(Leopardus pardalis)

Common Names:

German – Ozelot

Spanish – Tigrillo, Ocelote, Gato onza

Bolivia – Tirgrezillo, Gato bueno, Gato onza

Argentina – Cunaguaro, Gato onza

Peru – Pumillo, Tigilla, Gato onza

Paraguay - Chivi-guazu, Gato maracaja

Venezuela – Cunaguaro, Manigordo

Brazil – Mourisco, Jaguartirica, Gato maracaja

Columbia – Maracaya

Costa Rica – Manigordo

Nicaragua – Manigordo

Panama – Gato tigre, Tigre chico, Manigordo

French Guiana – Chat tip

Guarani – Yayua-tirica

Mayan – Zac-xicin

Surinam – Hètigrikati


Felidae; member of the cat family


L.p. albescens – Texas and Mexico

L.p. sonoriensis – Arizona and Mexico

L.p. aequatorialis – Northern Andes

L.p. maripensis – Venezuela, Guyana

L.p. mitis – South Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina

L.p. pseudopardalis – Ecuador

L.p. steinbachi - Bolivia

Related Species:

Margay cat and tiger cat.


Head and Body 27-35 in. long; tail 12-15 in. long; height at shoulder 18 in.


20 - 40 lbs


Medium-sized cat – 3 or 4 times larger than a domestic cat; largest of the small spotted cats; tawny coat and long tail; does not have rosettes of the jaguar – the dark markings are elongated so they appear to be more stripes than spots; eyeshine is golden.


Wild – 7 - 10 years; Captivity – 20 years


Historically common in Mexico, and Central America down to Paraguay; once found in every country in South America except Chile; can still be seen in rainforests of Central America or the Amazon basin in Brazil.

Population in the US:

Once resided in Arizona, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico; fur trapping and hunting killed most of the populations off in the mid 1800’s; around 100 cats survive in the thorny chaparral of the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas; the US Forest Service is working to restore ocelot habitat in the Rio Grande area; field research is being done with radio collaring on the Texas population by the US Forest Service and the National Wildlife Fund; occasionally sighted in Arizona.


A wide variety of habitats are used by the ocelot, from thorn forests to tropical moist forests; based on a rodent prey base and thick cover; most often found in thick thorn scrub and rocky areas.


It is estimated that there are 1.5 to 3 million left in the wild.

A loss of 2-3 % of the wild population could be unsustainable and result in a significant decline in numbers.


Cannot roar.

Usually nocturnal, but diurnal (active during twilight) during cool winter days or when near humans.

Tend to be solitary – a breeding pair will share a territory, living and hunting separately, coming together only to mate once or twice a year.

Maintain a fixed, marked and defended territory.

Female territories are about 18 sq. km.

Male territories are usually around 11 sq. km, overlapping several females’ territory.

Both the male’s and female’s territories are notably smaller in Texas.

More faithful to mates than its related species.

Keeps to dense cover whenever possible.

Swims very well.

Adept at climbing trees to catch prey, though prefers ground hunting.

Can survive and adapt to humans as long as not over hunted.

Rest in trees or dense brush during the day, often returning to the same spot repeatedly.

Can follow the odor trails of their prey.

Generally only venture into open areas on moonless nights or on cloudy days.

Special Adaptations:

Its very large eyes enable it to see well in the dim light of the forest and during the night.

The white spots behind the ears are thought to be used at communication – to keep a pair, a litter, or a mother and her kittens together in the dark forests.


Mating occurs at night with the male and female staying together for 2 or 3 days and hunting together.

Gestation lasts 3 months.

Kittens are usually born in autumn.

1-2 kittens are born to a litter.


Female cares for kittens in a hollow tree or thick brush.

Males may bring food to the den but play no active parental role.

Kittens are playful and very docile while young.

Independent after 4 months.

Reach sexual maturity at 12-15 months.

Disperse from natal range at 2 years.

Recently dispersed adolescents commonly die of starvation.


Prey upon rodents, monkeys, birds, reptiles, frogs, opossums, small deer, pacarana, pacas, agouti, peccaries, lesser anteaters, iguanas, tree lizards, crabs, turtles, fish, cane mice, marsh rats, spiny rats, rice rats, and armadillos.

Will prey on domestic livestock if living near a village.

Ambushes large prey and stalks birds on branches.

Human Interests:

The highest demand for skins was in the 1960’s as the fur trade shifted from African cats to American cats.

They were the most heavily exploited spotted cat during the 1960’s with over 200,000 take each year.

Between 1976 and 1983, the net international trade in ocelot skins fell to 24,600 pelts per year.

Today, several thousand are poached each month though the commercial trade of their fur is illegal.

Since the decline in the fur trade, there have been signs of recolonization and recovery.

Achieved protected status in the US in 1972 and in Columbia and Peruin in 1973.

Many other Latin American countries still allow hunting and trade.

An ocelot fur coat will sell for $40,000 because each pelt's markings and background coloration are unique, making them difficult to match.

Popular as pets that can sell for $800 – illegal, yet still a large problem because they are captured out of the wild.

Habitat destruction and over hunting forced the ocelot onto the endangered species list.


Hunting has been prohibited in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Columbia, Costa Rica, French Guiana, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Surinam, Trinidad, the United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Hunting is regulated in Peru.

No legal protection is given to the ocelot in Ecuador El Salvador, and Guyana.

Interesting Facts:

Known as a “little cat” – smaller than other cats, cannot roar and pupils close to a slit rather than a circle.

No two pelts are identical.

It has the longest gestation and slowest growth rates of all small cats.

Known as one of the most successful forms of mammalian life in the Amazon region due to its ability to adapt and its tolerance to disturbed habitat.