Animal Wildlife | Ocelot | Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) are small, but still larger than average house cat. The ocelot, or the painted leopard as it is sometimes known, is a medium sized wildcat, native to the jungles of South America. The ocelot is found as far north as Texas in the United States and there are also large populations of the ocelot in both Mexico and the Caribbean islands. The ocelot tends to be about 1 meter in length with a tail, half the size of the body of the ocelot on top of that. The ocelot has enormous similarities in appearance to domestic cat, with the most noticeable of these similarities being the small sized head of the ocelot. The fur of the ocelot has very similar markings to the fur of a leopard or a jaguar meaning that the ocelot was hunted vigorously for many years.
The ocelot populations were once so low due to excessive hunting by humans for the beautiful fur of the ocelot, that the ocelot was considered to be a threatened species and was on the verge of being endangered. Today, ocelot populations have been allowed to grow again meaning that the ocelot is now one of the lucky animals considered to be of least concern as far as species extinction goes. Like most other feline species, the ocelot is a generally solitary animal, and will only really tend to come into voluntary contact with another ocelot, when it is time to mate. The ocelot is nocturnal animal and spends its days sleeping in the tree tops. These prime sleeping spots will occasionally be shared by more than one ocelot of the same sex. The ocelot is a highly territorial and somewhat aggressive feline, with ocelots having been commonly known to fight each other to the death if no-one backs down. Typically the average ocelot will hunt in an area that is around 18 square kilometers. Almost all of the prey that the ocelot hunts is much smaller than the ocelot itself. The ocelot is believed to find prey using its keen sense of smell by sniffing out odor trails marked by smaller animals, and the ocelot is also thought to spot potential meals using its acute night vision.
The ocelot hunts a variety of small animals, from small deer and rodents to reptiles and amphibians. The ocelot is thought to occasionally take to the trees when hunting in order to catch birds and the ocelot is also a big fan of water based dinners such as fish and crabs. After mating, a female ocelot will find a crevice in the rocks, a hollow tree or will nest in a dense and thorny thicket in order for the female ocelot to have some privacy and protection whilst she is preparing to give birth. The gestation period for a female ocelot is thought to be just over three months, after which time the female ocelot will give birth to 2 or 3 ocelot kittens. The tiny ocelot kittens are born blind, in a similar way to many other species of feline kittens, and the ocelot kittens also have a thin coat of fur. Within a month, the ocelot kittens can view their surroundings and their fur will have become much denser and more colourful.
In a similar way to many other species of smaller wildcat, the ocelot has been kept as a pet by many people throughout history. The most famous of these was the abstract artist Salvador Dali who was known to travel frequently with his pet ocelot, and it even thought that Mr Dali even took his pet ocelot on an ocean liner! The ocelot is also thought to have been worshiped by ancient Peruvian cultures (in a similar way to the Ancient Egyptians worshiping cats), and these cultures would often involve the beautiful ocelot in their art work.
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