Karma Cats

  • JAGUAR - Panthera oncaJAGUAR - Panthera onca
  • JAGUAR - Panthera oncaJAGUAR - Panthera onca

JAGUAR - Panthera onca

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Argentina; Belize; Bolivia; Brazil; Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; French Guiana; Guatemala; Guyana; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Suriname; United States; Venezuela


Regionally extinct:
Chile, El Salvador; Uruguay


* The jaguar is the only member of the big cat family in the Americas






Near Threatened



  • Is the largest cat in the Americas
  • Jaguars are very similar in appearance to leopards but are larger, more muscular and have larger heads
  • Both animals are short, stocky, muscular cats
  • Both have a yellow / golden undercoat with black rosettes but the jaguars’ are larger and generally have a spot in the middle of the rosette (leopards generally do not)
  • Rosettes change in size, shape and thickness from cat to cat
  • Belly and neck of the cat are white
  • The backs of the ears are black with a faint spot in the centre
  • Some carry a recessive gene causing the production of too much melanin resulting in the cat looking black – this is referred to as a panther (a melanistic jaguar or leopard).  If the jaguar sits in the light, you will still be able to see it’s rosettes as the undercoat is a dark brown due to the melanin, and the rosettes are still black
  • Their canine teeth are more robust and their bite is the most powerful of the big cats


Head and body length: 1.1 m – 1.7 m  
Tail length: 50 cm – 80 cm        
Weight: 35 kg - 120 kg


  • Size differences due to geographic location can vary their size by 100%.  The smaller cats are generally from the forested areas where the larger cats are generally from the floodplain areas

Life Span

Wild: Up to 12 years
Captivity: Up to 25 years




Sexual maturity 3 – 4 years

Female Sexual maturity 2 – 2.5 years

May mate up to 100 times a day

Birth Cubs born in spring (May - June)

Born blind and open their eyes at 3 – 13 days
Weigh approximately 700 – 900 grams at birth
Baby teeth come through at 4 – 5 weeks


Totally milk dependant for 10 – 11 weeks then start eating meat
May continue to drink milk until 5 – 6 months while eating meat
At about two months cubs start joining mum outside the den
Dependant on Mum for at least 15 months to 18 months
Generally disperse around 2 years


Diet & Hunting

  • An opportunistic predator that will eat pretty much any animal that presents it the opportunity
  • Will eat things as small as reptiles, turtle eggs, fish, wild pigs (peccaries), right up to deer or domestic cattle weighing over 4 times the cats weight
  • As they love the water, they do hunt turtles and crocodiles
  • Ambush predator
  • Kill their prey with a bite through the skull with their massive canine teeth – this is a technique unique to jaguars.  With some prey they also use the common neck or throat bite
  • Will drag their larger prey into a protected area before eating
  • May spend 2 – 3 days with a carcass and will not cover it if they leave
  • Captive jaguars eat approximately 1.4 kgs of meat per day


  • Typically found in tropical and sub-tropical locations
  • Tropical rainforests
  • Scrub
  • Swampy grasslands
  • Swamps
  • Forests
  • Love water so are often close to rivers and streams

Social System & Territories

  • Solitary animal only coming together to mate, or a female with cubs
  • Like most cats, males typically have a large territory that overlaps with a number of female territories
  • Males will retain exclusive breeding rights to females in his territory as long as he can defend
  • Depending on the amount of prey, territories vary from 90 km2 to 200 km2
  • Communicate with each other using cheek rubbing on trees, faeces, urine and spray marking (urine with scent gland secretion) sprayed on rocks, trees, bushes etc. to mark territories
  • Flehmen – allows olfactory & chemical clues to pass over naso-vomeral organ positioned in the roof of the mouth
  • Visual marks are also left with scrape marks (scratching hind feet in the dirt) and scratch marks left on logs and trees
  • Are best known for their guttural roar which has been likened to thunder


  • Habitat destruction
  • Poaching
  • People hunting the jaguar’s prey source leaving limited prey for the cat
  • Human conflicts over livestock
  • Full CITES (Appendix I) protection
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