Northern Tiger Cat (Leopardus tigrinus) - Leopardus Lineage
Oncille (Leopardus tigrinus) au Parc des Félins by Groumfy69 (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

The little known Oncilla or Northern Tiger Cat (Leopardus tigrinus) is one of the small spotted cat species of South America, also known as Tigrina. In 2013 the Oncillas were split into a northern and southern species according to molecular evidence, and are sometimes called Northern Tigrina and Southern Tigrina (Leopardus guttulus).

These small, nocturnal cats appear to be naturally rare, are difficult to study and easily confused with the other small spotted cat species of South America. Habitat loss and fragmentation are the primary threats to their survival.


  • The images on this page may either be the Northern Tiger Cat / Oncilla (Leopardus tigrinus) or the Southern Tiger Cat / Oncilla (Leopardus guttulus).
  • Species taxonomy update since 2017:

2017 - Eastern Oncilla / Tigrina (Leopardus emiliae) split from the Northern Tiger Cat (Leopardis tigrinus).

Reference: Nascimento, Fabio & Feijó, Anderson. (2017). Taxonomic revision of The tigrina Leopardus tigrinus (Schreber, 1775) species group (Carnivora, Felidae). Papeis Avulsos de Zoologia. 57. 10.11606/0031-1049.2017.57.19.

The website charts and pages are based on the 2017 IUCN CatSG Felidae taxonomy prior to this split.

Leopardus Lineage

1. Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)

2. Geoffroy’s Cat (Leopardus geoffroyi)

3. Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita)

4. Margay (Leopardus wiedii)

5. Pampas Cat (Leopardus colocola)

6. Northern Tiger Cat (Leopardus tigrinus)

7. Southern Tiger Cat (Leopardus guttulus)

8. Guiña or Kodkod (Leopardus guigna)

Key Facts about Northern Tiger Cats

~ Small spotted cat of northern South America ~

~  Historically hunted for the fur trade ~

~ Few studies & little known ~

If you find this website useful, please consider a small contribution of $5 so I can continue to keep it updated. Thank you, Mandy 🙂

Oncilla - Northern Tiger Cat (Leopardus tigrinus) Classification

The Oncilla or Northern Tiger Cat belongs to the genus Leopardus and the full taxonomy, scientific classification or higher classification of the Northern Tiger Cat species is:

Kingdom: Animalia (animals)

Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)

Class: Mammalia (mammals)

Order: Carnivora (carnivores)

Suborder: Feliformia (cat-like)

Family: Felidae (cats)

Subfamily: Felinae (small cats)

Genus: Leopardus

Species: Leopardus tigrinus (Northern Tiger Cat)


L.t. tigrinus

L.t. oncilla


The scientific name for the Northern Tiger Cat / Oncilla / Tigrina is Leopardus tigrinus which is also known as the binomial name, species name, latin name, biological name or zoological name. Some use the term 'botanical name' however that term is only applicable to the plant kingdom (botany) and not the animal kingdom (zoology).

Classification Chart

This Oncilla / Tigrina classification chart shows where this cat fits into the Felidae family and in particular the Leopardus genus.

Northern Tiger Cat Classification Chart (Leopardus tigrinus)
Click chart to download.
Permission to use for personal or educational use.

Oncilla - Northern Tiger Cat (Leopardus tigrinus) Subspecies

Four subspecies of Oncillas have been described in the past:

  • Leopardus tigrinus tigrinus
  • Leopardus tigrinus guttulus
  • Leopardus tigrinus pardinoides
  • Leopardus tigrinus oncilla

However the last Felidae taxonomy revision in 2017 based on genetic studies, proposed two subspecies pending further research:

  • Leopardus tigrinus tigrinus - northern South America south to Bolivia and north Argentina
  • Leopardus tigrinus oncilla - Costa Rica and Panama

Oncilla - Northern Tiger Cat Conservation

The global conservation status for the Oncilla or Northern Tiger Cat is Vulnerable (VU) and populations are declining.
The following organizations are dedicated to research and conservation of the smaller cats of Latin America:

Institute Pro-Carnivores - Wild Cats of Brazil

Animal Karma - Feline Conservation Mexico

Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation - Global

Please support these organizations with their important work if you can. No matter the size of your contribution, every bit helps!

Oncilla resting in a tree by Luiz Claudio Margio (Leopardus tigrinus)

Oncilla - Northern Tiger Cat Facts and Information

These organizations have well researched and authoritative information on Oncillas - Northern Tiger Cats:

Oncilla / Northern Tiger Cat Research

For a list of papers on Ocleots view articles on Leopardus tigrinus in the IUCN Cat Specialist Group database. (Scroll down once the library page is loaded to see the list.)

Consider joining the Friends of the Cat Specialist Group to access the full articles and receive their journal Cat News covering the latest wild cat research.


Molecular population genetics, evolutionary biology and biological conservation of neotropical carnivores.

Field Guide to the Wild Cats of South America (Spanish)

Neotropical Cats by TG de Oliveira (1994)
Out of Print Try AbeBooks ~ Book Review