As I am sitting here listening to Margaritaville by Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett, I had this strange desire to write about a tropical animal today. Oh, and I also feel like relaxing on the beach drinking margaritas. With that said we are heading to the rainforests of Central and South America to see if we can catch a glimpse of the Margay. At one time the Margay was thought to be vulnerable to extinction, however, they have since been down-listed to “Near Threatened”. How about that? A good news story for once!
If you are a big Ocelot fan (I just realized that I have yet to complete a Wild Fact on the Ocelot….it is getting to the point where I can’t remember anymore) then you may recognize this beautiful cat. The Margay is similar in appearance to its larger cousin. Well, I guess there are some other differences since the Margay has a smaller head, longer legs and tail and of course larger eyes. As far as their size is concerned this particular cat usually has a body length between 48 – 79 cm (19-31″) with the tail getting as long as 50 cm (20″). Similarly, these small cats only weigh 2.6 to 4 kg (5.7-8.8 lbs) so probably not much heavier than your big, fat house cat.
As mentioned these cats spend the majority of their time hanging out in the rainforest. As a result they are very proficient tree climbers and have often been referred to as “tree ocelots”. Surprisingly, this cat will pretty much spend all of their time hanging out in the trees. While they are in the treetops they will usually chase birds and monkey’s. I swear that I am not making this stuff up. Is anyone else picturing this little cat jumping from branch to branch in pursuit of an instigating monkey (for some reason I picture the monkey sticking his tongue out at the cat).
Naturally, the Margay has some unique adaptations to allow them to be such amazing climbers. In fact they are the only other cat species that can climb down a tree head first (the Clouded Leopard being the other). This is due to the fact that they are able to turn their ankles a full 180 degrees. I bet they never have to worry about accidentally twisting an ankle while playing baseball. These remarkable cats are also able to grasp branches quite easily with their fore or hind paws. In fact, people have witnessed these cats hanging from a tree by one paw. I guess the Margay was the inspiration behind that poster with the cat hanging from the tree that reads “Hang In There”.
Margay Fast Fact – Not only can they climb trees but the Margay is able to horizontally jump an amazing 3.7 m (12′). That is even more impressive when you consider how small these cats are. To put this in perspective, if humans had this same ability then a 6′ person would be able to jump approximately 30′ from a still position.
So now that we are done learning about the Margay, let’s go find that beach and that margarita!