KodKod (Leopardus guigna)

Generally the species I am most familiar with are mammals, and within that group I know the Carnivores best, and am particularly fond of the felids. Therefore when I came across a cat species I had never heard of, I got very excited and knew I had to blog about it.

Kodkods are small cats that live primarily in Chile (they are also known as Chilean cats). They range across most of Chile, and also venture into western Argentina. Kodkods are found in forests, particularly those that have bamboo in them. They are happy in mountainous forests, up to 2,500 meters.

Kodkods are the smallest cats in the Americas, being about the size of a house cat. They generally don’t get bigger than 52 cm in body length and 3 kg in weight. They have thick, bushy tails and big paws, which help them climb trees. Most kodkods are brown in colour with spots on their bodies and stripes on their tails and backs. Some kodkods are melanistic, meaning they are almost black, though their spots and stripes remain visible in bright light.

Kodkods are both nocturnal and diurnal, depending on where they live. Those that live near people tend to venture out more at night, while those that live in undisturbed areas are generally more diurnal. They are excellent climbers (thanks to those big paws), and will climb to avoid predators, locate shelter, or find prey. They will eat a variety of small animals, including rodents, birds, reptiles and insects.

Very little is known about mating in kodkods, as they are secretive and quite rare. Males range over a large territory in search of females, but how they attract lovely lady kodkods is unknown. Gestation lasts for two and a half months, and females give birth to one to three kittens. Kodkod kittens reach sexual maturity at around two years of age.

Kodkods are vulnerable to population declines, thanks to habitat loss, predation, and hunting. Kodkods do tend to do fairly well in disturbed habitats, so they are not currently endangered, though they may be heading that way. Hopefully we can protect them before they are in serious jeopardy!

Cover image credit: Mauro Tammone via Wikipedia

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