The kodkod is the smallest wildcat—smaller, even, than the average house cat. It’s a tiny, Andean pocket panther that takes tree-dwelling to a whole new level.

Everything about this cat is small and high up. It is the smallest cat in Americas, and it has the smallest range of any cat in the Americas. The kodkod exclusively lives in the southern part of the coastal Andes, between 1,900 to 2,500 meters above sea level.

Advertisement

But just walking around on the ground at that altitude isn’t enough for the kodkod. The four-to-five pound wildcat is one of the most accomplished climbers in the world. Not only can it climb trees with trunks too big for any other cat to get a solid grip, it spends its entire youth in the treetops. The females nest in trees, and the kittens spend their infancy clambering around their treetop nests.

The kodkod isn’t the only miniature creature in its neck of the woods. The forests around it are occupied with tiny opossums, tiny birds, and tiny deer. This miniature world is under threat, of course, from human encroachment. Kodkods are among the more vulnerable species, because they each need their own swaths of territory, and because they are getting a reputation as chicken-stealers, which makes them a nuisance to humans who live nearby.

Advertisement

I’m just impressed that a cat that weighs in at less than six pounds can steal a semi-wild chicken.

Image: Mauro Tammone. Second Image: Jim Sanderson