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Ocelot: God made this cat to give humankind pleasure


An Ocelot is the rarest and the most beautiful exotic cat native to the Americas and one of the best known. They are a small New World cat and while being well equipped for an arboreal lifestyle, they sometimes take to the trees, though they are mostly terrestrial. It is  very hard to  study ocelots as  they are very secretive, live in areas with thick vegetation, are generally nocturnal, and do most of their hunting and moving about at night. During the day, they sleep hidden among bushes, on a tree branch, or inside a hollow tree.


They have one of the most beautiful coats of any animal in the world. Its fur is golden over most of its body, with white or cream on the belly, but splashed over the background color are all sorts of patterns! It has a coat that is short and close, marked with dark longitudinal rosetted streaks and rosetted  spots covering the  neck, back, sides and rump. Two  black stripes on each cheek and one or two bars on the insides of the legs. The tail is either ringed or marked with dark bars on the upper surface.


From the 1950's to the 1980's, Ocelots were popular as pets United States. They were reported to be playful and could be tamed if they were captured young. Though not a pet for everyone, some young pet ocelots seem to be like pet domestic cats, whereas others may be unruly and more difficult to manage. As they became more popular, people starting breeding them, there fore reducing the need for wild caught cubs. One such person, Loreon Vigne, is a pioneer in their breeding. She has kept and bred them for over 40 years and is the only person in the world to breed 7 generations of Ocelots on captivity. Not one Zoo has been able to accomplish this feat.


Prey includes almost any small animal: monkeys, snakes, rodents, fish, amphibians and birds are common prey, as are small domestic animals such as baby pigs and poultry. Almost all of the prey that they hunt is far smaller than it is. Studies suggest that they follow and find prey via odor trails, but also have very keen vision; including, as their large dark eyes would suggest, night vision.


Living in many varying habitats that include mangrove forests, coastal marshes, grasslands and pastures, thorn scrub and tropical forests of all types, they prefer habitats where there is sufficient dense cover. The most important things for its survival are thick cover, and an abundant supply of food.


Their range from the very southern region of Texas all the way to northern Argentina in South America. In the United States, the ocelot used to be found throughout Texas, as well as the southern parts of New Mexico, Arizona, and California, but due to hunting and habitat loss, it is now very rare in this country with less than 100 living in Texas.


Having been reported to mate year-round, with some studies showing seasonal peaks in autumn, depending on the location of the cats. Ocelots reach sexual maturity somewhere between 18 months and 2 years of age. The gestation period for the Ocelot is 79 to 85 days. Ocelot litters are usually one to two cubs. They stay with their mother, who is the sole caregiver for up to 2 years during which the female does not have any other cubs.


One particular subspecies, known as the Texas ocelot (Leopardus pardalis albescens), is considered endangered, but as a species, ocelots are not threatened or endangered. The ocelot is found on both sides of the equator, so there are variations in the time of year the females give birth. In the tropics, where there are no seasons there is no particular time of year that is more or less advantageous for survival of kittens and so ocelot births occur throughout the year. North and south of the equator there is some seasonal breeding. The kittens are born slightly darker than adults and males tend to have more pronounced spots, although there are no two with the same spot pattern.


Because they are such a gorgeous animal, many people have hunted it for its pelt in the past. Hunting of them is still allowed in some parts of Latin America. The skins were usually made into a fur coat, and it can take as many as 25 pelts to make one coat. Luckily for the ocelot, it has been illegal to bring live animals or their skins into the United States and other countries for more than 30 years. Since very few people buy the skins anymore, they are not hunted as much as they used to be.


However, in many areas they are losing their homes when people clear the land of the brush that are needed to survive. Brush is cleared to make room for homes and grazing land for domestic livestock. The rainforest are also being chopped down at an alarming rate to be used for building materials throughout the world.