Oncilla (Little Spotted Cat)

By K.S.


  • Classification: Mammal
  • Leopardus tigrinus
  • Vulnerable
  • Similar to Margays & Ocelots
  • Thick, lush, beige, tan or grey fur covered with spots and streaks
  • Unlike Cheetahs, oncilla spots are larger and more like splotches of paint
  • Spots are bordered in black and filled in with dark brown
  • Tail is covered with dark rings
  • Big, brown, sad-looking eyes
  • Two dark lines come down from top of head, tracing the eyes, and forking out in opposite directions just above nose
  • Belly is usually lighter than rest of body
  • Length: 38-59 cm (15-23 in.)
  • Height: about 20 cm (8 in.)
  • Tail Length: 20-42 cm (7.8-16 in.)
  • Young oncillas purr, older oncillas produce a "short rythmic gurgle" (Anml Dvrsty)

Food Chain and Habitat

  • Mostly live in Brazil, extending into Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, French Guiana, Bolivia and Paraguay. Small parts of habitat extend into Peru, Argentina and Ecuador
  • Subtropical montane forests (cloud forests)
  • Carnivore, but will sometimes eat grasses
  • Oncilla eats small mammals, lizards, birds, eggs, and other vertebrates
  • Mostly nocturnal, but diurnal when required only food source is diurnal lizards
  • Skilled at climbing trees
  • Stalks prey, and pounces when close enough


  • Can live at alititudes up to 14,763 ft. (4,500 m)
  • Patterned coat helps them blend into surroundings (grasses, trees, forest)
  • Sharp claws for climbing trees
  • Small so is quick and agile
  • Sharp claws also help in tearing apart food

Reasons for Endangerment & Critical Information

Reasons For Endangerment

  • Humans are biggest predator
  • Oncillas are hunted by humans for their fur
  • Due to excessive deforestation, oncillas are losing their habitat
  • "Reports in 1972 and 1982 in South America showed that the oncilla is one of the four most heavily hunted of all the small cats." (WikiConservation)
  • Also being sold as pets- do not reproduce/breed well if captive.

Critical Information

  • Classified as "vulnerable"
  • Oncillas/oncilla products are not allowed to be sold internationally (Appendix I)
  • Facilities for breeding in Brazil are presenting natural living conditions to help oncilla populations grow
  • If not saved, can affect the food chain causing disruption in ecosystems
  • One lost species can result in many more species vanishing
  • Not necessary to be cruel to animals just for their fur- it's like killing humans to use their skin for random purposes.

Call to Action:

  • Donate to endangered animal foundations especially rainforest foundations
  • Sign petitions against deforestation