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 now sometimes called Northern Tigrina and Southern Tigrina (Leopardus guttulus). These small, nocturnal cats appear to be naturally rare so are difficult to study and are easily confused with the other small spotted cat species of South America. Habitat loss and fragmentation are the primary threats to their survival.
Note: The images on this page may either be the Northern Tiger Cat / Northern Oncilla (Leopardus tigrinus) or the Southern Tiger Cat / Southern Oncilla (Leopardus guttulus) under the revised taxonomy.
Key Facts about Northern Tiger Cats
~ Small spotted cat of northern South America ~
~ Historically hunted for the fur trade ~
~ Few studies & little known ~
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 (Leopardus tigrinus) is as follows:
Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)
Class: Mammalia (mammals)
Order: Carnivora (carnivores)
Suborder: Feliformia (cat-like)
Family: Felidae (cats)
Subfamily: Felinae (small cats)
Species: Leopardus tigrinus (Northern Tiger Cat)
Oncilla - Northern Tiger Cat(Leopardus tigrinus) Subspecies
The global conservation status for the Oncilla or Northern Tiger Cat is Vulnerable (VU) and populations are declining.
Four subspecies of Oncillas have been described in the past:
- Leopardus tigrinus tigrinus
- Leopardus tigrinus guttulus
- Leopardus tigrinus pardinoides
- Leopardus tigrinus oncilla
However the latest taxonomic revision (2017) based on recent genetic studies proposes 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 & Research
The following organizations are dedicated to research and conservation of the smaller cats of Latin America:
Please support these organizations with their important work. No matter how small or large your donation, every bit helps!
Oncilla - Northern Tiger Cat Facts and Information
The following websites have well researched and authoritative information on Oncillas - Northern Tiger Cats:
- Northern Tiger Cat Fact Sheet - International Soc. for Endangered Cats (ISEC)
- Oncilla Images and Video Clips in the Wild - ARKive
Books on Neotropical Cats
Currently there is no publication in print dedicated to just the cats of Central and South America.
A book entitled Neotropical Cats by TG de Oliviera was published in 1994 however is no longer in print, and may be available in libraries or in used book stores.
The latest information on these cats can be found in books about all wild cats such as those below.