Margay is a South American wild cat that shares much physical resemblance with its cousins Ocelot and Oncilla. Leopardus Wiedii, it is often called Tree Ocelot owing to its unparalleled arboreal skills among cats. Weighing usually in the range of ten to fifteen pounds, it is up to four feet long, inclusive of tail.
Fur is yellowish in base coloration. There are various dark markings in the form of blotches over its body. Belly and under parts are lighter. Tails are long and ringed. Subspecies living at higher altitudes have greater spots and marks than the cats living in plains. An extraordinary morphological trait is the ankle joint that allows movement of 180° of its paws, enabling the Margay to descend head first from trees, hang from its branches with just one foot and move upside down beneath branches - giving the cat an almost ape-like ease of movement on trees.
Despite the predominantly arboreal lifestyle, Margay also hunts on ground taking a variety of animals including insects, squirrels, lizards, birds, eggs, tree frogs and small monkeys. It is often seen moving speedily among trees chasing monkeys. A nocturnal and solitary feline, alongside Clouded Leopard, Margay is believed to be the best tree climber among cats.
Seen in a number of South American countries, Margay, also known as the Long-tail Spotted Cat, is divided into a number of subspecies based upon its regional distribution:
Leopardus Wiedii Wiedii - Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay
Leopardus Wiedii Nicaraguae - Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua
Leopardus Wiedii Pirrensis - Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru
Leopardus Wiedii Amazonicus - Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela
Leopardus Wiedii Boliviae - Bolivia
Leopardus Wiedii Salvinius - Chiapas, El Salvador and Guatemala
Leopardus Wiedii Yucatanicus - Yucatán
Leopardus Wiedii Cooperi - Mexico
Leopardus Wiedii Glauculus - Mexico
Leopardus Wiedii Oaxacensis - Mexico
Even as some evidence suggests that the cats may be sociable in the wild, they are generally thought to be solitary. Generally one kitten is born after a pregnancy lasting around eighty days. Maturity is reached within the first year of life. Lifespan of up to twenty years has been recorded in captivity.
Fur trade and loss of habitat have had serious toll on the numbers of Margay in the wild. Still the resilient cat has managed to survive and maintain its niche in nature. It is therefore believed to be still abundant in the forests of South America, rendering it the current classification of Least Concern.