Class: Mammalia (Mammals)
Body length: 26 to 39 inches (66 to 100 centimeters)
Tail length: 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 centimeters)
Weight: 24 to 35 pounds (11 to16 kilograms)
Life span: up to 21 years in zoos; unknown in wild
Gestation: 70 days
Number of young at birth: 1 to 4 kittens
Weight at birth: 7 to 12 ounces (200 to 340 grams)
Age of maturity: females, 18 to 22 months; males, 30 months
Conservation status: Texas ocelot Leopardus pardalis albescens is endangered.
The ocelot is said to be a picky eater—even more so than other cats! Other cats remove feathers and fur from their prey as they eat it, but ocelots pluck off all the feathers and fur from animals that they catch before they eat them!
• Leopardis pardalis means “like a leopard,” but there are no leopards in North or South America, where ocelots are found. They actually got their name from the Aztec word tlalocelot, which means "field tiger."
• A male ocelot keeps a territory that overlaps four or five females’ territories, so he can easily find a mate. He is not so friendly to his male next-door neighbor, though: male ocelots mark their territories so all other males know to stay away!
• Some people keep ocelots as pets, but this is not legal in California. When you see an ocelot, you may wish that you had one at home, but wild cats do not make good pets. Some pet ocelots in Florida escaped—or were released when people realized that they are not nice or cuddly—and now they live in a small wild colony.
- Clouded Leopard
- Fishing Cat
- Lynx & Bobcat
- Mountain Lion
- Small Cat
- Snow Leopard
An ocelot is a small cat from the New World. It ranges from the very southern region of Texas all the way to northern Argentina in South America. In the United States, the ocelot used to be found throughout Texas and east to Arkansas and Louisiana, but due to hunting and habitat loss, it is now very rare in this country. In fact, researchers believe that there may be as few as 100 ocelots living in the United States today. This particular ocelot subspecies, known as the Texas ocelot Leopardus pardalis albescens, is considered endangered, and other ocelot species are still vulnerable throughout their habitat.
Hide and go seek
It is very hard to study ocelots because they are only active at night, and they are very secretive. Ocelots prefer to live in areas with thick vegetation, such as dense chaparral or tropical rain forests. During the day, they sleep hidden among bushes, on a tree branch, or inside a hollow tree. Nighttime is when ocelots do their hunting and moving about. Without lots of places to hide, ocelots cannot survive. This is because they like to ambush their prey. If people cut down trees and bushes in an area where ocelots live, the cats will leave.
Like all small cats, ocelots have very good vision and hearing. Their eyes have a special layer on the inside that collects light, so ocelots can see much better in the dark than people can. It is as easy for an ocelot to walk around at night as it is for you to walk around during the day! Their sense of smell is a lot better than a human’s but not as good as a dog’s. Long whiskers help this cat feel its way around. Ocelots prey on rodents, birds, snakes, iguanas and other lizards, baby peccaries, young deer, rabbits, and even fish! The ocelot spends most of its time on the ground, but is a good climber, jumper, and swimmer.
Spots, stripes, rings, chains, bands, circles, and blobs
The ocelot has one of the most beautiful coats of any animal in the world. Its fur is golden over most of its body, with white or cream on the belly, but splashed over the background color are all sorts of patterns! Mostly, the ocelot has black or dark brown spots arranged in a doughnut shape with dark tan in the middle. Sometimes these spots link together and form chains or stripes running along its sides and back. The ocelot has two stripes on its cheeks, and a stripe running from the top of the eye over the head. The eyes also have white fur around them. The tail often has rings around the end and bands closer to the body. Wherever these patterns are missing, the ocelot usually has many small dots and blotches taking up the rest of the space!
An ocelot family is made up of an adult female and her kittens. After breeding, the male and female ocelots go their separate ways. The female is pregnant for a little over two months before she gives birth to 1 to 4 kittens. The mother protects her kittens, feeds them, and cares for them all by herself. As the kittens grow, the mother ocelot teaches them how to hunt. By the time they are eight months old they can hunt for themselves but may stay in their mother's home range for up to two years.
Ocelots look better wearing their fur coat than people do!
Because the ocelot is such a gorgeous animal, many people have hunted it for its skin. The skin is usually made into a fur coat, and it can take as many as 25 ocelots to make one coat. People used to pay more for an ocelot coat than they did for a car! Luckily for the ocelot, it has been illegal to bring ocelots or their skins into the United States and other countries for over 30 years. Since very few people buy the skins anymore, ocelots are not hunted as much as they used to be. However, in many areas they are losing their homes when people clear the land of the brush that ocelots need to survive.