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(Leopardus pardalis) The name ocelot is from the Mexican word tlatocelotl, meaning field-tiger.



The ocelot is a medium-sized member of the "big cats family," being up to 4 feet long, with a 15-inch tail, and weighing up to 35 pounds.

The short-haired coat varies considerably in color. It may be from pale gray to grayish yellow or deep warm brown, blotched with large brown black-bordered spots and there are black streaks round the head and neck.

Distribution and Habitat

The ocelot is found from Paraguay northwards through South America and Central America into the coastal regions of Mexico. It lives in a range of habitats, including rain forest, montane forest, thick bush, semi-deserts, coastal marsh, and along river banks, but is never found in open country.

range of the ocelot

Hunting Habits

Although it can climb well the ocelot normally hunts on the forest floor. In confines its hunting to a more or less fixed territory which it defends against its own kind. An ocelot will prey on almost any animal it can overpower -- rats, mice and other rodents, monkeys, small deer, birds, reptiles, etc. Prey is hunted by stalking, and is killed with a single bite to the neck.


Mating can occur during any time of the year. One or two cubs are born in a den after a gestation period of 79 to 85 days. The male helps raise the cubs by bringing the mother food. Cubs are weaned at seven weeks, and disperse from their birth territories at about 2 years.

Other Habits and Behaviors

Ocelots are nocturnal and solitary.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Mammalia
order Carnivora
family Felidae
genus & species Leopardus pardalis

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The Robinson Library >> Family Felidae

This page was last updated on June 12, 2018.