While I was in Austin, I stopped by a comic shop called Dragon's Lair. They had two shop cats there, a fluffy calico who was very sweet and allowed me to pet her, and what looked like a fluffy Abyssinian (but they're a short-hair breed, so I really have no idea) who was a little more standoffish. There needs to be more stores with resident cats. I bought a card game I used to play in high school, which is called Guillotine and is really fun.
On to Caturday! I'd say this is one of my favorites, but you're probably tired of hearing that. The Cougar (Puma concolor) is the second-largest felid in the Americas (the largest being the Jaguar). It can be found in both North and South America, from the Yukon to the Andes, and is also known as the Mountain Lion, Catamount, Puma, or Panther. It is an adaptable cat, and can be found in a variety of habitat types. Though it is sometimes called a Lion, it is more closely related to domestic cats than it is to Panthera leo. But don't let that give you the idea that Cougars make good pets.
There are six currently recognized subspecies of Cougar, whittled down from 32 after extensive genetic study of mitochondrial DNA:
- Puma concolor concolor (found in northern South America)
- Puma concolor cabrerae (found in Argentina)
- Puma concolor costaricensis (found in Costa Rica)
- Puma concolor cougar (found in North America)
- Puma concolor anthonyi (found in eastern South America)
- Puma concolor puma (found in southern South America)
Cougars range in size depending on their habitat, but in general male Cougars can weigh up to 137 pounds (62 Kg) and measure 7.9 feet nose-to-tail (2.4 meters). Females run a little smaller, but the smallest cats can be found close to the equator. They get larger and larger when their home ranges are closer to the poles. Cougars are excellent stealth and ambush hunters. It is a generalist predator, meaning that it will eat any animal it can catch, including tiny rodents and insects up to large ungulates. It is not considered to be among the "Big Cat" species because it cannot roar, and differs significantly from the characteristics normally associated with larger cats.
Female Cougars will give birth to a litter of one to six cubs, but the typical litter size is two. The gestation period is 93 days and once females reach sexual maturity, their litters are usually spaced out, with two to three years in between. This is because Cougar cubs will stay with their mother until they reach two years of age, sometimes earlier, but usually right around the time they completely lose their spots. Cub survival rate is just over one per litter. Cougars are strictly solitary animals. Only mothers and cubs live together, and then only until the cub is ready to go off in search of its own territory. Adults meet only to mate - and if not mate, fight.
Although the Cougar's original range included almost all of the Americas, excessive hunting has reduced it significantly in certain areas. It has largely been extirpated from the eastern United States, except for a very small population in Florida (sightings are incredibly rare). They have been spotted in areas in which they have historically been wiped out, like in the Great Plains areas and the northeastern States. This is because territory is becoming more and more scarce due to the expansion of human civilization, and this has increased the conflicts between Cougars and livestock owners, and increased the number of human fatalities due to close encounters (which are rare, but increasing). Cougars as a whole are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, but the Florida subpopulation is protected under the Endangered Species Act. For now.