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Are Ocelots Dangerous & Do They Attack? (How to Handle It)

Ocelots most often avoid confrontation with humans as they are more afraid of us than we are of them. You shouldn’t provoke ocelots, as they are capable of seriously harming you.

Ocelots are not the biggest wildcats, but they are strong enough that they should be treated with caution. 

Twice as big as housecats, they are persistent attackers with a strong bite and fast pounce.

But how dangerous are ocelots to humans really? In this article, we will explore the question of how dangerous ocelots are, and when are you most likely to get attacked.

Are Ocelots Dangerous?

Normally, you shouldn’t be afraid of ocelots. They are generally uninterested in attacking you, but if they do attack, they have a strong bite, sharp claws, and fast speed.

Ocelots do not see us as prey, so they generally avoid us. 

On the off chance that an ocelot does attack you, it will use the following weapons:

  1. Biting
  2. Clawing
  3. Running
  4. Climbing
  5. Swimming

1. Biting

Ocelot Biting
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For their size, ocelots have a strong bite.[1] Their jaws have evolved to kill prey instantly.

You need to be especially wary of their sharp and pointed incisor teeth. Although they are not strong enough to outright kill you, an ocelot bite causes serious harm and bleeding.

2. Clawing

Ocelots have sharp and retractable claws. This is so that their claws remain sharp.[2]

They most likely won’t tear any chunks of meat off of you, but they may inflict deep cuts.

3. Running

Ocelots’ top speed is 38 mph. This is more than twice the average speed (15 mph) of athletes.[3] Even the fastest people out there is no match for the ocelot. They will catch up with you easily.

4. Climbing

Ocelot Climbing
Image Source

Ocelots are adept climbers, as they hunt for prey animals in trees in the wild. Climbing a tree is a bad way to escape ocelots, as even monkeys have problems avoiding them there.

5. Swimming

Although generally avoid swimming, ocelots do not hate the water like other cats.[4] They are great swimmers and will most likely catch you if you try to escape in the water.

Do Ocelots Attack Humans?

Ocelot attacks are rare. If they are not provoked, they will leave you alone. Even then, they would most likely run away instead of attack, as they are shy and reclusive.

Wildcats are generally shy and avoid human contact. Ocelots are no exception.[5]

There aren’t even any confirmed human deaths as a result of an ocelot attack.[6] Although they mostly shy away if you intrude on their personal space, you shouldn’t provoke them. 

There is always a risk of them showing aggression.

Do Ocelots Attack Humans
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How Do Ocelots Attack?

Ocelots pounce on their targets with the intention of killing them as fast as possible. They are also persistent, meaning if the first attack is repelled, they will get up and attack again.

They tend to attack vulnerable parts of the body and are able to sense pressure points:

  • Armpit
  • Inside of elbows
  • Groin
  • Neck
  • Knees[7]

How Often Do Ocelots Attack Humans?

Ocelots don’t go out of their way to attack humans, so attacks are rare. Provocation, intrusion on their territory, or endangering their kittens can cause ocelots to become aggressive.

Any of the following five reasons are cause for an ocelot to become hostile and attack you:

  1. Provocation
  2. Intrusion on their territory
  3. Endangering their kittens
  4. Starvation
  5. Rabies

1. Provocation

Ocelots Provocation
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Like all wild animals, you should not provoke an ocelot. All living creatures have a survival instinct. If an ocelot feels backed into a corner, it won’t hesitate to attack you.

2. Intrusion on Their Territory

Ocelots are territorial animals. They will give you warning signs, like growling or hissing if they feel you have entered their territory.

Male ocelots’ territories can be as big as 34.8 mi2, so although it is unlikely you will meet one in the wild if one spots you and growls at you, back away

3. Endangering Their Kittens

You should never touch baby ocelots if you find them in the wild. Female ocelots are highly protective of them and you never know if they are around.

Female ocelots will attack predators if they feel their kittens are threatened or in danger.

4. Starvation

Ocelots Starvation
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Normally, ocelots do not eat humans, but if there is no other food around and they haven’t eaten in days, the risk of attacks is higher.

This is rare though. Ocelots always prefer smaller targets. If they are starving, they will most likely go looking for hares or other small mammals and rodents. Still, a starved ocelot is a dangerous ocelot.

5. Rabies

Rabid ocelots are unpredictable and far more likely to attack, even if unprovoked. 

If you see an ocelot and notice any of the following, avoid them:

  • Unusual friendliness
  • Unusual calmness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Twitching or wobbly movement
  • Foaming or drooling mouth
  • Hydrophobia

Do Ocelots Eat Humans?

No, ocelots normally don’t eat humans. Specific circumstances, like extreme starvation or finding an already dead human might cause an ocelot to eat humans.

If an ocelot finds a dead human body, it might take bites out of it until they are full. Ocelots are picky eaters, and are unlikely to eat a body they find unsanitary.

They clean off what they can, but they might avoid rotten meat altogether.

Ocelots will also attack humans if they are starving and see no other option. It rarely comes to this and ocelots nearly never succeed. Their physique isn’t suited to a fight against us, as we are bigger and stronger.

Do Ocelots Eat Humans
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What Do Ocelots Normally Eat?

In the wild, ocelots normally eat small animals that weigh less than 2.2 pounds. But, they attack bigger prey from time to time. When they have eaten enough (about 1.9 pounds of meat), they hide the carcass for later consumption.

Animals ocelots normally eat include:

  • Rodents
  • Reptiles
  • Amphibians
  • Birds
  • Mammals
  • Fishes

Is It Dangerous to Own an Ocelot?

Ocelots are exotic and keeping them is dangerous due to their aggression, messiness, and predatory instincts. It takes patience and extensive training to train ocelots to become well-behaved pets.

Only professionals and experts should take care of ocelots in captivity or as pets. They playfight to practice for later hunting, so they do not hold back.

They can cause serious damage during playing, as they don’t differentiate between a human hand, a toy, or another ocelot.

Can Ocelots Be Friendly?

Ocelots can be affectionate if they are taught properly. You need to teach them from a young age that they shouldn’t harm you even while playing. 

You need to be patient as well, as ocelots are wild by nature. It takes a lot of effort to tame them.

Ocelots brought up by humans are much more friendly than ocelots originally living in the wild. Some mothers even let their caretakers touch and carry their babies.

Are Humans Dangerous To Ocelots?

Humans are generally more dangerous to ocelots than ocelots are to us. Hunting and collisions threaten individual ocelots, while ocelot populations as a whole are suffering from habitat loss due to human activity.

A study on ocelots between 1983 and 2002 showed that 45% of 44 male ocelot deaths were caused by collisions with vehicles.[7]

Human activities such as deforestation are also a leading cause of the ocelot population decreasing. They almost went extinct in the past due to hunting.

ScopeThreats due to human activity
Individual ocelotVehicle collision, hunting for fur, hunting for the preservation of livestock
Ocelot populationDeforestation, agricultural advances, urbanization of rural areas


While ocelots are dangerous hunters, they generally avoid humans and will not attack you unprovoked. If they do attack, they most likely won’t be able to kill you, but their sharp teeth and retractable claws are more than enough to harm you.

Humans pose more danger to ocelots than the other way around. Still, there are circumstances when an ocelot is likely to attack, and it’s important to back away and not provoke it further to avoid confrontation.


Do Ocelots Attack Pets?

Yes, ocelots attack pets. Although not their priority target, small dogs and small cats may become victims of ocelot attacks. Pets like hamsters and chinchillas should not be kept around ocelots as they consider them prey animals.

How Strong is an Ocelot Bite?

An ocelot’s bite force could be as high as 222 pounds. This makes them incredibly strong biters, especially for their small stature. Their bite is so strong because ocelots evolved to be able to kill their target instantly.

Do Ocelots Get Rabies?

Yes, ocelots can get rabies. A rabid ocelot will behave unusually, like moving uncertainly and getting close to humans. Rabid ocelots should never be approached as they are unpredictable and their bite is infectious.

Do Ocelots Attack Children?

Yes, ocelots occasionally attack children. While even a seven years old can be heavier than an ocelot, they are more muscular and can cause serious harm. Ocelot attacks on children rarely happen, but exercise caution in ocelot-infested areas.

About Misfit Animals Staff

The Misfit Animals staff consists of animal lovers, pet enthusiasts, veterinarians, zoologists, and other animal experts. Our goal is to provide people with information on proper animal care.

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