One of the world’s smallest cats chirps like a wee bird

LIVE SCIENCE – The smallest wild cat in the Western Hemisphere is about the size of a domestic house cat, with tiny, rounded ears, a face resembling a cheetah cub’s, and a bushy, striped tail. It also sounds remarkably like a chirping bird; you can hear its burbling chirrups in a new recording, thought to be the first published audio of these endearing vocalisations.

Known as a güiña (Leopardus guigna), a kodkod and a Chilean cat, this pint-size feline is native to temperate forests in southern and central Chile, and in western Argentina. And it recently became the 10,000th species to be photographed for the National Geographic Photo Ark, a database of animal portraits celebrating global biodiversity, by photographer Joel Sartore.

Sartore’s thousands of animal portraits, collected over more than a decade, call attention to the beauty of a wide range of species from across the animal kingdom. His images of the graceful güiña are no exception, and his session with the photogenic feline produced the first known recording of the little cat’s voice, National Geographic representatives said in a statement.

Güiñas weigh between two and three kilogrammes; their bodies are up to about 52cm long and their tails are up to 25cm in length, according to Animal Diversity Web (ADW), a natural history and classification database maintained by the University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology. These small cats have large feet and claws, which help them climb trees in their temperate forest habitats, ADW said.

Because the cats are “rare and secretive”, little is known about how they communicate, according to ADW.

The güiña is the 10,000th species in the National Geographic Photo Ark. PHOTO: JOEL SARTORE/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PHOTO ARK