Is it a wild cat? Is it domestic? It’s often difficult to tell when one comes upon the ocicat. The cat looks fierce and wild. It is almost an exact replica of the wild ocelot that roams the southwestern United States and Central and South America. The truth of the matter is that while the ocicat looks like it could come straight from the wild to pounce upon its prey, the cat breed is completely domestic. In fact, the ocicat is one of the most sociable, gentle and adoring of all cats. Its distinguished black spots remind one of a leopard or an ocelot, but the markings came about by accident when a breeder hoped to mix the Siamese cat’s pointed coloring with the short haired, ticked coat, regal looking Abyssinian cat. The result was a wild looking short haired cat with distinct markings and bone structure and a sleek yet powerful body with an intelligent mind and a loving and gentle personality. The ocicat is one of the most popular cats in the world. The breed makes a great show cat as well as a lovable family pet that is a joy to live with. Here are 20 fun facts you didn’t know about the ocicat.
Are they wild?
While it appears that the ocicat is a wild cat. It is not. The cat breed looks similar to the wild ocelot. The small, svelte wild cat is found in the southwestern United States and in parts of South and Central South America. The ocicat was named because of its resemblance to the ocelot, but the ocicat is entirely domestic. There’s not a bit of wild cat in its DNA. The ocicat came about through breeding three types of domestic cats over the course of several years. The first cross breeding attempt was between the Siamese cat and the Abyssinian cat. Later the American Shorthair cat was added to the mix. The result: a wild looking and fierce looking cat with a gentle, adoring and intelligent disposition.
The ocicat breed came about by accident surprising its first breeders. In 1964 Berkley, Michigan cat breeder, Virginia Daly wanted to try to create a short haired cat with color pointing and interesting markings. At the time, breeding with the intelligent and beautifully color pointed Siamese was widely popular in the United States and Great Britain. The Siamese cat was easy to breed and the resulting litters often carried the desirable traits of the Siamese cat including coloring, intelligence and sociability. The first generation of Virginia Daly’s kittens surprised her. The kittens appeared with spotted ivory coats. It was the second generation of Daly’s cross bred kittens that became the ocicat. The kittens had a darker coat with distinct black spots. The bodies were slender yet sleek and powerful. The wedge shaped heads held large pointed ears and large almond shaped eyes. One kitten, Tonga, in particular stood out in the litter. Virgina’s daughter pointed out that the kitten looked just like the endangered ocelot. The first official ocicat was born.
Tonga, the first ocicat, was neutered and sold as a pet, but his legacy would continue. An article about the kitten appeared in a Detroit newspaper along with a picture of Tonga. This soon was brought to the attention of Dr. Clyde Keeler, a noted Harvard University geneticist. Dr. Keeler was intrigued and began to research the genetics of the breeding program. He would add the American Shorthair cat to the breeding mix of the Siamese cat and the Abyssinian. The result were litters where the kittens appeared more and more ocelot-like in appearance. The cats maintained their domestic personalities contrasting witht heir fierce, wild looks. The new breed was registered with the Cat Fanciers Association, Inc. In 1987 the breed won the title of championship status in the club and became eligible for national and international cat shows.
Wild in appearance, the ocicat lives up to its name. It’s sometimes called the “Domestic Ocelot”. Aside from its distinctive spots, the ocicat has other features that appear wild like. The medium to large body is sleek yet muscular and powerful. The body is svelte and sturdy. The sturdiness comes from the American Shorthair cat. The graceful ocicat is heavier than it appears. The cat’s weigh up to 15 pounds. It’s powerful legs are muscular. The tail is long. The ocicat’s head is wedge shaped and longer than it is wider. The cat has large pointed ears with tufts of hair that tilt at a 45 degree angle giving it more of a wild appearance. The almond shaped eyes are large. The eyes can be just about any color except for blue. The cat’s paws are large, oval shaped and powerful despite the gracefulness of the breed.
The most defining characteristic of the ocicat is its black spots. The spots are thumb print shaped and lay against a light background. The spots run in rows along spine and rear of the body and extend down the legs of the cat. Ringed markings extend around the tail ending in a dark tip. Broken spots appear as a necklace around the ocicat’s neck and appear as bracelets around the legs. Spot patterns extend across the body and onto the stomach. The ocicat has markings around its eyes and cheeks. The forehead features an M shaped marking. Some ocicat’s markings are not just spots but can be ticked, tabby, pointed or solid.
Although the first generations of ocicats were ivory, later generations can be any of 12 different colors and color combinations. The primary colors are tawny, chocolate and cinnamon. Added to this, the ocicat can have a coat of diluted primary colors. These colors appear as blue, lilac or fawn. Silver combinations coat color are the most desired. The ocicat can be one of several different silver combinations, making the breed look even more wild like. These silver combinations include black or ebony spotted, chocolate spotted or cinnamon spotted. The diluted colors can also feature in silver combinations. These include blue spotted, lilac spotted and fawn spotted coats. As the ocicat has developed as a breed over the past several decades, many cats have developed a darker, orange tinged coat making the cat look more like its namesake, the wild ocelot.
Aside from its notable spots and color combinations, the ocicat’s coat is distinctive. The hair is short. It has a satin texture. It is smooth and shines beautifully. The coat lies close to the skin and is not woolly. Many people assume that the ocicat is hypoallergenic. This isn’t true although the ocicat is listed as one of the top 10 non-shedding cats. People with cat hair allergies will be affected by the ocicat. However, these short haired cats have minimal shedding which is a nice perk. With proper nutrition and supplements to keep the hair shiny, weekly grooming is a great idea. This will minimize shedding and keep the coat looking shiny and healthy. Fortunately, the ocicat’s gentle and adoring demeanor will allow for time spent being groomed in the lap of his or her owner.
Despite its powerful body and wild appearance, the ocicat lives up to the fact that it is purely a domestic cat. The cat has an enjoyable disposition. The ocicat is gentle, playful and outgoing. The cat is devoted and loyal to its owner. It also adapts well to others so it makes a great family pet. The ocicat will follow its family around the home and loves to be held or carried on a person’s shoulder. The ocicat also takes on other cats and even dogs very well. However, the ocicat’s outgoing personality makes it a natural leader. The cat will most likely carry on this role with other pets in the household. This does mean that the ocicat won’t be too clingy with its primary caretaker. The confident ocicat is intelligent. It is easy to train and reward oriented. The ocicat will enjoy playing fetch and other games. The cats can even be trained to walk with a leash. The cat can also be trained to speak and meow on command. The ocicat does very well with agility games for play or in cat shows. The ocicat often enjoys playing in water if exposed to it early on. The downside with the ocicat is that it so enjoys company that it does not like to be left alone for long periods of time. If you own an ocicat, you should consider owning two so neither will be left in loneliness.
When properly cared for, the ocicat’s health will be generally good. The cat is not prone to many health problems and often lives a full and happy life up to 15 to 18 years. However, as with any animal, there are some genetic diseases that the ocicat could develop. The cat is prone to liver or kidney problems. Amyloidasis is a hereditary liver or kidney condition that can develop over time. The disease shows itself as lesions that appear on the organs that can lead to liver or kidney dysfunction. The inherited disease can unfortunately eventually lead to organ failure. Another genetic abnormality in the ocicat is pyruvate kinase deficiency, a form of anemia. The ocicat could develop hypertonic cardiomyopathy. This type of heart disease affects the left ventricle in cats afflicted with it. The disease inhibits the ability of the heart to effectively pump blood into the aorta. Finally, ocicats can be prone to teeth and gum problems particularly periodontal disease.
As with any pet, the ocicat requires regular veterinary care. This includes annual check ups and all necessary vaccinations. The ocicat requires proper nutrition. A high quality cat food is necessary to keep the cat in good health. The first two ingredients in any pet food should be meat and not meat byproducts. The food should also contain the essential amino acid, Taurine which is necessary for a cat to have good vision and heart health. The ocitat should be served dry food twice a day (about 1/3 in the morning and another 1/3 cup in the evening). As with any pet, the ocicat should have a constant supply of fresh water. The ocicat responds well to positive reinforcement. While this reward should always involve praise, the adoring family pet deserves a food treat once in a awhile. Treats should not amount to more than 5% of the ocicat’s daily nutrition. Healthy treats include canned tuna or lean cooked chicken or turkey, cooked eggs, cheese, easy to digest fruit such as cantaloupe, or steamed vegetables. Of course, the ocicat requires a clean accessible liter box.
As mentioned above, the ocicat should be brushed once a week to limit shedding and maintain a healthy shiny coat. As with any cat, the tips of the ocicat’s claws should be trimmed periodically to prevent scratching. The ocicat’s teeth and gums should be cleaned daily. This can be done gently with a special cat toothbrush and toothpaste or even with a damp cloth. The ocicat, like most other cats, does a good job of keeping him or herself clean. However, a bath may be necessary at times to eliminate dirt or smells. Fortunately, the ocicat tends to enjoy soaking in water. To keep the ocicat’s coat nice and shiny, supplements are hepful. A special cat supplement that will help maintain the ocicat’s healthy coat will include flaxseed, borage seed and fish oil which have omega 3, 6 and 9. Vitamin E will help keep the ocicat’s coat healthy and shiny. The supplement may also include ALA and DHA that enhance the cat’s brain health.
The ocicat is an independent cat, but the pet does enjoy being entertained. If left alone for long periods of time, it’s wise to have a companion pet for the ocicat, especially another cat that won’t mind the ocicat’s innate leadership tendencies. It’s important to remember that the ocicat is intelligent. When choosing a toy for the cat, a fetching toy or batting toy is great, but more complex toys will keep the cat occupied for lengths of time. Ocicats respond well to agility and puzzle toys. Giving the cat a problem to solve will help stretch his or her attention span. The ocicat will relish fresh air. Periodically getting out of the house, the cat will thrive. Because the cat takes well to leashes, an outdoor walk can be an enjoyable experience. The cat loves a good sunbeam indoors though.
The exotic looking and sweet tempered ocicat is filled with personality. The cats are often featured in pop culture including movies and literature. A popular episode of Animal Planet’s “Too Cute!” show features an intelligent ocicat trying to keep other cats in line. The 2012 episode featured a Tuxedo Cat, Oreo, who befriends a skunk, Nellie. The pair go on adventures with Russian Blue kittens. An ocicat, Freckles, has to maintain control over the group so the kittens don’t get into too much trouble on their adventures. Ocicats were also famously featured in a YouTube clip for GQ Magazine featuring rapper 2 Chainz and DJ E Sudd. The pair visit cat enthusiast, Stacey Lebreton who shows off her pet ocicats. The ocicat can be seen just about everywhere in pop culture. The cats are often featured in literature, television and movies. The ocicat is a star on YouTube and in posters.
Breeders and Cost
When investigating the purchase of any pedigreed cat, great care should be taking when choosing a breeder. Reputable ocicat breeders belong to Breed Clubs and/or Councils. A good breeder will hold the kittens for 14 weeks until they are ready to live with their new families. This way, the kittens are physically and socially stable. They have received all of their initial vaccinations and are spayed or neutered. Kittens are recognized as Grand Champion (GC), Grand Premier (GP), National (N), National Breed (NB) or Regional (R) or Divisional (D) based on the kitten’s parentage. Kittens with championship parentage will also be classified with inherited agility titles and distinguished merit titles. When choosing a breeder on the Internet, be very careful and fully research the reviews. Many people have spent a good amount of money on a pedigreed ocicat kitten only to discover that the kitten is not healthy due to the environment it was raised in. You may have only 24 hours with the cat to return it if you decide there are health issues. The cost of a purebred ocicat averages $800, but often can range anywhere from $500 to more than $1000.
The ocicat was officially recognized by the Cat Fanciers Association in 1966, and two decades later would become eligible for showing. The development of the breed would take twenty years. In 1987 the ocicat achieved championship status and was able to be entered into cat shows. The intelligent cats are not only groomed to show off their wild appearance in the show ring, but the cats also do quite well in agility competitions. Ocicats that are shown must have traditional spots in the coat. The larger and more defined the spots are, the better the cat will perform in the show ring.
Instantly after it was cross bred, the ocicat was popular. The new breed was eye catching. Who wouldn’t want to own a cat that looks wild but is incredibly tame. Breeding the ocicat was very popular in the late twentieth century. It remains a popular breed to strengthen. In cat shows, the ocicat is valued for its appearance, intelligence and agility. The ocicat is popular in the United States and internationally today more than ever. The ocicat can be found just about anywhere in the world. They are beautiful. They are intelligent. They are fun loving.
Many attempts have been made over the last several decades to further cross breed the ocicat. It’s not an uncommon practice. One notable example resulted in the “Cheetoh”. In 2001 cat breeder Carol Drymon bred a Bengal cat with an ocicat hoping to create a thoroughly wild looking cat with a gentle domestic temperament. The result was a litter that looked like tiny little leopards. The new cross breed is eye catching and popular. The ocicat has also been successfully bred with the Egyptian Mau. Ocicats have been futher bred with Abyssinian cats to increase the cat’s exotic markings. The ocicat has also been bred with the manx, the Savannah and the Tabby.
Good Apartment Cat
Most cats are great pets for apartment and city living. The low maintenance pet usually does well when left alone. The litter box also allows for the cat to be left alone. Cats don’t take up too much space and spend most of the day lazing in a sunbeam or staring out the window. The ocicat, like most cats, makes a good pet for apartment or city living. However, the ocicat has quite a big personality and will become bored at some point. This could lead to mischief. Although particularly attached to its master, the ocicat can be very social. It’s a good idea to provide your ocicat with plenty of toys including toys that challenge them intellectually like puzzle cat toys. If your ocicat will be left alone regularly, its a good idea to have a companion pet, particularly another ocicat.
The ocicat is one of the most playful and active of all domestic cats. Owning an ocicat means you will need to spend time interacting with cat. Good toys for your ocicat include fetch toys and pouncing toys. Puzzle toys are great for the intelligent ocicat. They like to figure things out. An ocicat may be content playing with a dish of water. The great thing about playing with an ocicat is that it can be trained much like a dog. When offered rewards including praise and treats, the cat will quickly pick up on voice commands and perform tricks for you. As mentioned, the ocicat can become bored, so if left alone for any length of time, it’s a wise idea to provide a companion for your ocicat. Two ocicats will keep each other entertained for hours.
Naming your ocicat can be fun. Obviously, wild names suit the cat well. The original ocicat was named Tonga after all. Other common ocicat names include Savannah, Simba, Harley, Blaze, Coco, Mad Max and, of course, Kitty. Several cat loving celebrities proudly own ocicats. Singer Joni Mitchell has an ocicat named Nietzsche. Soap opera star Catherine Hickland loves to show off her ocicat, Spotikus. Whatever you name your ocicat, the cat is sure to live up to it with its amazing, fun loving personality and fierce, wild looks.