Leopardus tigrinus

©Tadeu de Oliveira

Standard English Name

Northern tiger cat

Scientific Name

Leopardus tigrinus

Brazilian common name/s

Gato-maracajá, Maracajá-í, Gato-maracajá-mirim, Pintadinho

Distribution Map - IUCN

Click to enlarge

Physical Description

It is the second smallest wild cat in South America, with a size similar to that of a domestic cat. The weight varies between 1.5 and 3 kg with a total length between 60 and 85 cm. This spotted coat has a yellow-gold coat with dark rosettes arranged mainly on the open side of the body. The rosettes on the back merge into stripes that run from the top of eyes to the base of the tail.

Ecology and Habitat

It occurs from southern Costa Rica to northern Argentina, occupying a variety of habitats, from those with more open areas to areas with dense vegetation.
As with many other small cats, this species has been poorly studied. Existing data shows that it is a solitary animal, with both diurnal and nocturnal habits and feeds on small rodents, lizards and small birds.
Gestation lasts 55 to 60 days, with a litter of 1 to 3 cubs.

Threats and Conservation

Hunting for its fur and the destruction of forests are the main threats to this species. In addition, little is known about the biology of this species, which limits the ability to generate effective conservation strategies. It is classified by the IUCN (International Union for Nature Conservation) as vulnerable and by IBAMA, as threatened with extinction.

General information

Average values with minimum and maximum in parentheses

Body / tail length (cm):

(38-59)1 / (20-42) 1



Weight (kg) / Height (cm):

1.8-3.5 1,3 / -

Living area (km2):

(0.9-17.4) 3

Number of puppies / Gestation (days):

(1-4) 3 a / (73-78)3

Longevity (years):


Social structure:


Activity pattern:

Night and day/twilight

Online links

IUCN redlist (http://www.iucnredlist.org) presents a synthesis of current knowledge about distribution and conservation status.

IUCN Cat Specialist Group: http://www.catsg.org/catsgportal/20_catsg-website/home/index_en.htm

IUCN Cat Specialist Group species accounts: http://www.catsg.org/index.php?id=91


Emmons, L. H., & Feer, F. (1997). Neotropical rainforest mammals: a field guide. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Wang, E. (2002). Diets of ocelots (Leopardus pardalis), margays (L. wiedii), and oncillas (L. tigrinus) in the Atlantic rainforest in southeast Brazil. Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment, 37, 207-212.

de Oliveira, T. G., & Cassaro, K. (2005). Guia de Campo dos Felinos do Brasil. São Paulo, SP: Instituto Pró-Carnívoros/Fundação Parque Zoológico de São Paulo/SZB/Pró-Vida Brasil.

de Oliveira, T. G., Tortato, M. A., Silveira, L., Kasper, C. B., Mazim, F. D., Lucherini, M., Jácomo, A. T. A., Soares, J. B. G., Marques, R. V., & Sunquist, M. E. (2010). Ocelot ecology and its effect on the small-felid guild in the lowland Neotropics. In D. W. Macdonald & A. Loveridge (Eds.), Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids (pp. 563-584). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

de Oliveira, T., Eizirik, E., Schipper, J., Valderrama, C., Leite-Pitman, R., & Payan, E. (2008). Leopardus tigrinus. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.2. , , Downloaded on 10 July 2010.

de Oliveira, T.; Tortato, M.; Almeida, L. B.; Campos, C. B. & Beisiegel, B. M. (2013). Avaliação do risco de extinção do Gato do mato Leopardus tigrinus (Schreber, 1775) no Brasil. Biodiversidade Brasileira, v.3, n.1, p. 56-65.

Trigo T. C., Schneider A., de Oliveira T. G., Lehugeur L. M., Silveira L., Freitas T. R. O & Eizirik, E. 2013. Molecular data reveal complex hybridization and a cryptic species of Neotropical wild cat. Current Biology 23, 1-6.

Nascimento, F. O. 2010. Revisão taxonômica do gênero Leopardus Gray, 1842 (Carnivora, Felidae). 366f. Tese (Doutorado em Ciências, Zoologia). Universidade de São Paulo. São Paulo.

Cat Specialist Group – Cats – Americas – Northern tiger cat – http://www.catsg.org/index.php?id=91 – acesso em 30 de março de 2015.

Learn more about Brazilian carnivore species