Wikijunior:Big Cats/Margay

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A margay is at home in trees

Margays are the masters of vertical space, spending much of their lives in the branches of trees where they pursue their prey and even nap hanging upside down by their back feet.

Where do margays live?


Margays live from Mexico in the north all the way south to northern Argentina. Margays also live in rainforests. Margays used to be found in Texas, but have been hunted out all the way to southern Mexico. They prefer to live in damp areas.

What do margays look like?


A margay has spots like a cheetah, two stripes on its forehead, and some on its cheeks. It also has thick stripes on its tail. Like a tiger's, leopard's, or cheetah's, the margay's patterns are specific to each individual. It has very large eyes and a very long tail that is 70 percent as long as its body. It can jump higher than an ocelot by 20 feet! The margay, also known as the Long Tailed Spotted Cat, is similar in appearance to the ocelot —- its body however, is smaller, growing up to 27 inches. In comparison with the ocelot, the margay displays longer legs and tail. This cat is often confused with its relatives –- the ocelot and the oncilla. Their coats are very similar. The margay's fur is thick and its tail is really long. The tail is used as weight to help with balance. The margay is a spotted, golden brown cat with white on the belly, chest, throat, and chin. The spots may be solid black or have pale centers. The ears have white eye spots on the backs and the tail is either ringed or spotted. Margays weigh between 9-20 pounds and are between 34-52 inches long. The margay also has extremely big eyes, which helps its night time vision. Also the Margay is one of two species of cat that have flexible enough ankle joints to be able to climb down trees headfirst like a squirrel!

What do margays eat, and how do they catch their prey?


Margays are agile hunters, leaping after and chasing birds and monkeys through the treetops. The ankles on their back legs are so flexible that they can run down a tree head first like a squirrel. Since Margays are such great tree climbers, they often eat other mammals that live in trees such as big eared climbing rats, squirrels, opossums, small monkeys, and sloths. They also eat tree frogs, lizards and birds. They also will sometimes eat insects, grasses and sometimes even fruit. Margays can hunt in the dark due to their huge eyes, which can see exceptionally well in the dark.

Fun facts


See how much you know about margays:

  • Margays have the ankle flexibility needed to climb down trees head first.
  • Margays can hang from a branch by one back foot.
  • Captive margays have lived for 20 years.
  • Margay kittens weigh about 450 grams at birth (In comparison, a domestic kitten may weigh 110 grams).
  • Margays scientific name is Leopardus Wiedii

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