Ocelot is a wild cat that is endemic to Mexico, Central and South America, and the United States’ southwestern region. This cat is also native to the Caribbean islands of Margarita and Trinidad.
The ocelot is known for the spots and streaks on its coating, white undersides and neck, and round ears.
It has two subspecies which include the Leopards pardalis and Leopards mitis. This cat is usually active once the sun sets, and they are very territorial.
Just like other wild cats, they are very athletic. These solitary animals are very skilled climbers, swimmers, and leapers.
|Scientific name||Leopards pardalis|
The ocelot is of medium build with a head and body measuring within a range of 55 to 100 centimeters. Its tail is about 30-45cm long, with shoulder-length is between 40 to 50 centimeters.
The males are usually heavier than females and can have a weight range of 7-15.5 kilograms, while the female weighs between 7-12 kilograms. Its foot measures roughly 2cm in both length and breadth.
The fur of the ocelot is widely marked with black spots and streaks. This marking could be on a tawny, creamy, yellowish, or reddish-grey background.
It has small spots on the limbs and the head. Some dark stripes run from the back of the neck to the tip of the tail. The inner part of its legs is marked with horizontal streaks.
There is a bright white spot on its ears. It is furred, and the body has an obvious pungent smell. Each cat has a particular colour pattern that can be used for individual identification.
The cat can easily get mixed up with other cats such as the Margay and the Oncilla. Though, the ocelot is bigger, has a shorter tail, and weighs more than these cats.
The ocelot also has different facial markings from the other two, as well as the tail appearance. The ocelot can be likened to a bobcat.
It has brown eyes that can give off a golden hue when illuminated. Its dentition is made up of 28-30 teeth. It has a bite force quotient of 113.8 at its canine tip.
Ocelots program their active hours to avoid larger predators when they are in the same environment as them. Predators such as cougars and even humans. The ocelots seek dense places in order to prevent competitors, plus they can adapt well.
Their territories are mostly shared with other animals such as the margay, oncilla, cougar, and jaguar.
Ocelot’s choice habitats include thorn forests, tropical forests, mangrove swamps, and savannas. They prefer habitats with an abundance of water and prey. They also tend to stay away from other predators.
They have a preference for locations that are far from human settlement and areas with dense forest covers. They avoid steep slopes and highly elevated areas due to scarcity of prey.
Ocelots use scent trails to follow and catch their prey. They can move very slowly at a speed of 0.3 kilometers per hour in search of prey. In other cases, the ocelots can stay put waiting for several minutes in a certain spot.
These cats have a hunting preference for locations with dense vegetation covers. They stay away from open areas because they bank on their stealth to be undetected by prey.
The ocelot is a carnivorous animal, and it feeds on small terrestrial mammals. Their preys include rodents, armadillos, insects, reptiles, small birds, fish, and opossums. It feeds on the game it has killed instantly, but it will pluck its feathers first if the prey is a bird.
It usually preys on smaller animals that weigh below a kilogram but on rare occasions, preys on large animals. Herbivores such as the sheep, peccaries, and deer are the large animals the ocelots feeds on.
To satiate its daily energy requirement, the ocelot requires about 600-800 grams of food.
During the breeding season, male and female ocelots produce a “yowl” sound that can cover a great distance. They also meow, which covers a short distance.
They are not limited to a particular time of the year for mating. They can mate at any time of the year. However, their peak mating periods are between autumn and winter.
The heat period can last up to five days for the female ocelot, and it is recurring every 25 days for a non-pregnant female.
As for the males, they are most potent during the summer. Their gestation period usually lasts up to three months, after which a litter of 1-3 kittens is born.
The female ocelots typically deliver the kittens in dens. They prefer such dens to be in dense vegetation. The kitten weighs within a range of 200-340 grams at birth.
The kitten is born with markings on its body against a grey background. This grey background eventually becomes golden as they age further.
The mother keeps her kittens in the den for a maximum period of 64 days. Then she divides them into two or three dens. The eyes of the kittens do not open till at least 15 days after birth.
Once they are three months of age, they begin to leave the den. They become independent when they reach two years, and they leave their parents’ den to establish their range.
The Ocelots’ population faces threats such as fragmentation, habitat loss, ocelot skin hunting, and traffic accidents.
They are also threatened by logging in the forests as well as poaching of prey species. Another threat is the international pet trade.
However, the ocelot is listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red list due to its broad distribution in the Americas. 7 years ago, its population was estimated at around 40,000 adult ocelots.
There are stable ocelot populations in some areas of the Amazon basin.