The stunningly beautiful and graceful ocelot looks really royal. This amazing feline predator is very reminiscent of a leopard, which has been greatly reduced. It is not surprising that many people liked the ocelot, because its appearance captivates and fascinates, so people were able to tame this cat, making it a pet. Little is known about the mysterious ocelot living in the wild, let's try to understand its character, habits and life in more detail.
Origin of the species and description
Ocelot is not a very large predator belonging to the cat family. Its name means “leopard cat” in Latin. The appearance of these animals is largely similar, the most significant difference between their appearance is the size. There is another translation of the name “ocelot”, it comes from the language of the Aztec Indians and means “field tiger”, although this predator avoids settling in open spaces.
Not so long ago, scientists believed that felines appeared around 25 million years ago, however, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, another version was put forward at the expense of feline origin. Now experts say that cats appeared on Asian territory about eleven million years ago.
The first was the appearance of large cats (from the genus Panthers), and then smaller ones, to which the ocelot is related. In general, among the ocelots there are several subspecies that differ from each other, first of all, by the place of their permanent deployment, and are almost identical in appearance.
If you briefly describe the ocelot, then you can call it something between a leopard and an ordinary cat. Compared to ordinary cats, it is quite large. A mature male individual reaches a length of more than a meter (130 cm), and a female – about 80 cm. The tail of ocelots is of considerable size – from 30 to 40 cm in length. The weight of males is about 15 kg, and females – 10.
This is a fairly powerful animal, for example, the shoulder width of an adult cat reaches half a meter. In terms of dimensions, the ocelot can be compared with a large dog, such as a German shepherd. So, this cat is quite impressive in size.
Appearance and features
The body of the ocelot is graceful, but strong and sturdy. The paws are solid and round, and the legs themselves are quite powerful and long. A neat, slightly flattened head is located on an elongated neck, on which widely spaced rounded ears are clearly visible. The predator's eyes are very expressive, deep and slightly slanting. They have an amber color and stand out on the muzzle with a bright black stroke. The tip of the nose of these cats is pink.
The color of the ocelot coat is a work of art. Perhaps, of all the cats, he is the most beautiful and intricate. The main tone of the body is golden beige, the abdomen and the inside of the neck always have a lighter color. Bright spots (rosettes) throughout the body create a bizarre contrasting pattern.
The contour of the spots is very dark (almost black), and inside they have a lighter shade that is darker than the main tone of the body, so it stands out beautifully against its background . Two bright dark stripes go up from the circled eyes, the neck and cheeks of the ocelot are also beautifully lined. On the paws, black specks are visible everywhere. The tail of the predator is striped with a black tip.
An interesting fact: the ears of the ocelot are black on top with a bright white spot in the middle, and white inside. From a distance, these spots on the ears can be mistaken for the eyes, so the opinions of scientists on this feature are divided. Some believe that she helps little kittens keep up with their mother, seeing her in front of her. Others claim that ocelots use the coloration of their ears as a clever ploy to fool other predators and mislead them.
The pattern located on the muzzle and body may differ slightly in different subspecies of the ocelot, in some cats the entire background of the body has a grayish tint. Regardless of this, such a beautiful color of these amazing felines simply bewitches with its luxury and charm, captivating with an intricate magic and clear ornament.
Where does the ocelot live?
Ocelot is a native American , both South and Central.
It can be found in the territories of:
- Bolivia ;
Zoologists note that the northernmost border of the ocelot's range runs through the territory of the US state of Texas. Even in the recent past, ocelots also inhabited such US states as Arkansas, Louisiana, Arizona, then the number of these cats was much larger. Now individual specimens cross the Mexican border and appear in Arizona, but these are isolated cases.
These graceful mustachioed predators have chosen the area near the Amazon River, covered with impassable, dense jungle, where cats feel at ease. The ocelot can settle in tropical meadows, and in the mangrove jungle and in marshy areas. The animal prefers lush vegetation and chooses those places where it is in abundance.
Ocelots have also been seen at high altitude (about 4 km) in the Andes, although they usually do not climb above 1.5 km. It is almost impossible for a simple layman to see an ocelot in the wild, because he finds such impassable thickets for his permanent residence where a person cannot pass. In addition, he is excellent at camouflage, and being cautious and stealthy is his second nature.
What does an ocelot eat?
The ocelot is, first of all, a predator, therefore its menu is a match for it, as well as. he is not a very large predator, then his prey does not differ in weighty dimensions.
The cat menu consists of:
- Small monkeys;
- All kinds of rodents ;
- Lizards and snakes;
When a cat is very hungry, he can attack both a small donkey and a domestic pig, but this is very rare. An ocelot can hunt for hours, carefully guarding its prey in ambush. When hunting for large game, the ocelot hides in the crown of trees, looking out for prey from above, and for smaller animals, it usually conducts its observation from dense bushes. He does not take patience in this matter.
The ocelot attacks with lightning speed so that the prey does not have time to wake up, with one jump it knocks down the victim and strikes with a bite in the neck. Sensitive hearing, sharp eyesight and excellent sense of smell help the ocelot hunt at dusk.
An interesting fact: an unusual feature of this cat is the structure of its teeth, which are not designed to finely chew food. Because of this, ocelots tear their prey to pieces with their fangs and swallow them whole, simply by swallowing.
The mass of the minimum food required for a mustachioed predator per day is 500 grams. The ocelot eats small prey from the head, and begins to eat large prey from the softest part, tearing out whole pieces that it swallows whole. It is worth noting that captive ocelots eat almost the same as in the wild. Only sometimes specialized food for cats appears in the menu of domestic predators.
Character and lifestyle features
Ocelots prefer to live in complete solitude, forming pairs only for the mating period. These are sedentary animals, having their own territories, the boundaries of which they carefully mark to avoid the intrusion of strangers. The area of an adult male's area reaches 30 square kilometers, while that of a female is half that. Usually, the possessions of one cat cover several allotments of females.
An interesting fact: ocelots are excellent swimmers and climb not only trees, but also steep mountain slopes.
These miniature leopards have excellent hearing, sight and smell. Ocelots can communicate with each other using sounds. Sometimes they just meow with their velvety cat tune, and in the wedding season they emit drawn-out loud cries, looking for a lady of the heart. By nature, the ocelot is closed and secretive, he avoids people in every possible way, choosing impassable wild places for his life. These animals are very energetic and at the same time cautious, they try not to be an eyesore to other animals, hiding in dense growth.
Spotted predators come out for hunting at twilight, and in the light of the sun they cool off in shady thickets, on branches or deep hollows of trees. The ocelot spends half of the day hunting, while it can travel long distances in search of prey, picking up the slightest sounds and vibrations of its potential victims, because the cat has a very highly sensitive hearing aid.
The whiskers of the ocelot, like the strongest antennas, help him to easily navigate any terrain and walk quite silently and gracefully, making his way through the thickets and crevices of stones. The life span of an ocelot living in the wild is about 14 years, and tamed individuals, with proper care, can live up to a quarter of a century.
Those ocelots that live at home are quite smart, active and have a playful character. Their entertainment is somewhat reminiscent of dog games, they like to carry and bring a ball in their teeth, walking on a leash does not bother them at all, they love ocelots to swim in the pool or any other body of water. The only thing is that it is very rare for an ocelot to establish strong friendships with other pets, because by his feline nature he is very independent and does not like competition.
Social Structure and Reproduction
Female ocelots become sexually mature closer to one and a half years, and males – to two and a half. These predators do not have a special time frame for the mating season, but usually weddings take place more actively from June to October. Often, it is the females who are the first to start looking for cavaliers, meowing loudly and inviting their suitors, who respond to the call with loud cries. The female hits the male with her strong paws so that he starts mating. The duration of pregnancy is about 80 days.
The expectant mother is actively preparing a shelter for her offspring. It can be in a spacious hollow, a secluded cave, or simply in dense bushes. The female makes a soft bedding from her own wool, which she rips out from her abdomen. An ocelot can have from 1 to 4 cubs, but most often there are one or two. Kittens are born already in a fur coat, which is a darker shade than that of their parents, but they are completely blind, the weight of newborns reaches 250 grams. A caring mother cat treats them with her milk for three months. After about 3 weeks, the kittens' eyes open.
An interesting fact: some male ocelots help the female in raising offspring. They bring food to her lair and guard her dwelling from other predators.
Babies grow quite slowly and only closer to the age of three months for the first time leave their shelter. Then the mother or both parents begin to drag small animals to the den, teaching the children to hunt, and soon they take the grown-up babies with them in search of food, instilling in them all the necessary skills. Kittens still live with their mother for a long time and only closer to two years old do they begin to look for their own territory for permanent residence.
Natural enemies of the ocelot
The ocelot is not a very large predator, so its enemies in the wild are larger cats. First of all, these are cougars and jaguars, they are very powerful, aggressive and strong, so the fight between them and the ocelot most often ends in the death of the latter. For young animals, caimans, boas and anacondas are a threat. In addition, behavior such as cannibalism is developed among ocelots, when an inexperienced, weakened, young predator can become a victim of its larger and more powerful relative.
It is regrettable to realize this, but the main and most dangerous enemy of the ocelot is man. More recently, the ocelot was actively pursued by hunters because of its beautiful and valuable fur. Only in the seventies of the last century, a huge number of ocelots were killed, as well as predators were sold live for fabulous sums. Hundreds of thousands of skins of this beautiful animal were illegally imported into the United States, a fur coat from which at that time cost about forty thousand dollars.
Another threat to ocelots is the human invasion of their permanent habitats and the destruction of those animals that the wild cat hunts. All this led to the fact that the ocelot was on the verge of extinction, now the situation has improved significantly. The main thing is that this favorable trend for the population of these felines should continue.
Population and species status
For a long time, ocelots were subjected to mass destruction, and trade in this graceful predator flourished. Both the skins of the animal and the living individuals themselves were valued, which became popular among lovers of the exotic.
The seventies of the twentieth century were marked by the fact that the population of ocelots dropped catastrophically, at that time they could completely disappear from the planet, so they were listed in the Red Book, taking strict protective measures for this amazing cat species. Now hunting for these animals is illegal, trading in ocelots is also prohibited, but illegal activities still occur to this day, although not on such a huge scale.
The number of ocelots has increased, now this animal is not under such acute threat of destruction, as before, but the population of the predator is still not very extensive. The number of these wild cats, although not so rapidly, but gradually continues to decline.
Zoologists believe that the largest number of ocelots is concentrated in the Amazonian impenetrable jungle. In the 90s, they tried to count individuals, but the data on this varies, according to them, the number of ocelots at that time numbered from 800,000 to three million animals, such a wide variation in indicators.
As already mentioned, the ocelot added to the list of animals included in the Red Book back in the seventies of the last century. It was at this time that the number of this feline species approached a catastrophically low level due to the development of vigorous hunting activity. A strict ban was imposed on hunting and trading in skins and fur products from the ocelot. In addition to the above prohibitive measures, people began to create vast protected areas, national parks, where the beast successfully multiplied.
All these measures have led to the fact that the ocelot, which has long been under the status of the most endangered animal, has acquired a new status, now, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, it is considered “least threatened” since 2008. Despite all this, the number of ocelots is still declining, because hidden hunting continues, and many habitats of the animal are devastated by humans.
People need to stop the uncontrolled cutting of tropical forests and encroach less on the territories of wild areas inhabited by a large variety of fauna, because together with forest areas they destroy not only the lungs of our planet, but also many exotic animals, including the most beautiful ocelots.
In conclusion, it remains to add that the ocelot is a real sorcerer who captivates and fascinates with the magic of its unique patterns and deep, expressive, feline look. No wonder Salvador Dali himself had such an exotic pet named Babou, who charmed him with his grace and charm. In ancient times, in Egypt and Peru, this predator was deified, people worshiped the ocelot, respecting him not only for his beauty, but also for his caution, strength and fearlessness. It's good that people caught on in time and managed to prevent the extinction of these amazing feline predators. Now it remains only to hope that a great many more human generations will admire and admire his noble and unique appearance.