Ocelots are native to Central and South America with a small population still residing in the south west region of the United States.  Ocelots live most of their lives in trees and are excellent climbers.  They have a very distinct odor that they spray, to mark their territory.  This odor is water resistant so that the rains cannot easily wash them away.


On average, Ocelots in the wild live about 12 years in the wild.  In captivity they can live up to 20 years.

Shape & Size

Ocelots are typically 20-39 inches long with a tail that is 12-18 inches long.  They weigh between 25 and 35 pounds.

Color Pattern

Ocelots have chain like rosettes and spots on their body that are very distinctive.  They have dark markings around their eyes to help pull in the light at night so that they can see.  Ocelots have white spots on the backs of their ears like all other spotted wildcats.  These spots are used to communicate with their young.  If the kittens cannot see the white spots on the backs of their mother’s ears while following her, it is an indication to them to go hide.


Ocelots are nocturnal and solitary and live primarily in trees.  Ocelots, although able to purr, generally make just one sound; it is a low growl.  They make this sound regardless of their mood.


Ocelots are adaptable and able to live in a variety of habitats. They are able to live in dryer climates as long as a suitable water source can be easily accessed.

Principal Threats

The ocelot's primary threat is humans.  They were hunted to near extinction in the United States in the 70’s for their fur.  It takes between 30-35 full grown ocelots to make one fur coat.

Leopardus pardalis

Range Map


Ocelots are adaptable and able to live in a variety of habitats.  Due to hunting, they now primarily live in the rainforests of Central and South America. 


Ocelots are opportunistic hunters and eat a variety of prey including, deer, bats, small rodents, monkeys, birds and lizards.

Reproductive Habits

An ocelot’s gestation period is between 79 and 8 5 days.  They have an average of 3 kittens per litter but at times have just one or two.  Females are able to breed from the age of 2 on whereas males are able to breed at 2 ½.


Ocelots are nocturnal, resting in trees or underbrush during the day.  At night they will travel up to 5 miles to patrol their territory.  They are opportunist hunters, but do the majority of their hunting at night.  Unlike most cats, ocelots do not shy away from water and are able to comfortably swim.


Ocelots were hunted to near extinction in the United States for their fur.  Due to national legislation ocelots are now protected and their numbers have started to slowly climb again.  Their main threat now is loss of habitat due to deforestation. 

Fun Facts

  • In the wild ocelots love to catch monkeys to eat, they do this by playing dead on a tree branch until a curious monkey gets too close
  • Between 1960 and 1970 more than 200,000 ocelot skins were traded a year
  • Ocelots are capable of taking down prey larger than themselves, such as deer
  • Ocelots have large paws to help them climb trees and branches in the rain forests
  • Ocelots are mostly nocturnal
  • Ocelots are opportunistic hunters who will hunt anything that comes by