It appears that two of the usual human-induced causes of rarity; habitat loss/modification and direct persecution can be ruled out. There have been no significant changes in land-use of the high Andes over the last 2,000 years, if anything, the human population has decreased. It is possible that the Andean mountain cat is rare because it has evolved to be a specialized predator of chinchillias. Both mountain chinchillas and mountain viscachas have naturally patchy distributions, living in small colonies. Or perhaps it evolved to hunt nocturnal chinchillas rather than the larger, diurnal viscachas, which have been hunted to the brink of extinction, intensively exploited for the European fur trade from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries.
Little is known of this small felid, Oreailurus jacobital. Apparently very specialized in its habitat requirements, it is to be found at low densities in the high regions of Bolivia, Peru and Chile, ranging from the dry scrublands lower down the mountains up to beyond the tree line at around 16,000 feet.
Due primarily to its rarity rather than by pressures brought about by hunting, the mountain cat is considered as an endangered species.
The IUCN considers Oreailurus jacobital as "Vulnerable". CITES lists the species as "Appendix 1".