ocelotScientific Name– Leopardus pardalis

Conservation Status– Least Concern

Appearance

Ocelots have a golden cat with a white belly. The coat of the ocelot is marked with black rosettes. Occasionally these spots will join together and form curves and stripes on the back. Around their eyes is a white ring. On the cheeks there are 2 stripes and another 2 stripes run across the top of the head starting at the eyes. The tail features rings and bands which are black with blotches and dots across the rest of the area which is golden.

From head to body the ocelot measures 73 to 100cm (29 to 39 in). The tail is 26 to 41cm (10 to 16in). The female is slightly smaller weighing in at 6.6 to 11.3kg (14.5 to 15 pounds). The larger males weigh in at 7 to 15.5kg (15 to 34 pounds).

Lifespan                                                                                  

In the wild ocelots live for 8-12 years. In captivity they live for up to 20 years.

Diet

The ocelot is a carnivore. They majority of their diet is composed of small rodents. They will also feed on rabbits, birds, fish, crabs, lizards, snakes, monkeys, armadillos, anteaters, turtles, small deer and opossums.

Ocelots will sit in one place and wait for food to stroll by or they may take food that they find while they are walking around. Occasionally once they have caught prey the ocelot may take it up a tree to avoid disturbance while eating. If they cannot finish their meal they will bury it and come back to eat it the next day.

ocelotHabitat

Native to America, ocelots can be found throughout Argentina, Belize, Boloviia, Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Mexico, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States of America and Venezuela.

The ocelot lives in rainforests, scrubs and grasslands. They appear to be tolerant of small amounts of habitat disturbance. They are mostly found in areas with dense vegetation.

Reproduction

Breeding takes place year round in the tropics but ocelots tend to breed at the end of summer in the Northern and Southern most reaches of their range. The female will make yowling noises to attempt to attract the male who live in her territory. Once they come together the pair of ocelots will mate 5-10 times a day. The pair will continue this for 5 days until the females oestrus ends.

79 to 82 days after mating the female seeks out a hollow tree, cave, rocky bluff or secluded thicket where she can give birth to her one to four kittens. If she does not feel safe she will move the kittens around potentially up to 5 times.

The kittens are born with a grey coat that is already spotted. They have dark lower limbs and blue eyes that change to brown after 3 months. The eyes are closed at birth taking 14 days to open. It takes 3 weeks for the young ocelots to get up and walk around. Soon afterwards the mother begins to take them out so they can learn to hunt with their first taste of their catches occurring at about 8 weeks old. They will sometimes stay on milk though for up to 6 months.

There full set of teeth is grown in by the time they are 8 months old. This means they can branch out on their own but may stay in the mother’s territory for 2 years before going to find their own.

ocelotBehaviour

Ocelots are a solitary species. They are highly territorial and make sure they protect their space. The male maintains a home range that overlaps that of many females. This territory is marked using their scent.

12 hours of the ocelot’s day is spent hunting and moving around patrolling their territory. These animals are nocturnal; they have very good night vision due to this. Some activity also occurs around dawn and dusk. Their day is spent in the hollow of a tree or in thick vegetation or branches.

To communicate with other ocelots they use mewls and yowls.

Harpy eagles, pumas, jaguars and anacondas are the natural predators of the ocelot. Occasionally monkeys and birds will harass the ocelot.

Quick facts

Each ocelots coat has a different pattern.

Ocelots were worshipped by ancient Peruvian cultures with them often appearing in their artworks.

The ocelot is picky removing all the fur and feathers from an animal before they will eat it.

Occasionally these animals are referred to as painted leopards due to their coat pattern.

The ocelot is South America’s second largest spotted cat.

The scientific name for ocelots is “Leopardus pardalis,” this means like a leopard. They do not live near to leopards though. The name ocelot is derived from an Aztec word “tlalocelot,” which means “field tiger.”

Photo Credits:

Top        – By Ella Sanders (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Map       – By Jürgen at nl.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons

Bottom – public domain