The ringtail is a nocturnal species that is largely solitary apart from during the breeding season (1) (3). Breeding usually takes place between February and May, with most births occurring in May or June (2) (3) (5), after a gestation period of 51 to 54 days (2) (3). A litter typically consists of one to four young. The young are born in a den and are helpless at birth, with their eyes not opening until they are about 31 to 34 days old (2) (3) (4) (5). The young ringtails begin taking solid food at about seven weeks old, are weaned by eight to ten weeks (2) (3) (5), and begin to forage with the female from about two months of age (2) (3).
A skilled climber, the ringtail is agile in trees and among rocks, and is even able to make vertical descents, head first, by rotating its hind feet by 180 degrees to allow the pads and claws to remain in contact with the substrate (2) (3) (5).
During the day, the ringtail shelters in dens, which may be in a rock crevice, hollow tree, log, brush pile or even inside a building or an artificial nest box (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7). Although it does not construct or modify its den, it may make a nest of dried grass (2). The ringtail changes den site frequently, rarely spending more than two or three days in the same shelter (2) (8), and although individuals usually den alone they have sometimes been found sharing a den (5) (6) (7). Female ringtails may regularly move their young from den to den (2).
The ringtail produces a range of different vocalisations, including barks, hisses, growls and screams. Scent marking is also an important form of communication in this species (2) (3).
The ringtail eats a variety of foods, including small mammals, invertebrates, birds and reptiles, and it often supplements this diet with fruit and other plant material (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (8). Animal matter usually makes up the bulk of the diet (2) (5), but the exact composition of the diet may vary seasonally and with location (2) (4) (8). This species often inhabits hot, arid areas with little drinking water, and is capable of producing concentrated urine that helps reduce its water loss (9).
Studies into the ecology of the ringtail suggest that it plays an important role in its ecosystem, providing food for larger predators, influencing populations of its prey, and probably aiding in seed dispersal (8). The main predators of this small carnivore include great horned owls (Bubo virginianus), coyotes (Canis latrans), northern raccoons (Procyon lotor) and bobcats (Lynx rufus) (2) (8). In captivity, the ringtail has been recorded living for up to 16 years (2) (3).