The ocelot is a beautiful small cat, shy and intelligent. A major attraction and centre of love at zoos, but what about in the wild?
Ocelot (the mini jaguar) – animal fact file
Scientific Name: Leopardus pardalis
Size: Body length is 55-100cm
(tail 30-45cm) Weight: 8.8-11 KG
Vulnerability: Least concerned
The Ocelot is a short, tawny to reddish-brown coated animal with black spots and rosettes. The cats are lighter coloured beneath and, like a tiger, have a single white spot behind each ear. The cat has large eyes and is slightly bigger than a domesticated cat. The cat has two black lines running down either side of its face and a black banded tail.
The Ocelot was once found throughout middle and South America but now is frequently seen in small pockets of land. Once hunted for its fur, the cat became internationally protected and the numbers have been steady since. It is rarely sighted as far up as Texas and the Caribbean, but it has happened. The cat can now only be found in dense thickets of forest in USA and is likely to be extinct in Uruguay.
Typically, Ocelots will breed every second year, giving birth to one cub – although they can have two or three cubs. Mating can occur at any time of the year with gestation lasting around 80 days. The cubs grow very slowly in comparison to other small cats taking at least fifteen days to open their eyes. The cubs start to leave the den at three months of age but stay with the mother until two years. Unlike big cats, the male ocelot will provide food to the female while she feeds the cubs. Ocelots can live up to twenty years in captivity although it is usually less in the wild. The cats have a range of about 18 square km, eating any small animals it can find. It will take deer, rabbits, frogs, turtles, birds, fish, lizards, iguanas, crabs and rodents.
Because of the infrequency of birth and the small litter, ocelots are vulnerable to population loss. Young males are often killed on roads while searching for territory. The cats were once hunted heavily for their luxurious pelts but are now internationally protected, remaining a great attraction at zoos. Although ocelots are territorial, male ranges will frequently overlap female ranges. The ocelot sometimes even fights to death over territorial disputes and it is not uncommon for a battle to leave the survivor extremely scarred.