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Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) Fact Sheet: Summary

Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) Fact Sheet


Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Describer (Date): Linnaeus, 1758

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Subfamily: Felinae

Genus: Leopardus

Species: Leopardus pardalis

Subspecies:  Leopardus pardalis pardalis
Subspecies: Leopardus pardalis mitis

Body Weight: 11-16 kg (24-35 lb)

Body Length: 70-100 cm (10-40 in)

Tail Length: 27-45 cm (11-18 in)

Pelage: Short, sleek hair. Background color varies from grayish to buff to cinnamon. Chains of black-bordered spots running along shoulders and back. Tail ringed with black or with black bars on top.

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Range: Mexico, Central America, to NE Argentina, southern Brazil and Uruguay. A small population (fewer than 100 estimated) in southern Arizona and South Texas.

Habitat: Prefers dense habitat cover; sea level to about 1,200 m (3,937 ft)

IUCN Status: Least Concern (2014 assessment)

CITES Appendix: Appendix I

Populations in the Wild: No global estimates; local estimates available for some parts of the ocelot's range

Locomotion: Slow steady walk when hunting - 0.3 km/hr (0.2 mph); powerful climbers and adept swimmers.

Activity Cycle: Mainly a nocturnal predator but sometimes hunt in day (if prey sought is active in day).

Social Groups: Mainly solitary but independent young may associate with parents. Males and females may associate even when not breeding.

Diet: Highly adaptable generalist predator; consume small and medium-sized prey as available.

Predators: Puma, jaguar, harpy eagle, anaconda, and boa constrictor.

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Sexual Maturity: Females can reproduce at 18-22 months; males produce sperm at 2.5 years.

Gestation: 79-85 days

Litter Size: 1-2, rarely 3 or 4

Birth weight: 250 g (8.8 oz)

Age at Weaning: May continue to nurse for 6 months; take solid food at 8 weeks.

Typical Life Expectancy:
Managed care: median life expectancy of about 15 to 16 years

Feature Facts

  • Nicknamed the "ghost cat" for its secretive ways
  • Hunt at night
  • Frequently solitary
  • Mark territories by clawing, urinating, or defecating on objects
  • Powerful tree climbers
  • Breed year-round
  • Hunted by the millions until the 1980s, when commercial trade in skins was banned
  • Largest populations in Brazil and Argentina

About This Fact Sheet

© 2011-2019 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Minor updates in April 2015. Taxonomy updated Mar 2019. Population estimates updated Apr 2019.

How to cite: Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) Fact Sheet. c2011-2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd].
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Jan 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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