Can ocelots be pets?

Yes and No is the answer. I am, conveniently, going to answer the question as best I can with reference to a currently popular Amazon Prime film called ‘Wildcat’. It tells the story of a young British military veteran who was medically discharged with PTSD. He was depressed and couldn’t shake it off. I’ve not watched the film but he ends up in the Amazon jungle with an attractive woman (and cat ?) who is apparently his girlfriend.

Tame ocelot. Domestic cat? Pet? Debateable.
Tame ocelot. Domestic cat? Pet? Debateable. Image by MikeB based on video screenshots.
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They rescue an ocelot kitten (cub). The young age is important because it allowed Harry Turner to be imprinted on this cat’s mind as his mother. That’s my distinct impression.

And because of this the ocelot was fairly easily tamed. But can you describe this ocelot who they named Keanu as a “pet”. Can you say that Keanu is domesticated? Debateable.

Personally, I am not convinced that you can. There are a number of barriers to getting to that stage.

Video trailer


An obvious one is the fact that all domestic cats are spayed and neutered. When you neuter a male domestic cat, they come calmer. They lose some of that testosterone-driven masculinity. They become somewhat feminine. They become less aggressive and less concerned with territorial marking although they still do it.

Neutering helps a male domestic cat to become domesticated. Without the operation they are more difficult to live with. You can’t neuter a wildcat like an ocelot in my opinion. And because this cat is not neutered, they retain that wildness and aggressiveness.

Wild nature

You can’t remove from an ocelot – born in the wild – their wildness. It is deeply embedded into their psyche. You can tame the animal so that they become somewhat of a pet in that they follow their owner as you can see in the video but they don’t become a true domestic cat. Because of that they don’t become a true pet.


At the beginning of the trailer, you hear that distinctive earthy growl of this ocelot. So distinctively wild. Nothing like a domestic cat. It tells us that Keanu is wild at heart. Beautiful, so feline and so active and athletic. Exotic. But never a pet. Just a small wild cat living with a man who is curing himself of his PTSD. And well done to him.

Belong in the wild

As he said in the video, they rescued each other. I don’t know the ending but the trailer points to the fact that they released Keanu back into the wild which is the right thing to do. It is an admission that Keanu can’t be a pet. That Keanu shouldn’t be a pet. That he should live his life as a wild animal as he was born in a dangerous place where his life might be short but he might live to old age which would be somewhere around 12 years in the wild. In captivity the ocelot can live to the age of about 20.

This is the philosophical dimension to answering the question in the title: should you try and make an ocelot a pet?

Definition of ‘pet’

The answer to the question in the title is at least partly determined by how you interpret the word “pet”. The dictionary definition is “a domestic or tamed animal kept for companionship or pleasure”. On that definition you might successfully argue that Keanu is a pet with his wild cat personality bursting to get out!

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5 thoughts on “Can ocelots be pets?”

    1. Thanks. It is depressing. The idiocy of the man is beyond my comprehension. Sick. He thought he did something good. He needs a long course of intensive education and brainwashing. Or a frontal lobotomy.

      1. I don’t know what’s going with MSN but lately they been posting articles of animal killings by people or other animals. I hate people that post pictures of rare animals in their area like white deer and white bears and then some sicko hunter goes and kills it. Or they tell of a rescued animal then our Fish and Wildlife people go and take and kill it! Even legal registered wildlife rehabs have had animals taken and killed by these monsters! I been saying for years that our Fish and Wildlife offices have been taken over by hunters.

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