The ocelot is a medium-sized species of wild cat. “Species” means a type of wild cat that is different from the others. Its coat is beautiful. People have killed this cat so that they can use its skin and fur to make coats. Hundreds of thousands of ocelots have been killed for this reason. It takes about 13 ocelots to make one fur coat. The cat is now protected in many countries.
The name “ocelot” refers to being marked with spots that look like eyes. Although I don’t think the spots look like eyes, do you? The name comes from the Latin word “cellatus”. Latin is an ancient language from Rome, Italy.
The ocelot can be tamed and was once a popular pet animal in the United States.
What It Looks Like
The ocelot has a very intense, serious look. This is typical of true wild cats. Most ocelots weigh about 9 kilograms, which is about 20 pounds (lbs). This is the size of a very large domestic cat. Sometimes they can be much larger. An ocelot killed in Texas weighed 45 pounds.
The coat has lots of spots. The markings are high contrast. The spots join up to make lines. The lines create shapes. Inside these shapes is fur that is a different color to the background fur which is a sort of golden brown and on the underside of the body, chin and cheeks it is a bright white. This coat is magnificent and outstanding.
The ocelot looks a bit like the margay. It is much larger cat though. And the margay’s tail is longer.
Where Does It Live?
It used to live in the south of the United States all the way up to Arizona and Arkansas. The experts say that there are still some ocelots in the United States. This probably means southern Texas and New Mexico. Although some people believe that this cat also lives in Florida. If that is true they would be escaped pets turned wild.
These days there are much less of these cats in America and the ocelot mainly lives in Mexico, Central and countries of South America.
It likes to live in different sorts of places but probably prefers forests. These are a variety of forests that includes tropical forests and dry thorn forest. Also, the cat lives in mangrove swamps and flooded grassy areas. Sometimes they will live in on farmland that is no longer used.
It likes to live and hunt in areas where there is lots of undergrowth and “cover”. “Cover” means plants, bushes and trees that hides animals the ocelot wants to eat. It also hides the ocelot. In these areas there are lots of rodents such as rats that it can eat.
Although the ocelot normally hunts on the ground, this cat is a great tree climber and sometimes rest in a tree in the daytime. They also rest in many other places; even places made by people such as drains.
I said that they live in watery areas (swamps and wet grasslands). This is not surprising because they are also very strong swimmers. An ocelot can swim across a large river.
The ocelot usually hunts at night for about 13 hours each 24 hours. This cat lives alone.
“Prey” means the animals the ocelot hunts, catches and eats. Most ocelot prey is active in the nighttime and lives on the ground. As well as opossums, this cat hunts, mice, rats, rabbits, birds, fish, snakes, lizards, insects and crabs. Sometimes, but not usually, the cat will attack and kill an animal that is larger such as a small deer. Usually they eat about 700 grams of food per day. That is about one and a half pounds of food.
Size of the Area It Calls Home
This cat needs an area of up to 46 square miles to live in. That is an area about four and a half miles wide by ten miles long.
Sometimes the ocelot chooses a place to be a toilet where it poops and pees. These areas are important for the cat and the poop and pee leave a scent (a smell) that tells other cats and animals that the ocelot is in the area. Other wild cat species live in the same areas as this cat, such a the puma and jaguarundi.
The ocelot makes a long yowling sound when mating. It also makes other sounds. Some are like domestic cat sounds.
The mother cat is pregnant for between 79 and 82 days. The usual number of kittens in each litter is one. When cubs are about 2-3 years old they leave the area where they were born and try and find their own home area. Many are killed doing this.
How long Do They Live?
In zoos the ocelot has lived for 20 years but they have shorter lives in the wild.
Dangers To This Cat
The number of ocelots in the world is less and less each year. This is because the places where it likes to live are being destroyed by people so they can money from the land or live there. Sometimes people kill the ocelot because it kills their farm animals. Also, even today (2012), some people kill the cat for its skin even though they are not allowed to do this under the law.