The Leopardus paradalis, also known commonly as ocelot, became a popular pet among Americans during the 1950's and 1960's, with even celebrities such as Catalan surrealist painter Salvador Dalí adopting them as pets. This leopard-like feline is actually one of the smallest types of wildcat. It is found in several areas of all the American continent, including Texas, Arizona, Peru or Mexico.
The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has now cataloged it as as species of least concern, although the truth is that their increasing loss of natural habitat has affected the species severely. Despite these facts, you may ask yourself if you can own an ocelot cat as a pet. At Luxurysavannahcats we'd like to give you all the facts so you can make a formed decision. Read on to know everything about the ocelot as a pet.
The ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), from the Leopardus genus and the Family Felidae ,is a medium sized wildcat native to mostly Central and South America. Their most characteristic feature is their spotted coat which is similar to that of a Leopard. Short and smooth, it has been the main cause for their decline, as their fur was highly praised in the past and were thus hunted down. The color of their fur can vary from tawny yellow to gray. They are around 22 and 39 inches long on average and can weigh up to 35 pounds.
Another of the traits that make the ocelot an exceptional feline is their big, beady eyes, that have a perfectly round shape and have very distinct darker markings around them that make ocelots even more appealing to the eye. Their ears are not pointed like most common pet cats, but are rounded at the top. As they are carnivores they have 28 to 30 sharp teeth.
On average, they have a lifespan of around eight to twelve years of age.
The first thing to learn about when considering an ocelot as a pet is how they behave in nature in order to assess if it is fine to keep it at home.
There is a difference between wild and feral cats as, although all feline, they descend from a different evolutionary branch and the latter have not been domesticated. The actual word says it: wild cats are wild, and thus need to live outdoors. A minimum outdoor surface of 800 square meters is required in order for the ocelot to live happily and adequately.
Ocelots, as most felines, are crepuscular animals, meaning they are at their most active during dusk and dawn. During the hours when this cat is awake an average of 12 to 14 h, their main activity is hunting. Thus, other domestic animals in the surrounding areas can be prey for the ocelot if you have it at home. Dogs or chickens are commonly hunted by ocelots in semi-urban areas.
On the other hand, you should know that, like most New World cats, the ocelot's feces have a distinct strong smell, as well as a highly damp texture. They are also prone to marking territory and can even do so in the places where they sleep. An ocelot at home will mimic this behavior too unless taught from a very young age.
Talking about baby Ocelots, these tend to have infantile or juvenile behaviors for longer than most felines, as they will usually stay with their mother for longer, which is why separating a baby ocelot from its mother at a young age can be a huge mistake that can derive into behavioral problems. For one, a baby ocelot craves for a lot of attention. If they do not payed attention to, they will emit a loud noise, as if they were throwing a tantrum until their mother pays attention to them.
As mentioned above, the ocelot is a natural carnivore. In the wild, they will hunt for small rodents such as mice or rats as well as several types of birds and even fish. If you need to feed an ocelot, then their diet should be similar to those of cats. Thus, apart from organ meat, they will need to supplement it with taurine and calcium. You should also make sure you don't give them any of the forbidden foods for cats, as they can be equally harmful for ocelots.
As you have read above, an ocelot is not the most convenient pet to have at home, even though they may seem cute and exclusive, we have to remember their wild nature so, if you happen to find an injured ocelot in your back yard, work at a rescue center or similar, make sure you follow these basic care guidelines to look after an ocelot:
In general, ocelots are fairly sociable although they cannot be trained basic commands, so it will be a challenge to stay on top of them when it comes to discipline.
As mentioned previously, ocelots take longer to separate from their mothers, as they take longer to wean and are very dependent on their mother. Sucking fingers of their carers is something usual, as it reminds them of their mother, although you should avoid this behavior to avoid them from thinking that hands are actually toys. To teach them not to suck on fingers, make sure you distract them from this activity by offering them a treat or redirecting their attention towards play. You can use boomer balls, kongs (under constant supervision) or other toys suitable for cats to do so.
THE Ocelot's SPACE
Although they can be indoors, ocelots also need their outdoor space. In general, they should have a space of at least 800 square meters. To prevent obesity in this type of feline, you should offer them an enriched space with all of their favorite features such as high climbing poles, platforms and plenty of plants (make sure they are not toxic for them). They will also need some aquatic features too, as they love water, so add a pond where they can play too.