Ocelots mainly eat mammals such as opossums, rabbits, rats and mice. They also eat land crabs, insects, lizards, snakes, fish and birds. Although their feeding habits change with the seasons, due to the fluctuation in the population size of prey animals, most of their prey is both nocturnal and terrestrial (living on the ground). Also, most of the ocelot’s prey weighs less than 1 kg (kilogram) which equates to less than 10% of their bodyweight.
Sometimes, rarely, there have been records of ocelots killing larger prey such as anteaters and peccaries. The peccary is a medium-sized pig-like mammal with hooves. They normally measure between about 3 foot and 4’3″ in length. There are also a few records of ocelots killing agoutis (a species of rodent native to Middle America, northern and central South America). In addition ocelots sometimes kill capybaras and armadillos and even deer. But these prey animals are not a major part of the ocelot’s diet.
Ocelots need from 600 to 800 grams of food daily. For example, in Belize the major part of an ocelot’s diet consists of opossums. The opossum is a small to medium-sized marsupial found in the Americas. The ocelots of Belize also feed on armadillos and birds, ranking second and third in importance with regard to their diet.
In Peru, 92% of the ocelot’s diet consists of vertebrates weighing less than 1 kg. These are mostly rice rats and spiny rats. In Venezuelan iguanas and rodents are the ocelot’s primary prey in the seasonally flooded savannas. In the wet season they feed on land crabs as they become abundant. Once again, 94% of the author’s diet is prey weighing less than 1 kg.
Ocelots normally eat their prey on the spot while records of captive ocelot show that they pluck the feathers from birds of any size before eating them.
In addition to the above (and more specifically) ocelots eat the following prey animals depending upon the area and the season: cane mouse, cotton rat, marsh rat, spiny pocket mouse, arboreal spiny rat, spiny tree rat, black rat, tree squirrel, lesser anteater, guinea pig, paca, achouchi, Tamarin monkey, squirrel monkey, porcupine and other reptiles. Like other wild cat species they also eat some plant material.