The ocelot is a small, endangered, South American cat with a beautiful rosetted, velvety coat. Ocelots were often kept as pets in decades past, before hunting for pelts placed them on the Endangered Species List. Today, few ocelots exist in private hands due to the legal restrictions associated with endangered species.
Description: The ocelot is a powerfully built cat with a short, velvety coat. They have varied markings including black spots, stripes, and rosettes on a background that ranges from cream to reddish to gray. The neck and belly are white with black markings. They have small rounded ears and relatively short tails.
Size: 17-22 pounds.
Range and Habitat: Current ocelot range is from southern Texas to northern Argentina. Ocelots live in a range of tropical and semitropical areas as well as forests and savannahs, but only in areas with dense cover. They are strong swimmers and sometimes live in seasonally flooted areas.
Diet and Hunting Behavior: Ocelots feed primarily on rodents, but also feed on other small prey including birds, fish, snakes, lizards, land crabs, and insects.
Reproduction: Ocelots have relatively large intervals between litters and they tend to have only one kitten per litter, although sometimes they will give birth to up to three. The lifetime reproductive output for ocelots is estimated to be only about five kittens, and the number of those that actually survive to breeding age themselves may be as low as two. In comparison, bobcats produce up to 30 kittens in their lifetime. The kittens have the slowest growth rate of all small cats.
Other Information: Ocelots are reportedly active 12-14 hours a day!They are primarily nocturnal.
Ocelot Behavior and Care So you'd like a pet ocelot? Guest author Mindy Stinner describes their behavior, care, and the ethical implications of owning a member of an endangered species in this excellent, detailed article. A must-read! See article...
For an interesting look at the history of ocelots as pets and the impact the endangered species act had on captive gene pools, read this article; Where Have All the South American Spots Gone? by Jean Hatfield. It provides a sobering look at how laws passed to protect animals can sometimes have unintended consequences.
To see ocelot photos, visit the ocelot area in the ExoticCatz.com Exotic Feline Photo Gallery.
Ocelot Photos This page contains a wonderful series of photos of an ocelot who runs free at the Playa D Oro reserve.
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Photo courtesy of Grace Lush, Bundas Cattery