The jaguarundi (Herpailurus Yaguarondi) is a medium-sized wild cat. Not related to the jaguar, though the name seems to say otherwise, but it’s closely related to the cougar (puma) and also to the cheetah. It has short legs and an appearance somewhat like an otter; the ears are short and rounded. The coat is unspotted, uniform in colour, and varying from blackish to brownish grey (grey phase) or from foxy red to chestnut (red phase). The cat’s ranges from Southern Texas to South America.
As this cat is closely related to the much larger and heavier cougar, evident by its similar genetic structure and chromosome count count, the jaguarundi is also said to be in the genus Puma although it is more often classified under a separate genus, Herpailurus. Until recently both cats were classified under the genus Felis.
Its habitat is lowland brush areas close to a source of running water. It occasionally inhabits dense tropical areas as well. It is crepuscular and nocturnal depending on location. This cat is comfortable in trees, but prefers to hunt on the ground. It preys upon fish, small mammals, reptiles and birds. A litter consists of one to fourkittens. They are raised socially after a 70-day gestation. The kittens become mature at approximately 2 years of age.
Studies have indicated that the cougar and jaguarundi are next most closely related to the African (and before Asian) cheetah but the relationship is unresolved. It has been suggested that ancestors of the cheetah diverged from the Puma lineage in the Americas and migrated back to Asia and Africa, while other research suggests the cheetah diverged itself in the old age.