The mammals is largely arboreal, although it will also hunt and travel on the ground. An agile and acrobatic climber, its broad feet, flexible toes and large claws give a secure grip, and the long tail aids balance. In addition, the hind feet can rotate inwards through 180°, allowing the margay to turn the feet to grip a tree trunk, and making it the only cat capable of climbing headfirst down vertical trees. In addition, the margay is able to hang onto branches by the hindfeet while manipulating an object in the front feet (2) (3) (6) (7) (8). Usually active at night, resting in a tree or a vine tangle during the day (3) (6) (7) (8), the margay mainly hunts small arboreal mammals and birds, but will also take reptiles, some insects and fruit, and sometimes larger prey such as young deer or agoutis (2) (3) (4) (6) (7). Adult margays are solitary (6) (7).
The margay may breed year-round in tropical areas, although breeding may be more seasonal elsewhere (3) (7). The female usually gives birth to a single young, or sometimes to twins, in a den in a hollow log or burrow. The gestation period is unusually long for a small cat species, lasting up to about 84 days (2) (3) (7) (8), and the young are relatively large at birth (7). The young margay, which is fully spotted (6), opens its eyes at about two weeks, and begins to leave the den at about five weeks. Weaning takes places at around eight weeks, but the margay does not reach adult size until nearly a year, and usually does not begin to breed until two to three years old (3) (7). A female margay is thought to produce a litter only once every two years. Lifespan in captivity has been recorded as up to 24 years (7).