. (IUCN,1996).
- humans (Homo sapiens)
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Not much is known about how this felid communicates. It is likely that, as with other felids, there are some vocalizations and possible some chemical communications between conspecifics. It is likely that tactile and visual communication, especially between a mother and her young, are also present.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
This cat lives about fourteen to fifteen years on average. However, in captivity they can live up to 20 years (Garman,1997 and IUCN,1996).
Status: wild: 14 to 15 years.
Status: captivity: 20 (high) years.
Status: wild: 14 to 15 years.
Status: captivity: 14 to 20 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Females go into estrus about every twenty days, with estrus lasting two to six days. The mating system of this felid is unknown. However, the home ranges of adult males overlap those of several adult females, but do not overlap those of other males (Nowak, 1999; Garman, 1997; IUCN, 1996). This, coupled with the larger size of males, indicates some level of competetion between males for mates, and therefore some level of polygyny.
Mating System: polygynous
Breeding season for L. geoffroyi occurs from December to May. Females may produce one litter of one to four cubs per year. Geoffroy's cat frequently mates in trees.
The females have a gestation period of 67-78 days. The female gives birth in a den of bushes, a rock crevice, or sometimes even a nook in a tree (Garman,1997). Young weigh 65-123 g at birth. They are born blind, but their eyes open within 8-12 days. They develop quickly. They can stand at about four days old, and by six weeks are fearless climbers. They can walk after two or three weeks. These cats are weaned at 8 to 10 weeks and become completely independent of the mother after about eight months. Sexual maturity is reached between 14 and 24 months (Nowak, 1999; IUCN,1996).
Breeding season: December-May
Range number of offspring: 1 to 3.
Average number of offspring: 2.57.
Range gestation period: 67 to 78 days.
Average gestation period: 65.3 days.
Range weaning age: 56 to 70 days.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 14 to 24 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 21.00 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 14 to 24 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 21.00 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous
The females raise the young. They nurse them until they are about 8 weeks old. After about 8 months, the kittens become independent of the mother. The males are not involved in the rearing of the young (Nowak, 1999; Garman,1997).
Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Leopardus geoffroyi
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
L. geoffroyi is the least protected of all the small cats, having the lowest AZA conservation rank. They are the most common wild cat in South America. However, they are also the most commonly hunted, and population trends are that they are decreasing. IUCN lists the species as Near Threatened, and change the status to Vulnerable if the downward population trend continues. CITES lists the species as Appendix I.
In the seventies and eighties, L. geoffroyi was heavily hunted for fur coats, which was legal at the time. It takes approximately 25 cat skins to make one fur coat. 350,000 skins were exported between 1976 and 1979 in Argentina alone, and over 500,000 total from South America in the early eighties. The fur trade has since declined, but about 55,000 pelts are still traded yearly. However, it is believed that most of these pelts are from cats killed that were pests or threats to livestock populations. Commercial hunting has essentially ceased, but these cats are still considered endangered. Habitat destruction also affects these cats. Not enough time has passed since the hunting has been stopped to determine their status, but they are now fully protected (IUCN,1996; Garman,1997).
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix i
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2002Near Threatened
- 1996Lower Risk/least concern(Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
Brazil 10/100 km² (Oliveira et al. in submission)
Bolivian Chaco 2-42/100 km² (Cuellar et al. 2006)
Argentina (Lihue Calel National Park) 3-26/100 km² (Pereira et al. 2006) during a drought but 139.9 +/- 35.5 per 100 km² two years later (J. Pereira pers. comm. 2008)
Chile (Torres del Paine National Park) 7-12/100 km² (W. Johnson pers. comm. in Nowell and Jackson 1996)
During a health evaluation of Geoffroy´s cats (Uhart et al. 2005) at two different protected areas in Argentina (Campos del Tuyu Wildlife Reserve and Parque Nacional Lihue Calel), antibodies to infectious peritonitis, feline panleukopenia, canine distemper virus, feline callicivirus, toxoplasmosis and dirofilariasis were found in tested animals. Adult parasites recovered from necropsied animals and eggs in fresh faeces revealed the presence of various nematode families, including Ascarididae, Trichuridae, Capillariideae, Rictulariidae, Spiruridae and Ancylostomatidae; cestodes from families Taenidae and Anaplocephaliidae and oocists of Eimeriidae (Beldomenico et al. 2005). These results suggest exposure (recent or past) to common domestic carnivore diseases, and indicate a potential risk to these Geoffroy´s cats´ populations.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Geoffroy's cats are aggressive and have never been fully domesticated, and so they are a truly wild cat. They may also be pests as livestock predators (IUCN,1996).
Negative Impacts: crop pest
This species was heavily hunted for its beautiful pelts from the late 1960's into the mid 1980's, and is the most abundant species of spotted cat in the skin trade (IUCN,1996; Garman,1997; Nowak, 1999).
Geoffroy's cat (Leopardus geoffroyi) is a wild cat native to the southern and central regions of South America. It is about the size of a domestic cat. While the species is relatively common in many areas, it is considered to be Near Threatened by IUCN because of concern over land-use changes in the regions where it lives.
Geoffroy's cat is about the size of a domestic cat, averaging 60 centimetres (24 in), with a relatively short, 31 centimetres (12 in), tail. This felid weighs only about 2 to 5 kilograms (4.4 to 11.0 lb), though individuals up to 7.8 kilograms (17 lb) have been reported. In general, those found in the southern part of their range are larger than those from the north, and males are larger than females.
Their fur has numerous black spots, but the background colour varies from region to region: in the north, a brownish-yellow coat is most common; farther south, the coat is grayish. As with most wild cats, the fur of the underbelly is paler, being cream-colored or even white. There are dark bands on the tail and limbs, and similar markings on the cheeks and across the top of the head and neck. The backs of the ears are black, with white spots (ocelli). Melanism is common both in the wild and in captivity.
Unusual among cats, Geoffroy's cats have been observed to stand up on their hind legs to scan the surrounding landscape, using their tail as a support. A similar posture is seen in weasels, meerkats and prairie dogs, but not generally in felines.
Ecology and distribution
Geoffroy's cats inhabit the Andes, Pampas (scrubby forest parts), and Gran Chaco landscape. They are found from southern Bolivia to the Straits of Magellan, at elevations ranging from sea level up to 3,300 metres (10,800 ft). They prefer open woodland or scrubland habitats with plenty of cover, but are also found in grasslands and marshy areas. Although they are able to climb trees, they rarely do so, except to leave faeces to scent mark their territory.
Although it appears to be plentiful in central regions, including Bolivia, where it is the second most common cat after the ocelot, it is considered to be endangered in regions such as southern Chile. The IUCN currently lists the species as "Near Threatened" because of the concern over habitat conversion in many countries in the cat's range.
Geoffroy's cat is nocturnal, and preys primarily on rodents, hares, small lizards, insects, and occasionally frogs and fish; it is at the top of the food chain in its range. Like other small cats, it is a solitary hunter, regularly contacting others of its species only during the mating season. Females maintain territories ranging from 2 to 6 square kilometres (0.77 to 2.32 sq mi), while males have larger ranges, reaching up to 12 square kilometres (4.6 sq mi).
The breeding season for Geoffroy's cats lasts from October to March. During this time, the female comes into estrus for periods of up to twelve days, roughly a month apart. Mating during this time is brief and frequent, often taking place on a high ledge or similar site.
Pregnant females appear to take extra care in choosing where they give birth to their kittens. Litters may consist of one to four kittens, although one or two is more common. Gestation lasts for 72–78 days, with most births occurring between December and May.
The kittens are born blind and helpless, weighing about 65 to 95 grams (2.3 to 3.4 oz), and develop rather more slowly than in the domestic cat. The eyes open after from eight to nineteen days, and they begin to eat solid food at six or seven weeks. Kittens become independent of their mother at around eight months, but are generally not sexually mature until 18 months for females and 24 months for males.
The oldest recorded age for a Geoffroy's cat in captivity is at least 20 years. The melanistic Geoffroy's cat "Nico" has been resident at Big Cat Rescue in Florida since mid July 1994, and is believed to have been born at the start of May 1993, making her currently 21 years and 4 months of age.
Geoffroy's cat is named after the 19th century French zoologist Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772–1844). Following his travels to South America in the early 19th century, Saint-Hilaire studied the cat while a professor of zoology in Paris, and identified five subspecies, based on geographic dispersement:
- Leopardus geoffroyi geoffroyi; Central Argentina
- Leopardus geoffroyi euxantha; Northern Argentina, Western Bolivia
- Leopardus geoffroyi leucobapta; Patagonia
- Leopardus geoffroyi paraguae; Paraguay, Southeastern Brazil, Uruguay, Northern Argentina
- Leopardus geoffroyi salinarum; Northwestern and Central Argentina
Genetic studies have shown that Geoffroy's cat is most closely related to the kodkod. At times it has been placed in the separate genus Oncifelis, together with the kodkod and colocolo, but it is now more commonly placed in Leopardus, a larger genus of small South American cats, which also includes the ocelot.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, Geoffroy's cats were hunted extensively for their pelts for the international fur trade, but little trade took place after 1988 and the species was upgraded to CITES Appendix I status in 1992 .  Legislation introduced in the late 1980s made hunting and domestic trade of their pelts illegal in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. International trade in Cites Appendix I listed species is now prohibited, except for non-commercial purposes. 
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