The Pampas Cat (Leopardus or Oncefelis pajeros) is a small wildcat that can be found in the Andes of South America. Though it is called "Pampas" after the plains of the South American lowlands, it actually lives in dry forests at elevations of 16,000 feet (5,000 meters). It is often confused for the Andean Mountain Cat, although they are separate species. In fact, there is a lot that is confusing about the Pampas cat, because the geographic differences between populations may mean that cats that may be generally called "Pampas Cats" might actually be made up of three distinct species:
- Lynchailurus pajeros (High Andes)
- Lynchailurus braccatus (Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay)
- Lynchailurus colocolo (Chile)
Pampas Cats are small but stocky, growing up to 30 inches (75 cm) in body length, with a proportionally short 11-inch (29 cm) tail. There are three major coat variations:
- Reddish-brown rosettes on the back and sides, with many dark rings on the tail
- Paler undercoat, paler markings than the first type
- Coat is grayish in color with dark brown stripes and spots only on the belly, with indistinct rings on the tail
There are currently five generally recognized subspecies of Pampas Cat:
- Leopardus pajeros pajeros (southern Chile and Argentina)
- Leopardus pajeros crespoi (eastern Andes)
- Leopardus pajeros garleppi (Peru)
- Leopardus pajeros steinbachi (Bolivia)
- Leopardus pajeros thomasi (Ecuador)
Little is known about the diet or hunting habits of Pampas Cats, although it's likely that they feed primarily on rodents and other small mammals, birds, and reports have been made of them taking poultry from farms - but given that these cats are shy and elusive, nothing has been substantiated.
Female Pampas Cats will give birth to a litter of one to three kittens after an 80-day gestation period. In captive situations, they have been observed to reach sexual maturity at 21 months, though this may vary in their wild counterparts.
The Pampas Cat has been listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN due to habitat destruction.