The Margay is a spotted cat native to the Americas. The specific epithet of the Margay's scientific name is derived from the name of Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied. Although it was once believed to be vulnerable to extinction, the IUCN now lists it as "Near Threatened". They are hunted mainly for their fur and this has resulted in a large population decrease - around 14,000 are killed a year. They also suffer from a loss of habitat, which is also a significant part of this decline.
The margay is very similar to the larger ocelot in appearance, although the head is a little shorter, the eyes larger, and the tail and legs longer. It weighs from 2.6 to 4 kilograms (5.7 to 8.8 lb), with a body length of 48 to 79 centimeters (19 to 31 in), and a tail length of 33 to 51 centimeters (13 to 20 in). Unlike most other cats, the female possesses only two teats.
The fur is brown and marked with numerous rows of dark brown or black rosettes and longitudinal streaks. The undersides are paler, ranging from buff to white, and the tail has numerous dark bands and a black tip. The backs of the ears are black with circular white markings in the center.
The margay is found from southern Mexico, through Central America and in northern South America east of the Andes. The southern edge of its range reaches Uruguay and northern Argentina. They are found almost exclusively in areas of dense forest, ranging from tropical evergreen forest to tropical dry forest and high cloud forest. Margays have sometimes also been observed in coffee and cocoa plantations.
his cat eats small mammals (sometimes including monkeys), birds, eggs, lizards and tree frogs. It may also eat grass and other vegetation, most likely to help digestion. A 2006 report about a margay chasing squirrels in its natural environment confirmed that the margay is able to hunt its prey entirely in trees. However, margays do sometimes hunt on the ground, and have been reported to eat terrestrial prey, such as cane rats and guinea pigs.
While margays are primarily nocturnal, in some areas they have also been observed to hunt during the day. They prefer to spend most of their life in the trees, but also travel across the ground, especially when moving between hunting areas. During the day, they rest in relatively inaccessible branches or clumps of lianas.
Like most cats, they are solitary, with the adults only commonly meeting to mate. They are sparsely distributed even within their natural environment, occupying relatively large home ranges of 11 to 16 square kilometers (4.2 to 6.2 sq mi). They use scent marking to indicate their territory, including urine spraying and leaving scratch marks on the ground or on branches. Their vocalizations all appear to be short range; they do not call to each other over long distances.
Margays have recently been discovered to hunt by mimicking the vocalization of a prey species, Pied Tamarin (Saguinus bicolor), which has been compared by scientists to tool-use by monkeys.