Ocelot cat is an exotic wild cat with its origins in South America, although these cats can be found even in states like Texas. This sleek and gorgeous looking cat is double the size of the regular house cat. The striking feature of this cat is its coat patterns that stand out from the rest. At a glance you may mistaken it to be a small leopard cub. The unique markings on their coat consists a wide range of patterns. Each Ocelot coat pattern is unique with dark colored spots on orange, tan and white colored coat.
The term “Ocelot” is derived from an Aztec word “tlalocelot”, which means a field tiger. They are often referred to as “dwarf leopards” or “printed leopards” because of their unique markings and their physical appearance. However, Ocelots are considered a distant relative of the tigers or leopards.
Origins of Ocelot Cats
Ocelot cats are the only medium-sized cats that are found in the tropical regions and they have the distinction of being the most widespread and successful Neotropical cat species. Primarily a tropical species, the Ocelot cat can be found in the tropical regions of South America and North Argentina. They are even found in some regions of Central America like southern Texas. Ocelots that are found in Arizona basically cross over from Mexico. These cats can be found in every South American country except Chile.
This is one of the very rare species that has been studied in different varied habitats like humid tropical forests, dry scrubs, savannahs, swamp forest, and coastal mangroves. They have easily adapted to different environments comfortably according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Ocelot Cat Habits
Ocelot cats are solitary by nature and venture out at dark. They are very active during the night and spend the daytime sleeping. These are territorial like most cat species and sleep mostly on trees or in bushes. They can travel 1 to 8 kilometers each night and hunt down their prey every three hours during their travel. During their journeys male territories often overlap with several female territories. Male territory is larger than the females. Female cats have their exclusive territory that can spread 9 sq.miles and which they tend to fiercely defend.
Ocelots are not loud cats instead they chuckle or mutter to one another. Ocelots communicate by scent markings and by small meows and yowls, a type of signal to convey to the male cat that she is ready to mate.
Ocelot Size and Appearance
Even though the Ocelot cat has a striking resemblance to their cousins Ocilla and the Margay, they are comparatively larger in size. The Ocelot cat weighs between 17-24 pounds, are between 16-20 inches tall and reach length of 48-65 inches. Although larger than the regular housecat, they can reach the height of an adult human knee. Females are slightly smaller than the males. The Ocelot cat has a narrow jaw line, shiny bodies and long tails like the regular housecats.
The coat of an Ocelot is more blotched than spotted. The chain shaped blotches and spots carry black colored borders with light colored center. This kind of unique markings runs through the whole body of the cat. The ground color ranges from white or tawny yellow and reddish gray to gray. The underside is white in color and their ears are black with yellow spotting. They are the second largest spotted cats after the Jaguars in South America.
Ocelot Cat Personality
Ocelots are a playful and active cat species. They can play with any toy or even a dangling rope for hours together. They like experiencing things literally and you may even find them are chewing on to curtain fabrics or table cloths. They always try to seek attention from their owners. Compared to other wild cat species the kittens of an Ocelot cat stay with their mother longer and tend to follow them everywhere.
Ocelots can be very dangerous to keep at home as pets. They are known to attack by targeting the neck, groin, armpits and insides of the elbows with a single strike, which can even cause severe injury to the blood vessels. Ocelots don’t enjoy the company of guests and other animals in the house. Because of these wild traits, it is advisable not to keep them as pets at home.
The Ocelot cat female reaches maturity at around one and half years and a male cat takes around two and half years. They reach independence at 1 year of age, but remain with their family for another year. In the wild, Ocelots have a very small life expectancy, which is around 8 years, while they can live for more than 20 years in captivity. The male and female cats mate at least 5 to 10 times a day during the mating season. They have to mate a lot of time each day because it is hard to get a female Ocelot cat pregnant.
The gestation period can last for around 80 to 85 days and the litter may contain one to three kittens. The kittens weigh 8.5 ounces at birth and are born with sealed eyes. The kittens can open their eyes only after 14 days of birth and they are weaned at six weeks old.
Ocelot Cat Diet
Ocelot cats are nocturnal animals and hence hunt after dusk. Their main staple diet includes rodents, rice rats, armadillos and mice. These terrestrial animals are even known to hunt down small deer’s, land tortoises, squirrel monkeys and anteaters. As the season changes these cats also change their eating habits by preying on land crabs and fish during the monsoons. Occasionally they even hunt down birds and small reptiles. The list of prey includes frogs, iguanas, crabs, rodents, fish, monkeys, and birds.
Ocelots prey on animals that are 1/3rd their body weight. They are good hunters and can even bring down their prey from trees and even hunt at equal ease on land. Just like any carnivores animal, these cats can easily remove the fur and feathers and only eat the meat of their prey and to achieve this, they are fully equipped with a good set of scissors and hind teeth to easily tear the meat. They are known to hide their prey and finish it later on when they are hungry.
Conservation of Ocelot cat
According to the IUCN, the Ocelot cat is not an endangered species. They are classified as least concern since they are widely distributed from North of Argentina to the Southwest regions of the United States. Brazil has a population of more than 40,000 adult Ocelot cats. There are an estimated 1.5million of these cats worldwide according to Defenders of Wildlife.
Even though they have a healthy population in these regions, but outside the Amazon basin these are vulnerable species. Ocelots are an endangered species in the United States and Mexico. According to a cat specialist group there are only 80 of these in Texas now. The fur of these cats was extensively traded between the 60s and the 80s. The coats made from their fur could easily fetch $40,000 in the markets. With several import bans on all spotted cat species since the 90s, these cats have been protected with bans imposed on their hunting in South and several Central American States. Ocelots are being listed on the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered Species list.
Ocelot Cats as Pets and Costs
Almost 21 states have banned exotic and wild cats as pets except the following five states of Nevada, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin. These five states have no laws on keeping exotic and wild animals as pets. According to the Big Cat Rescue other 24 states allow certain species and require special permits. Like most exotic cats these species irrespective of their sex, spray foul smelling urine on everything to mark their territory or to show possession, which also includes their keepers.
Ocelot cats were sold as pets for $800 in the 1980s, and The Ocelot Cat has been The World Most Expensive Cat Breeds. With stricter laws, keeping Ocelots as pets has been prohibited. Exotic cat lovers are still ready to pay more than$15,000 for an Ocelot. Before even considering keeping them as pets, you should also study their personality and behavior towards humans. These cat species have a strong personality; it is almost like the cat owning the person. These cats limits your life compared to the regular domestic cat breeds and you cannot take them lightly if you have these exotics at home.
Ocelots are great climbers and will easily climb any heights inside your house. Even a small playful time with these cats can be dangerous if you have kids and other pet animals around. These exotics have the tendency to attack or bite the neck, legs, thighs and the groin region without any provocation. If attacked, it can lead to some serious injury. The jaws of the Ocelot are stronger than a bull dog. Therefore, you will need strong fences to contain them in a cage. Due to their wild instincts these cats are rarely kept as pets.
Famous personalities like Salvador Dali, Opera Singer Lily Pons, and musician Gram Parsons have one upon a time owned an Ocelot cat.
Ocelot Cat Health and Ailments
Ocelots are a very robust species of cats, but genetic isolation has led to reduced genetic diversity affecting even the Ocelots. This has introduced a lot of issues leading to reduced resistance to diseases.
Ocelot Cat Breeding
To maintain the quality of the breed often breeders go for selective breeding. This kind of breeding program often alters their behavior towards humans once an animal is paired with another. Female Ocelots in heat are very restless, constantly rolling and growling on everything. Once the mating ritual is done, male cats tend to be less affectionate. Ocelots in the wild are defensive about their kittens while hand raised cats allow humans to touch their kittens.
Ocelot cat is a very beautiful looking exotic cat species, which was once poached for their fur, but now is a protected species. Strict implementation of rules has ensured their numbers have dramatically increased over the time. Ocelots are now very difficult to acquire and not an easy animal to keep as pets.