No, that’s not the most beautiful house cat you’ve ever seen. That sleek and striking coat belongs to the ocelot — a wildcat twice the size of the domestic pet that may be curled up on the couch next to you.
These cats prowl most of Central and South America as well as portions of Mexico and even in the southeastern tip of Texas. But they’re nocturnal and rather elusive — the masters of disappearing in dense forests and brush. If you ever catch a glimpse of an ocelot in its native habitat, consider yourself lucky.
One animal, a variety of homes
Interestingly, the proud and innovative ocelot can adapt to different habitats as long as its primary needs (thick forest cover, water, and a food source) are met.
In South and Central America, the rain forest makes an ideal home. Here, ocelots find shelter during the day, snoozing out of sight in bushes, the hollow of a tree trunk, or even up on a sturdy tree branch.
At night, the real action begins. They pursue their prey on the forest floor or from up in the trees, using their vantage point to pounce on birds, snakes, lizards, rodents, or frogs. They can also reside in coastal mangrove forests where dense cover and a buffet of tasty aquatic prey are guaranteed.