The ocelot is a beautiful cat about twice the size of a domesticated cat. These cats are active during the night and are very secretive. They can be found living in South America, Central America, Mexico and southern Texas. Here are some interesting facts about the ocelot.
The body length is 26 to 40 inches, tail length is 10 to 20 inches, height is 16-20 inches, and weight is 15 to 35 pounds. The ocelot has a gorgeous dappled coat with two stripes on its cheeks, a white spot on the back of each ear, two stripes running from the eyes over the head, and bands around the tail.
Ocelots can live in a variety of habitats, including brushland, rain forests, mountainous regions, and near villages. Without the presence of dense cover, the ocelot is unable to survive.
Ocelots are nocturnal, solitary, and territorial creatures. A male’s territory can be as large as 25 square miles and a female’s territory as large as 2 square miles. They will spray urine and leave feces to mark their boundaries.
Ocelots are carnivores (meat eaters) that pursue prey mostly on the ground but will also take to the trees and water to catch a meal. They prey on rodents, opossums, armadillos, rabbits, squirrel monkeys, young deer, birds, iguanas, frogs, spawning fish, land crabs, and snakes. About 65% of their diet is rodents, 18% is reptiles (mostly iguanas), 7% is fish and crustaceans, 6% is medium-sized mammals, and 4% is birds.
Ocelots do not have the right kind of teeth to chew but they do have sharp back teeth to tear their food to pieces to swallow whole. They can also lick a bone clean with their raspy tongue.
Mating can take place year round. After breeding, the male and female go their separate ways. The gestation period lasts about 80 days and the litter size can range from 1 to 3 kittens. The kittens are able to care for themselves at about 1 year old but may stay with their mother for another year. Females mature when they are 18 to 22 months old while males take longer, about 30 months.
Before hunting ocelots was banned in the United States and other countries, hundreds of thousands of these cats were killed for their beautiful fur. It would take up to 25 cats to make one fur coat. Today, the biggest threat to ocelots is deforestation and habitat destruction.
The following are more fun and interesting facts about the ocelot:
• Unlike most cats, the ocelot does not avoid water and is a good swimmer.
• These cats have very good hearing and vision. Their ability to smell is better than a human’s but not better than a dog’s and in low light conditions their eyesight is 6 times better than a human’s.
• Cats can be picky eaters, but the ocelot is an even more picky eater. Ocelots will remove all fur and feathers before they eat their prey whereas other cats remove the inedible as they eat it.
• Ocelots are the only small cats to sleep lying down with their forepaws outstretched in front with their heads resting on them, similar to a dog.
• Their lifespan is 7 to 10 years in the wild and 20 years in captivity.
Ocelot lying down image cc by Ana_Cotta on Flickr
Ocelot in tree image cc by Yumaesmanolito on Wikimedia