5 Cool Cats in the Wild

Margays spend so much of their time in the trees, they've been dubbed "the monkey cat.” Purestock/Getty Images

You've heard of ocelots, no doubt, even if you're not quite sure what they are. To help you remember, keep this in mind — they look like margays, only bigger. If that's not helpful, let's review margays, which are a little smaller than an ocelot and a little bigger than an oncilla. If none of these are ringing a bell, then clearly you need to brush up on your knowledge of South American wild cats.

None of the above-mentioned critters are particularly large. A margay (Leopardus wiedii) is about the size of a house cat but is spotted like a leopard and lives almost its entire life in trees. In fact, it's easily the most arboreal of all cats and consequently bears the nickname, "the monkey cat." Going monkeys one better, it has the incredible ability to rotate its hind legs 180 degrees, which allows it to walk straight down a tree trunk like a squirrel. Additionally, it can dangle from a branch by a single hind leg like a furry, wingless bat. It eats other tree-dwellers like rats, opossums, porcupines, capuchins, birds and three-toed sloths.

Unfortunately, that spotty coat is popular in the fur trade and margays are under threat from illegal hunting. Loss of habitat due to deforestation is the most pressing problem. That together with the fact that margays only have litters of one, puts this species in a very vulnerable position.

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