The Oncilla (Leopardus tigrina) is a small wildcat that can be found in the forests of Central and South America. It also goes by the names "little spotted cat," "tigrillo," or "tiger cat." It is closely related to the Margay and the Ocelot.
Oncillas are smaller than their other spotted relatives, reaching body lengths of only 23 inches (59 cm), with 17-inch (42 cm) tails. These are roughly the proportions of the average domestic cat, although the Oncilla weighs less, at 7 pounds (3 Kg). In general, they have a light coat patterned with black or dark brown rosettes, but melanistic Oncillas have been observed in some of the more remote portions of their range.
Oncillas are commonly nocturnal animals, except the population in Caatinga, which preys mostly on lizards that have a diurnal pattern of activity, which means the Oncillas do, as well. Most Oncillas hunt small mammals, birds and reptiles. They prefer to stalk their prey until they are within range, at which point they will pounce on it.
The number of Oncilla subspecies has recently been disputed, when it was discovered that Leopardus tigrinus guttulus (found in Brazil, northern Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) does not interbreed with Leopardus tigrinus, and is genetically distinct. Thus it is currently recognized as both a separate species and a distinct species (Leopardus guttulus).
- Leopardus tigrinus tigrinus (northeastern Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela)
- Leopardus tigrinus oncilla (Central America)
- Leopardus tigrinus pardinoides (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela)
After a gestation period of 76 days, female Oncillas will give birth to a litter of one kitten, although sometimes as many of three kittens may be born. Kittens are able to purr, and are fully weaned at three months of age. While these cats are not social, adults do call to each other when they happen to be nearby.
Oncillas are classified as a Vulnerable species by the IUCN. They are often victims of poaching, because their pelts are valuable and are often made into clothing, or parts of clothing. Of the small cats of South America, Oncillas are the ones that are most hunted. They are also vulnerable to deforestation, as almost all of them live in heavily forested areas.