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Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) Fact Sheet: Reproduction & Development

Courtship

Courtship behavior

  • Pair may associate for extended periods (from Murray & Gardner 1997)
    • One male/female pair from Venezuela remained together for 7 hours
  • Captive observation provides insight into mating (from Mansard 1991)
    • Male and female rub cheeks, shoulders, flanks, engage in sniffing
    • Pair may pounce together in play
    • Male makes quiet "ka...ka" calls while following female
    • After repelling male for 3 days, female becomes noisy with growl similar to "idling diesel locomotive"
    • Several episodes of mating take place, usually in evening or early morning

Reproduction

Year-round reproduction

  • Breed year-round, in captivity (Morais et al. 2002)
    • Believed to lack seasonal breeding in the wild (Mondolfi 1986; Eaton 1977; Laack et al. 2005)
    • Some evidence for seasonality
      • Captive male ocelots in tropical Brazil demonstrated peaks of sperm production during summer months (Morais et al. 2002)

Estrus

  • Onset of first estrus
    • May be as early as 8 months (from Mondolfi 1986)
      • Reproduction does not occur until around 18-22 months
      • First conception may occur as late as 2 years of age (Seager & Demarest 1978)
  • Duration of estrus (from Mansard 1990)
    • 1-6 days of elevated estrogen, based on the results of one wild-caught female
  • Estrus cycle (from Moreira et al. 2001)
    • 18.4 days for cats in the Leopardus genus (ocelots, margays, tigrinas)
    • Some unexplained lapses in ovarian activity or estrus are recorded, though uncommon
      • Monthly cyclic changes in estrogen levels were observed in most of the females in one study of captive animals in Brazil
      • Factors such as diet, body weight, and presence of other females may affect reproductive status (Laack 1991)

Interbirth interval

  • Varies with habitat (Laack et al. 2005)
    • As short as 1 year of less (Laack et al. 2005)
    • c. 2 years, as observed in Peru (Emmons 1988)

Gestation and Birth

Gestation

  • 79-85 days(Mondolfi 1986)
    • Considered a long gestation compared to small cats in other genera (Mansard 1991)

Birth

  • Location of parturition
    • Young born in hollow tree, rocky bluff, cave, secluded thicket
      • Females may move litter to alternate dens between 1 and 5 times (Laack et al. 2005)
  • Litter size
    • 1-2 most often; rarely 3 or 4  (Murray & Gardner 1997)

Life Stages

Infant & Juveniles (< 1 year old)

  • Appearance
    • Young are fully marked with spots, but coats are gray and lower limbs are dark (Murray & Gardner 1997)
    • Eyes are blue at birth (Davis 1974)
      • Color changes to brown c. 3 months (Davis 1974)
  • Development (from Mansard 1991)
    • Eyes open at 14 days
    • Begin walking at 3 weeks
    • Leave den and hunt with mother 4-6 weeks
    • Take solid food at 8 weeks
    • May continue to nurse for 6 months

Subadult

  • Adult dentition erupts c. 7-8 months (Mansard 1991)
  • Independent of mother c. 24 months (Ludlow and Sunquist 1987)

Adult (from Mondolfi 1986)

  • Obtain adult weight c. 24-40 months
  • Sexual maturity
    • Females first reproduce c. 18-22 months
    • Males produce viable sperm c. 2.5 years of age

Longevity

In captivity

  • Female survival
    • Several females lived into their 20's; one was 28 years old (Bragin 2011)
  • Male survival
    • Only two captive males lived past 20 years (one 21 and one 23 years old) (Bragin 2011)

In the wild

  • Survive up to 20 years (Sunquist 1992)

Mortality

Killed by humans

Natural predators (Murray & Gardner 1997)

  • Few predators other than humans
    • Boa constrictor
    • Anaconda
    • Harpy eagle
    • Puma
    • Jaguar

Page Citations

Crespo (1982)
Davis (1974)
Eaton (1984)
Emmons (1988)
Laack et al. (2005)
Ludlow and Sunquist (1987)
Mansard (1990, 1991)
Mondolfi (1986)
Morais et al. (2002)
Moreira et al (2001)
Murray & Gardner (1997)
Nowak (1999)
Nowell & Jackson (1996)
Seager & Demarest (1978)
Sunquist (1992) 

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