Though I'd intended to proceed with Caturday alphabetically, I realized after I posted about the Asian Golden Cat last week that I'd accidentally skipped one. I guess it's understandable, since the rare Andean Mountain Cat is easy to miss!
The Andean Mountain Cat (Leopardus jacobita or Oreailurus jacobita) is a medium-sized cat which looks like a smaller version of the Snow Leopard with its long tail, thick fur and coloring. It can be found only in the high Andes Mountains in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru, and studies of population confirm that it is in fact a rare cat, with no subpopulations greater than 250 mature cats, and only about 2,500 mature cats estimated to exist in their entire range.
Andean Mountain Cats are only about 25 inches (64 cm) in body length, with a 19-inch (48 cm) tail. They can weigh up to 12 lbs. (5.5 Kg). It's believed that the bulk of their diet consists of viscacha, a rodent in the Chinchillidae family. It's likely that they used to also feed on true chinchillas, before its population was severely reduced due to the fur and pet trade, and which can now only be found in the Andes of Peru and Chile.
In competition with the other five carnivores of the Andes, two of which are other cats (the Pampas Cat and the Puma), the Andean Mountain Cat is most often in direct conflict with the Pampas Cat, which hunts in the same range for the same prey. Indeed, there is much confusion in species identification, since juvenile Andean Mountain Cats look very similar to Pampas Cats.
Not much is known about how Andean Mountain Cats mate and raise their young, but observations from residents of the Andes suggest that they pair up to raise their litters, and that the mating season is in July and August. Observed litter sizes are usually one to two kittens.
The Andean Mountain Cat considered to be Endangered, and appears on the Red List of the IUCN. Because the cat's range is spread over four countries, it's difficult to take a unified approach to protect it. However, the dedicated efforts of biologists have resulted in a collaborated strategy that could be the key to the species' survival.