Wikijunior:Big Cats/Ocelot


The ocelot is a beautiful small-to-medium sized cat whose markings resemble the much-larger jaguar. That beauty once brought them close to extinction, though they have fared better in recent years with legal protection.

Where do the ocelots live?

Places where ocelots live are colored green

Ocelots mostly live in South and Central America, but there are some as far north as the southernmost reaches of the United States of America. There are eleven different types (or subspecies) of ocelot. These types of ocelots live in different parts of the south of America.

Three of these eleven subspecies live in Mexico, and a different subspecies lives in each of the Amazon Rainforest, Atlantic Forest, the Northern Andes (Venezuela and Guyana) and all other countries of South America, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil (the biggest area on the map), Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay.

Ocelots are excellent climbers, but they do most of their hunting on the ground. Ocelots mostly come out at night. During the day they sleep in trees, bushes and thick grasses. Some ocelots live alone, while others have been reported to live in pairs, maintaining contact by mewing to each other.

What do ocelots look like?

An Ocelot at the Marwell Zoo

Ocelots grow up to 3 feet and 2 inches (100 cm) in length, plus a foot and a half (45 cm) tail length. It is similar in appearance to the oncilla and the margay, who inhabit the same region, but the ocelot is larger. Their fur is gold with black spots. They are very thin, have huge teeth, and can jump quite far. Ocelots have long spots.

What do ocelots eat, and how do they catch their prey?


Ocelots like to eat small animals. They will catch monkeys, snakes, rodents and birds if they can. Almost all of the animals that the ocelot hunts are far smaller than it is. Scientists think that ocelots follow and find animals to eat (prey) by smell, sniffing for where they've been on the ground. They can see very well in the dark with night vision, and move very stealthily, too. Ocelots hunt their prey by blending in with their surroundings then pouncing on their prey.

Fun facts

  • Ocelot comes from the Aztec word tlalocelot which means "field tiger."
  • Ocelots have only 36 pairs of chromosomes while most other cats have 38. Their close relatives the margay and oncilla are the others to share this distinction.
  • Ocelots often sit perfectly still for a half hour or more waiting for unsuspecting prey.
  • Some observers believe that ocelots remain faithful to their chosen mates.

How to catch an ocelot?

Scientists at the Dallas Zoo in Texas, including Jennifer Fontana Cooke and Suzy Steele, first discovered that ocelots were attracted to Obsession for Men cologne by Calvin Klein in 1999. In south Texas, researchers were having a hard time finding the few ocelots that lived in the area. They tried using all kinds of animal smells but the ocelots would never show up. So, now Obsession for Men cologne is used in the wild to attract and survey ocelot populations. They are now trying to use the cologne to help in their project to raise the number of ocelots.

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