by, Jo Carol Hebert
- An Arctic Fish?
- A Ferocious Forest Feline of South America?
- An Australian Marsupial?
Go to the Araucanian Indians, the ‘people of the land’ of Chile in South America. They know that the Kodkod is the smallest wildcat in all of the Americas. And, they are not happy about this cute 4-5 pound carnivore. The Kodkod has a bad habit of stealing their chickens!
Surviving in a Small World
Everything about this feline is small, including their habitat range (area where they live). They are only found in the thick, evergreen, temperate (warm) rainforests of Central and Southern Chile, and a sliver of Argentina’s Eastern Andes Mountains.
Looking generally like your house tabby, they are normally colored gray, rust, to brown, with dark spots and a bushy, black-ringed tail. But, it is not uncommon to find solid black Kodkods.
This feline is a successful predator among the ‘wild things.’ Kodkods prey mainly on mice, rats, rabbits, birds, and lizards. Being cats, they enjoy swatting at fluttering moths for an occasional snack. Other little forest creatures that could fall victim to the carnivorous Kodkod are tiny opossums, tiny birds, and tiny deer. (Pudu Deer – the tiniest deer in the world live in the Kodkod’s limited range).
Terrestrial and Arboreal
The Kodkod stalks its prey through the trodden paths of the jungle floor (terrestrial) or dwells securely in the trees (arboreal). Females nest in the trees and the ‘kittens’ spend their youth scampering through the branches like squirrels. They become excellent climbers, fortunate that the only thing large about them is their paws. They are able to scale thick tree trunks, which bigger cats cannot grip well enough to ascend.
Did You Know?
- The female is called a ‘queen’; male is a ‘tomcat’; babies are ‘kittens’
- The kodkod is also called an ‘Andean Mountains pocket panther’, ‘Chilean Cat’, and the ‘Guigna’
- These small wildcats are a major factor for rodent control
- The rough rows of bumps on cat tongues (papillae) are for scraping meat off bones.
- A family group is called a ‘clutter’, or ‘clowder’ of kodkods
- Kodkods are mesopredators, small carnivores that increase in population when large carnivores decrease.
The Future for the Kodkod
Kodkod population is IUCN Red Listed as Vulnerable to Extinction (VU) due to the 2-H’s, Hunting for fur pelts, and Habitat Destruction. Pine tree plantations for paper and logging are displacing the lush rainforest lands. This enterprise destroys the dense, shrubby understory vegetation that is essential for the Kodkod to survive.
The Top Ten Cats of South America (listed by relative size)
- Andean Mountain Cat
- Pampas Cat
- Geoffroy’s Cat
Hope you enjoyed the ‘cat-walk’ through South America. Take another look at your beloved house cat. He’s come a long way from the ‘jungle’ to your couch!