Margay (Felis wiedii) Spanish name: Tigrillo, Caucel

About The Margay


The margay lives in thick forests up to and above 3,000 m in elevation.

This cat survives from Mexico to northern Argentina.

National Parks
Corcovado National Park, Santa Rosa National Park, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve; may also be found in La Selva and San Vito.

Physical Description
Adults are about the size of a large house cat and have a tail more than half the length of their head and body; their front and hind feet are about the same size. The ocelot has larger forefeet and a shorter tail for its size. The margay and ocelot are different from other Neotropical cats in that the hair on the back of the head and nape slants forward. These two cats have open spots outlined in black, but on the sides of the ocelot these spots form bands. Occasionally there will also be a black margay.

Biology and Natural History
This endangered spotted cat used to be widespread in Costa Rica, in thick woods from coastal lowlands to interior mountains. Because it has a small pelt, it was not hunted as voraciously as the ocelot, but its habitat has been extensively deforested for banana groves and pastures. Margays refuse to live in open areas, and now are confined to forested reserves up to and above 3,000 m in elevation throughout Costa Rica. They are very active in Corcovado and Santa Rosa National Parks.

Of all Neotropical cats, the margay is the most adept at climbing trees. Ocelots are also skilled climbers, and both of these cats sleep in trees and make nests in hollows. The margay, like the ocelot, marks branches or other objects with urine. The margay is more nocturnal and solitary than the ocelot, which may travel in pairs and live in groups in captivity. Margays have one or two young to a litter, and these cats do not breed well in captivity.

Margays prey on monkeys, rodents, birds, lizards, and insects; sometimes they will raid chicken coops. One individual in Santa Rosa National Park tried attacking a porcupine; it left well-pricked and unsatisfied.

Margay adults weigh 3 to 5 kg; their feet are up to 5 cm across the toes.

Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae

Koford, C. B. in Janzen, Daniel H. Costa Rican Natural History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Wilson, D. E. in Janzen, Daniel H. Costa Rican Natural History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Amy Strieter, Wildlife Writer