The Kodkod, also
called the Chilean Cat, Güiña, or Guigna, is a species of rare feline that is
found in a very limited area, amongst the wilderness of South America. This
felid is one of the most interesting and least researched cats in the world. Known
for their small, ‘cute’ looks, the population of these small mammals is
gradually decreasing especially because of poaching and habitat loss.
Size: The head to body length is 39-51 cm, with a height of around 25 cm.
weigh approximately like the domestic cats with the average weight being 2.1-3
Head: Small and
rounded with blurry lines above their eyes, as well as on the cheeks. There is
a white area encircling the eyes, while the ears are relatively larger (compared
to their face) and rounded.
Body: The basic color
of the fur/hair/coat varies from light grey and grey-brown
to buff or dusky brown, marked with small, round black spots. Black on neck and
crown with whitish underparts.
Tail: The tail is short, ringed and bushy, with a length of about 19-25 cm that gradually thickens at the black tip.It is approximately only about one-third of its head-body length.
Feet: Short legs
with large foot pads and black soles.
Sexual Dimorphism: There
are no visible differences between the
sexes in this creature.
In the wild, the güiñas can live up to a maximum of 11 years.
Kodkods are primarily found in central and southern parts of
Chile, as well as along the marginal adjoining areas of Argentina.
Habitat: Where do Kodkods Live
The cat mostly prefers the moist temperate mixed forests of
the Andean and Coastal ranges. In order to
survive, they need some cover, such as trees or shrub areas.
Classification of Species
No subspecies of these cats
have yet been classified by the biologists.
There is very little information about the behavioral
characteristics of the kodkod. The kodkods are very secretive, shy and solitary
creatures primarily dwelling in deep forests with dense vegetation. They are seldom seen in clearings, with the males
ranging more widely than the females.
They are mostly arboreal and seem to climb atop trees while
seeking shelter, or a safe place from pursuers. Though they have been seen
being active both during day and night, they are more likely to be nocturnal especially
in areas populated by humans, and are diurnal
in naturally wild regions.
Diet: What Do Kodkods Eat
The kodkods prey on small rodents like mice and rats, and
various other mammals, as well as birds including domestic geese and chickens,
insects, as also reptiles, like lizards.
Reproduction & Life Cycle
Because of their rarity, there is very little information
about the mating systems of the guignas. The
males of the species occupy large areas
that overlap the smaller ranges of several females.
The litter size of the female
guignas range between one and four offspring, with a gestation period of 72 to
78 days. There is no report about the mating season and breeding
There are also nominal
data regarding parental investment in these felines. It is thought that, like most other small cat species, the females
provide the only parental care during gestation and lactation, as well as extended
care for the young juveniles.
It is also thought
that the female teach the baby kodkods the hunting techniques before they
become independent and are able to forage
for themselves. Both the male and the female kittens attain the age of sexual
maturity when they are about two years old.
As a behavioral
adaptation, guignas are excellent
climbers; however, they do not seem
to hunt in trees, but rather, as a hunting technique, use branches to pounce on their prey suddenly, and
thus, startling them.
There dull coloration and
spotted coat pattern help them camouflage easily in the dense jungles.
Their relatively larger
ears help them hear even the most indistinct sounds clearly in the quietude
of the dense forests.
The primary enemies of these wild cats seem to be human
poachers that hunt them for their coat, as also, domestic dogs that often kill
them when these cats trespass into residential areas for food.
Population & Conservation Status
Since 2002, the cat has been listed as ‘VU’ (Vulnerable) by the
IUCN 3.2 with a total population of less than 10,000 mature individuals. The
current population of the animal is unknown.
Researchers have recently
found that the local people had a belief that this creature was a vampire,
sucking the blood of its prey. Such a belief resulted from the two
puncture marks that were often found
on the neck of domestic poultry made by the cat’s canine teeth.
The melanistic (completely
dark) versions of the animal, with spotted black coats, are quite common, which is significantly rare in most
other animal species.
These wild cats have most
frequently been located amongst
almost dense and impenetrable bamboo bushes.
The kodkod is the smallest
wild feline in the western hemisphere,
and is often claimed by many as the world’s smallest wild cat.
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