Can You Have An Ocelot As A Pet?

Like other wild animals that get petted, the ocelot is one of them. In the United States, keeping this wild cat is controlled and regulated by some laws. In some states like Alaska and The New England region, you don’t need to have a permit to own this cat. Other states specifically discourage the petting and keeping of ocelots.

You may want to read till the end to know everything about the ocelot. This article will describe the ocelot in depth to give you a clear picture of what you may deal with if you choose to pet it. Before penning off, we will look at screening questions that will help you firmly decide if you want to pet an ocelot or not. Let’s get wild about this cat.

In And Around Petting The Ocelot

The ocelot scientifically goes by the name Leopardus pardalis. In the mid-20th Century (the 1950s and 1960s), the ocelot became very popular among Americans, who took it as a pet. The ocelot, a feline that looks like a leopard, is among the smallest kinds of wildcats. In North America, the cat is found in Arizona, Texas, Mexico, and Peru.

According to the IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the ocelot is categorized as LC (or Least Concern). However, the species has been severely affected by increased habitat loss.

The Physical Traits Of The Ocelot

The ocelot comes from the Felidae family and the genus Leopardus. It is a medium-sized wildcat whose nativity is, for the most part, marked in South and Central America. The ocelot’s coat is spotted in the same fashion as that of the leopard. The animal is smoothly short as it has declined because poachers and hunters had been following it because of its fur. The fur’s color can be anything between gray and tawny yellow.

In terms of length and weight, the pet is in the 22 – 39-inch range and 35 pounds, respectively. Looking at those physical details, you see that it is reasonably large as compared to domestic pets. This makes it a little dangerous to keep the ocelot together with other smaller pets. On occasion, the ocelot has been known to harm little children because of its wild instincts.

Let’s talk about the eyes of an ocelot, which are beadily big. They have perfectly round shapes together with dark markings. These markings, which are all around the eye, make the ocelot look attractive. Looking at an ocelot, therefore, is a therapeutic experience.

Like the more common cats, the ocelot’s ears are not pointed, but their tops are rounded. Since they are carnivorous, ocelots can have up to 30 teeth. Averagely, these wild cats can live up to 12 years, a detail which it shares with dogs (10 to 13 years).

The Physical Traits Of The Ocelot

As you think about petting an ocelot, the most important thing to consider is their behavior in the wild. This will help you assess if it will be okay to bring it to your home.

As you may already know, wild and feral cats have differences. Like all the other felines, their ancestries are varied. The most obvious difference is that feral cats are domesticated and wild cats are, well, wild. Feral cats can live in homes but choose not to, but the wild ones spend their entire lives outdoors. Therefore, if you’re bringing home an ocelot, you should provide an outdoor space that is not less than 800 square meters – that should make the cat live adequately and happily.

Like many other felines, ocelots are crepuscular. This implies that their activeness kicks in when dawn and dusk come. When the cat is awake (between 12 and 14 hours), they will spend the bulk of that time hunting. So, when an ocelot wakes up in your home, it may start to prey on the chickens or dog that may be around – that is what happens in semi-urban areas.

The other item you should know is that these cats have a characteristic pungent smell. Like many wild animals, they love engaging in territory marking, even in places they sleep. This means that the ocelot might territorialize your home, but it may not happen if you took it in at a young age.

Baby ocelots, or kittens, exhibit juvenile and infantile behaviors that other types of cats. They cling on to their mothers for more than usual. Separating an ocelot kitten from its mother too soon would be a mistake as it would trigger behavioral issues. Their first reaction is emitting a loud noise, much like a child throwing a tantrum because its mother left.

Also, ocelots are reactive when they are in heat. The mannerisms that the cats manifest makes them hard to keep as pets. First, a heated female ocelot will growl constantly. Then, it will try to rub its scent on the objects it meets. As you may imagine, their calls and growls are louder than the purrs and mews of the ordinary female cat. On the flip side, after mating, a male ocelot may act like they don’t want any human affection.

What The Ocelot Eats

Ocelots are obligate carnivores, and they hunt for rodents, birds, and fish. If you want to pet an ocelot, you need to provide it with a diet similar to that of cats. You should add calcium and taurine on top of the organ meat. Since it will attempt to eat some human food, I suggest that you look at the foods that felines cannot eat.

Giving The Ocelot Special Care

You may already have established that while it may seem exclusive, exotic, and cute, petting the ocelot is not the most convenient thing. We always have to remember that the ocelot has wild instincts that may drive it to go berserks. If you find an ocelot lying helplessly in your backyard or garden, you should contact the nearest rescue center and share the developments with them.

You cannot train the ocelot to execute basic commands, meaning that it would take you a lot of time before you discipline it.

Taking Care Of An Ocelot Baby

As noted, kitten ocelots spend more time with their mothers than any other wildcat. This means that the young ones are incredibly dependent on their mother and their weaning takes a little too long. They will engage in finger sucking, especially with the fingers of their caregivers. This is one behavior that you need to help them avoid.

Once you find a baby ocelot sucking its finger, try distracting them with something like a treat. Alternatively, you can engage them in play, using items like boomer balls and other toys that cats enjoy playing.

The Space Of The Ocelot

The outdoor space you provide for this cat will help it to stay fit and avoid obesity. The area should be enriched and enhanced with features such as platforms, poles, and plants. For the plants, you need to know the exact type that will not be toxic for your feline.

Adding aquatic features will be the icing on the cake. The pond or the ground fountain you decide to install will impress them – they will use it to cool off and play. 

Avoid Fixing

Many pet owners are inclined to spay or neuter pets to reduce their aggression and other unwanted behaviors. However, things are different with the ocelot. The ocelot conservation programs in certain countries do not advise that you spay or neuter an ocelot. If you are inclined to fix the animal, talk to the relevant authorities and your vet to make the best decision.

Ocelot And Their Toilet Behavior

This is a fundamental topic as it touches on the sanitary situation around the ocelot. While some ocelots have been successfully trained to use litter boxes, you can go for something more manageable, like pieces of newspaper.

You should also be aware that ocelots are inclined to eat the litter of cats, which may cause gastrointestinal problems. Actually, this is the main reason why litterbox training is not recommended.

Ocelots And Their Indoor Behavior

These wild cats love digging, jumping, and climbing. Those behaviors are not the kind you would want to see in your house. So, keep an eye on the wildcat if it is inside.

Also, put away all the display objects (especially the delicate ones). The ocelot may knock them off accidentally as they leap around. Also, keep away all material and fabric that you may not want to be bitten or nibbled on, as that is their favorite pastime.

Biting Issues

As implied elsewhere in this article, an ocelot may engage in some biting. The bites are likely to have a significant impact, seeing that the cat has many sharp teeth. This means that small children should not get near the ocelot. Like many others of the cat family, the target areas are the neck, elbow, armpit, and groin. Because of their speed and agility, some of these bites may happen faster than you anticipate. These kinds of expressions do not imply that the ocelot is full of violence; it only needs to be socialized well and will act accordingly.

Vet Care

The only vet who can take care of problems concerning your ocelot is an exotic one. The expert needs to be specialized in treating ocelots. You can try going to a regular vet but first, ensure that they have enough ocelot knowledge. If there is no reliable person within your locality, try and reach out to people at the zoo. You can also try feline behaviorists as they are special psychologists who can help take care of the ocelot.

The Legal And Trade Issues Involved

As mentioned in the primer to this article, some regulations control the possession of ocelots. Depending on your state of residency, it may or may not be illegal to get an ocelot. Ensure that you are informed beforehand before you get one.

The Legal And Trade Issues Involved

According to the IUCN Red List, the population of the ocelot is decreasing. This is because people have been hunting to trade it or its fur. Although the trade of ocelot fur was outlawed decades ago, some people still engage in it illegally. In the following countries and regions, hunting the ocelot is banned: Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Uruguay, Costa Rica, French Guiana, Colombia, and others.

These days, the main threat to the ocelot population is the loss and fragmentation of its habitat. Human beings are logging and penetrating the ocelot’s natural habitat. In the US, the leading cause of ocelot mortality is vehicle collisions (the Journal of Wildlife Management). This is probably because most ocelots operate at night, and accidents happen most during dark times.

To ensure that the number of ocelots does not continue to drop, we need to help in species conservation. A brilliant way to do this would be to create green paths for habitat conservation. Until we see the population of ocelots increasing, we should stop at nothing to protect these impressive felines.

Important Ocelot-Petting Related Questions

If you see yourself at the end of this section, you will be ready to pet an ocelot or not. Here, you will be presented with questions that will look at the practicality of owning an ocelot. The explanation given for each answer should open you up to the nitty-gritty details of pet ocelot ownership.

1. Is There a Vet, 45 Minutes Away, Who Can Treat the Ocelot?

Giving a no to this question means that parenting an ocelot isn’t a great idea at the moment. You should know that if you bring an exotic animal to a pet – even if life is seeping out of the ocelot – most vets will not treat it. This is because of the legal liability that comes with handling the cat. The vets may be afraid of the ocelot’s strong jaws or its destructive nature, and thus, they will dismiss your case.

These cats will need to go for more vet trips than the usual annual or monthly checkups. Ocelots can swallow rubber snakes, tennis balls, Lego pieces, and poisonous house plants because of their curious nature. Don’t take it for granted that the ocelot can ingest many things. If it can’t, it won’t stop trying until something stops it.

2. Are you Ready And Willing To Always Be With The Ocelot All The Time? Will You Sacrifice Off-Days And Vacations?

If you wish to go with your ocelot to your vacay, you need to get a permit. Sometimes, the permit can only cover your address, so really, you can’t go everywhere with the ocelot.  Even if you can get a pet sitter, you may not be allowed to use one because the permit may only cover you. Basically, it is you and the ocelot against the world. If your ocelot needs to be somewhere, you need to be with it. If you don’t, the authorities involved may get you arrested. They may even kill it instead of getting it to the right wildlife establishment. So, petting an ocelot means having it with you all the time for the rest of its life. And, you better not get sick because the ocelot will need you to be well throughout their life.

3. Are you Prepared And Ready To Spend Some Money On A Cage? Do You Have Some Outdoor Space?

Ocelots are susceptible to being destructive, and so, the rationale of getting a cage is clear. Ocelots love climbing and digging. This means that you need an enclosure that is roofed and has a secure fence. Since these wildcats have strong and tough jaws, the fence needs to be heavy.

If the ocelots are inactive within the cage, they could get overweight because of the laxity and sluggishness. So, if your backyard has space, you can let the ocelot play there. Wild animals love spraying their areas, and it would be best if they did that outside.

4. Are You Ready To Come Back To A Wrecked Home?

If the ocelot manages to push itself out of its cage, it will go on a tour in your house. They will climb on bookshelves, door frames, and pant legs. Because of their speed and agility, they leap to great heights, even to the top of your fridge. If you have multiple wildcats, they are likely to engage in rough games, and your property may be collateral damage.

5. Are You Ready To Lie In An Emergency Room Or A Hospital Bed Because Of The Ocelot?

If you are getting a young ocelot, you need to teach it that your hand is not a toy. This is because the ocelot can wound your hand, thinking you want to be part of the ocelot game. The cat’s strength and hunting adeptness put it a cut above the rest. During an attack, they have the remarkable skill of knowing and seeking the pressure points. All cats have particular areas that they target during a fight.

As mentioned elsewhere in this article, the ocelot attacks the inside of elbows, neck, and armpit. Seeing that that is the case, even the simplest of bites from an ocelot can be heavily injurious. When you deflect their strike, they will repeat it until they see that they have taken you down. However, the engagement won’t be too long if the ocelot is a little tame.

States And Exotic Pets: What They Say

This section captures information in table-style to show how states react when it comes to exotic permits. Some states completely ban exotic pets (such as your ocelot), others need you to get a license, others allow hybrids, and others limit the number of exotic pets. Check and see if your jurisdiction is captured and what they say:

StateLegal SituationFollow-Up Comments
AlabamaPermit NeededFor private ownership, no permit is required. You cannot import bobcats into the state as it is outlawed.
ArkansasNot ClearYou can own an exotic cat such as a bobcat. However, you can only have up to six of them. If you got the animal outside the Arkansas jurisdiction, you need to show proof of ownership.
CaliforniaExotics BannedUnder California Law, hybrid cats are considered domestic and are thus allowed.
DelawarePermitted  NeededHybrids need permits too.
FloridaPermitted NeededA license is needed for small exotic cats to be allowed.
IndianaPermitted Needed
IowaParticular cat hybrids are permitted.
KansasAllowedPet considered not-too-dangerous are permitted, including small cats.
MaineA permit is needed for particular wild animals.
Massachusetts AllowedA domestic animal should be together with a hybrid.
MississippiAllowedOwning servals and ocelots is allowed.
MissouriPermit NeededOwnership of small cats is permitted. 
MontanaPermit NeededOwning a small cat is allowed.
NevadaYou can own a small exotic cat; there are no regulations.
North DakotaPermit NeededEvery non-domestic animal needs a permit.
OhioYou can own some animals – like the bobcat – with a permit, and you can’t own others – like servals – as pets.
OklahomaPermit NeededOwning an exotic cat is certain.
PennsylvaniaPermit NeededOwning an exotic cat is certain.
Rhode IslandYou will need a permit for some animals.
South DakotaPermit NeededOwning an exotic cat is certain.
TennesseeOwning wild cats is not regulated in this state.
TexasPermit NeededOwning an exotic cat is certain.

A Bonus Section: Hybrid Cat As Pets – Are They Good?

Hybrid cats are a product of crossing a domestic cat and a wild cat. It means that hybrids have wild tendencies more than domestic cats but less than wild cats. Hybrid cats are not for everyone – they may be challenging to handle than domestic cats. Hybrids behave like dogs as they are more outgoing and active to the bone. If you feel like you are up to the challenge, you can get a hybrid cat.

Reports by many sites and sources are that nothing good can come out of a hybrid cat – they are all terrible pets. That is biased information that is scientifically inaccurate. You can’t really make generalizations seeing that some hybrids have low wild blood percentages. So, the best and most accurate thing to say is that some hybrids are better pets than others, and it only needs proper socialization for a hybrid cat to behave accordingly.

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