Ocelot (photo generously supplied by Big Cat Rescue)

Also known as the dwarf leopard, the ocelot is one of ten “small cats”. The in-crowd of small cats consists of a posse of 1) the ocelot; 2)  the Tiger cat; 3) the Jaguarundi; 4) the European wildcat; 5) the African wildcat; 6) the Black-footed cat; 7) the Sandcat; 8 ) the Jungle cat; 9) the Leopard cat; and last but certainly not least, 10) the Asiatic golden cat. And what makes a small cat different from a big cat is, well, the obvious (i.e. their size) and the fact that they can’t roar. The rest of the differences are genetic…

Our showcase small cat, the ocelot, has gotten quite a bit of attention over the past fifty years. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, small cats such as the ocelot were in such high demand for their fur that ~250,000-600,000 small cat pelts each year were being distributed. The cats with the heaviest hit were the Geoffroy’s cat and, of course, the ocelot, with its beautiful jaguar/clouded-leopard-like colouration. From 1980 to 1990, the number of pelts fell from 450,000 to 100,000. In the 1990’s the fashion trends changed, and popular pelts swapped from being ocelot to lynx and leopard cat. Fortunately the ocelot species as an entirety is not an endangered species, though subspecies of ocelot are endangered. Regardless, endangerment shouldn’t be a criteria for keeping fur on their backs!

So where can you find one of these beauties in the wild? They range from Arizona to Argentina with some being spotted in Trinidad and the Caribbean. They are kitties that prefer living out in leafy vegetation (especially that found in rainforests). But because these ocelots deceptively appear like our domestic cat, many people think that they make phenomenal and loving housecats. Those people who were so duped find out the hard way that these are no purring Persians. Once the angry behaviours from mere tearing up the house to urinating on the furniture like its going out of style take shape, the next thing to fear is their bite. They are WILD! They may purr, but there is no cuddly kitten in the heart of that creature. It longs to breathe in the warm, dew-dropped air of freedom, catch small animals, climb trees, and swim in freshwater lakes.

Some people who did find out the hard way at least had Big Cat Rescue to turn to. At the time they had space for these ocelots, but only so many people can make this grave mistake!

More to come of other small cats and Life ‘O Wild!

Until then, Stay Wild,

Gabby Wild

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