Not many people know this about me, but when I was little, and before my little brother was born, we owned an ocelot. Two of them, in fact. What is an ocelot, you say? It is a wild cat. Right now the ocelot is on the endangered species list. Ocelots range in color from light yellow to reddish gray, with dark spots and stripes. They have dark stripes on their cheeks and their tails have rings of dark fur. Ocelots are 20 to 40 inches long. Their tails are an additional 10 to 15 inches. Ocelots weigh between 20 and 25 pounds. An estimated 800,00 to 1.5 million are found worldwide. 80 to 120 are found in two isolated populations in Southeast Texas. (Texas was where we lived when we owned them) Ocelots can live 20 years in captivity, while in the wild they 7 to 10 years. Once ranging as far east as Arkansas and Louisiana, throughout Texas, Mexico, ocelots are currently found in extreme southern Texas and northeastern Mexico. They are also found in every country south of the United States except Chile. Ocelots live in a variety of habitats, ranging from mangrove forests, coastal marshes, Savannah grasslands, pastures, thorn scrub and tropical forests. All of these habitats provide only live in areas with dense vegetative cover. Ocelots are carnivores, they hunt and eat animals such as rodents, rabbits, young deer, birds, snakes and fish. Ocelots are strongly nocturnal, resting in trees or dense brush during the day. Ocelots are very active, traveling from one to five miles per night. Males usually travel further than females. They capture an average of one prey item for every 3.1 hours of travel. Following a 79 to 85 day gestation, young are born in litters of one to three. Kittens are independent after about one year, but may stay with their mother for an additional year. Here is a photo of an ocelot.
Pretty, right? We owned one that got sick and we got another one after we lost the sick one. We even had them in our home when we lived in base housing on Webb Air Force Base. The cat even had it's own room in our home. We kept the room locked and never let the cat out unless both my Mom and Dad were home. I remember I never could turn my back to the cat whenever I left the room and the cat loved to play with my Mother's hair. He would come up behind her and bat at her bobbed haircut. It was fun to watch.
I remember one time we thought someone broke into our home. We came home and there was ketchup all over the floor in our kitchen and the latch to the ocelots room was off. We think the person that broke into our home unlocked the ocelot's bedroom door and freaked out when they saw the cat and they took off. Luckily nothing was stolen and the cat was still in their room. Thankfully the person that broke in did not let the cat out of the house to scare the neighborhood. That would NOT have been cool.
We eventually had to find a new home for our ocelot because my mother was pregnant with my little brother and we didn't want the cat to hurt the baby. My parents are avid animal lovers and my mother is an artist. I remember my mother telling me stories about a mural she was painting at a local zoo in Texas. She had to enter the cage of a tiger and paint the mural. One day the tiger was not in a very cooperative mood and everyone thought the cat would not let my mother in that day to work on her mural. BUT, my mother has a soft touch and was willing to try anything. So, she entered to cage. She could tell she had to convince the cat that she was friendly and would not bother the cat. My mother happened to be wearing a cashmere sweater that the cat fell in love with. My mother let the cat check out her sweater while she finished up the mural. My mother never saw that sweater again.
Later on after we moved to Arizona, my parents became good friends with all of the zoo keepers at the Phoenix zoo. We would go down and see all the animals quite often. One time we were down at the zoo pretty late at night and we ended up in the feeding area with the elephants. This was right after a baby elephant was born. The zoo keeper let me have a late night ride on the back of the baby elephant. I will never forget that experience....ever! It was awesome. If you have never been around a baby elephant they are very hairy. They have hair all over their backs and they are very sweet. I must have rode on the back of that little elephant for over an hour that night. It was so cool!!! Not many people get a behind the scenes tour of the Phoenix zoo, much less the chance to feed and ride the animals.
Even though my childhood home was not considered a zoo with all kinds of animals, my parents instilled in all of us kids, a love, respect, and appreciation for all animals for which I am very grateful for.