Can You Own A Pet Ocelot?

Do ocelots make good pets? The answer is no. Even though they are one of the smallest wild cats breeds. Ocelots behave very differently to house cats and are very hard to care for. Keeping exotic cats as pets is a big commitment that has to be thought about carefully.

Portrait of an ocelot

Wild animals are fascinating and look cool, but it’s wrong to keep them in captivity. That said, I can fully understand that people want to own a pet ocelot. They are just too cute and the color pattern of their fur makes them look like a miniature jaguar or leopard.

However, this article is written to convince you, that a “normal” cat breed would be a better choice. If you are open to this idea, do a quick research about Bengal cats that look like their wild relatives.

Is It Legal To Own An Ocelot?

The legal status of pet ocelots depends on the state or country you live in. Western countries like the USA and Canada often have strict regulations.

Some years ago the ocelot was listed as an endangered species. This fact made ownership as well as trading, hunting and transporting the animal highly illegal.

Today the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has listed the species as of least concern what gives pet owners some scope.

The states in the US have very different regulations regarding exotic cats. While few don’t make any prescriptions at all, others completely ban the ownership. Most states will require a permit or license.

What you need to get those permits is also very different. Some will ask for money only and some want to see that you have knowledge about and experience with the species you want to own. Be prepared that someone will visit your home to make sure you have everything the pet needs set up in the right way.

As a general rule, I can say that zoos and rehabbers are the only facilities that can have a license easily.

Are Ocelots Domesticated?

Ocelot sleeping on a tree

No, ocelots are not domesticated. And they will never be at least not as long as you live. Many people match up the terms domestication and taming. But both stand for completely different things.

Taming means that an animal gets used to interaction with humans and will tolerate their presence. Domestication goes much further. A domesticated animal can’t do well in life without human companionship.

Just think about our house pets like cats and dogs. And now imagine they don’t have someone who cares for them and they have to survive on their own. I think you get the point.

The domestication of dogs took over 10,000 years of selective breeding. It’s a process that doesn’t happen in three, four or five generations.

You might see or have an ocelot that looks domesticated, but wild instincts can kick in at every time and they are unpredictable.

Are Ocelots Dangerous?

Dangerous ocelot

The previous section about domestication often leads to the question of whether an animal is dangerous or not. Ocelots are small and you can’t compare their aggressiveness towards humans with panthers or other big cats.

That being said, you shouldn’t underestimate them either. Especially young children who still have to learn how to treat pets the right way might be attacked. When an ocelot feels threatened, provoked or cornered it will definitely defend itself.

You will be surprised at how strong a full-grown ocelot really is. Even though its size can be compared to a large house cat or a small to medium-sized dog breed.

Temperament And Behavior Of Pet Ocelots

Ocelots in general have a friendly temperament. Like most cats, they are playful. What sounds positive at first might be a drawback as well. The cats are extremely needy and shout for attention all the time.

They barely can be left alone and will start to cry immediately when their human is not around. This also can reinforce destructive behavior that all wild cats tend towards.

Ocelot kittens stay longer with their mother than other cat breeds do. Kittens that are meant to become pets will often be separated too early. That can lead to behavioral problems when they become older.

That said, wild cats, even when they are small like ocelots, cheetahs or bobcats come with many challenges. Owners must be very calm when it comes to their belongings like carpets, furniture and everything that is in the reach of the cat.

Apart from destructive behavior ocelots will scent mark all the things that they think are theirs. The urine of wild cats is very smelly and you will have problems cleaning things up.

You Can’t Keep Them Indoors All The Time

Ocelots need to be outside your house regularly. The problem is that you can’t let them roam through the neighborhood either. Ocelots are constantly hunting and wildlife, as well as pets in your environment, are on their list of potential prey.

The conclusion is that you would need a large outside enclosure. Experts recommend at least 8 square meters. But that is not enough if you don’t have more space to let them roam frequently.

The habitat needs to include many trees and possibilities to climb as well as a pond. The most important aspect is, that it needs to be escape-prove. A high fence that cats can’t climb is the only possibility.

It’s not only that you need enough space for all this but it also comes with high costs. Exotic cats are nothing for people with a tight budget.

Price Of Pet Ocelots

Young ocelot kitten

According to Big Cat Rescue, you would have to spend anything between $1700 to $15000 on a pet ocelot. The exact price depends on the character of the kittens or babies as well as their color pattern.

Only a few breeders exist in the US due to their status as endangered species a few years ago.

However, the animal itself is pricy as you now know. But the real costs of owning a pet ocelot start after you found one for sale. The license you need in most states isn’t for free.

Adjustments you would need to make to your house are often enormous. After that, you would have to search for a veterinarian who is willing to take your pet. Not as finding one would be difficult enough, the rates they charge for exotic animals are usually higher than for typical house pets.

Compared to the other things you have to provide, the food your cat eats is almost nothing.