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Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding



  • Highly adaptable, generalist predators (De Oliveira et al. 2010; Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)
    • Diet varies over range, see examples below
    • Daily food intake
      • Consume 0.56-0.84 kg (1.2-1.9 lb) or more of meat per day, in the wild (De Oliveira et al. 2010)
      • If carcass can't be eaten in one feeding, ocelot covers it and returns the next night (Kitchener 1991)
  • Prey
    • Consume mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, and crustaceans
      • Largest prey items include large rodents (agoutis and pacas), armadillos, sloths, monkeys, hoofed animals (ungulates)
        • Agoutis, sloths, other medium sized animals like pacas, green iguanas, and white-nosed coatis
      • Generally thought to prefer small mammal prey less than 1 kg (2.2 lb)
        • In areas of central Panama where jaguars have become extinct, ocelot prey includes mammals and reptiles larger than 1 kg (2.2 lb) (Moreno et al. 2006)
          • Similar pattern known from other ecosystems which lose a large carnivore; smaller carnivores shift to take larger prey items
    • Target abundant species
      • No apparent preference
      • Can mice, opossum, armadillo, and rats (marsh, spiny and rice) are commonly eaten
    • Scat analysis records proportions of dietary components (Sunquist et al. 1989)
      • 65% small rodents
      • 18% reptiles, mostly iguanas
      • 7% crustaceans and fish
      • 6% medium-sized mammals
      • 4% birds

Regional and seasonal variation

  • Caratinga Biological Station, Brazil (from Bianchi & Mendes 2007; Bianchi et al 2010)
    • Predominant prey includes tree-living brown howler monkeys (Alouatta guariba)
      • Biomass eaten of these primates alone was equal to biomass of all other prey combined
  • Vale do Rio Doce Natural Reserve, Brazil
    • Predominant prey includes armadillos (Dasypus sp.), pacas (Cuniculus paca) and deer (Mazama sp.)
      • Contributed most of the biomass of the ocelots' diet
  • Wet season dietary shifts (Nowell & Jackson 1996)
    • Consume spawning fish and land crabs

Armadillo for Dinner?

Ocelot at night

Ocelots are highly adaptable predators and consume a wide variety of prey. Small animals are commonly targeted, though larger animals also fall prey to these cats.

Image credit: © eMammal via Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Page Citations

Abreu et al. (2008)
Bianchi & Mendes (2007)
Bianchi et al. (2010)
Kitchener (1991)
Meza et al. (2002)
Moreno et al. (2006)
Murray & Gardner (1997)
Nowell & Jackson (1996)
De Oliveira et al. (2010)
Sunquist et al. (1989)
Sunquist & Sunquist (2002)
Sunquist & Sunquist (2009)  

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