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Pet Ocelot: Do Ocelots Make Good Pets?

Owning ocelots is illegal in some countries, while you need a permit in others. They are wild animals by nature and generally don’t make good pets. You shouldn’t keep ocelots as pets if you aren’t a professional or fully prepared.

Ocelots are exotic wildcats of the Americas, so it’s natural that some people are curious about keeping them as pets.

But they don’t make easy pets. If you want to keep a pet without preparations, permits, and expensive supplies, you will be better off with a more conventional pet.

This article will prepare you for the difficulties of owning a pet ocelot, guide you on how to get one, and talk about whether they are a good pet for you.

Pet Ocelot

Ocelots are hard and expensive to maintain, and they rarely come to cuddle with you. They can be affectionate, but it’s a lot of work to achieve that.

The attraction of owning an ocelot is that they’re exotic. There are fewer than 100 ocelots living in the US, so it’s especially tempting to keep them as a pet there.[1]

You must get ready for a different experience of pet-owning when keeping an ocelot. They’re much more active and grow twice as big as housecats. 

They are also more aggressive and grow bigger than smaller dogs.

Pet Ocelot

Do Ocelots Make Good Pets?

Ocelots can make good pets, but they don’t for most people. You need to take both the pros and cons into consideration. While ocelots are exotic and playful, they are also aggressive and destructive.

Only after considering the drawbacks of owning an ocelot should you opt to get one as a pet.

Exotic, playful, long life expectancyAggressive, expensive, destructive

Pros of Owning an Ocelot

Ocelots are exotic wildcats. With proper care, you can have a playful and fun-loving animal for a long time.

Ocelots Are Exotic

Ocelots are only native to the Americas and are closely associated with rainforests. It’s enticing to own such an unusual and exotic animal as a pet.

They Are Playful

Ocelots like to play. If you bond with your ocelot from a young age, it will play with you as a housecat would.

Ocelots Have a Long Life Expectancy

With proper care, ocelots can live up to 20 years, with the oldest ever ocelot being 28 years old. If you’re looking for a long-time pet, ocelots might be for you.

Pros of Owning an Ocelot

Cons of an Ocelot

Ocelots are wildcats by nature. You can teach them as much as you can, but their aggressive and destructive instincts will always be present.

Ocelots Are Aggressive

Ocelots are predators in the wild. They evolved to be territorial hunters, so they get aggressive if you don’t respect their boundaries.

Ocelots Are Expensive

Keeping any exotic animal is expensive, and ocelots are no exception. If you don’t have at least $20,000 annually for a pet, you shouldn’t get an ocelot.

Ocelots Are Destructive

Even if they grew up in a household, ocelots aren’t used to confined spaces. They’re twice as big as housecats, so it’s better to keep them outside so that they don’t cause much of a mess inside.

6 Things You Should Know Before Getting a Pet Ocelot

There are a few facts wannabe ocelot owners should know beforehand. These include their size, habits, life stages, and more.

Before you decide to get a pet ocelot, you need to be aware of these six facts.

There are six things you need to know before getting a pet ocelot:

  1. Ocelots are big
  2. Ocelots are solitary and territorial
  3. Ocelots are active at night
  4. Ocelots have three life stages
  5. Ocelots are messy.
  6. Ocelots lose their affection

1. Ocelots Are Big

Ocelots Are Big

Ocelots are twice as big as housecats. While the cuddly kittens can fit in your palm and only weigh about 12 ounces, adult ocelots grow to be quite sizeable.

Male ocelots can be as heavy as 39 pounds and females can be 25 pounds. They grow up to 40 inches long.

2. Ocelots Are Solitary and Territorial

Ocelots are territorial animals. They’re also solitary animals, meaning they rarely appreciate the company of other ocelots or humans.

3. Ocelots Are Active at Night

Ocelots Are Active at Night

Ocelots rest throughout the day and become active around sunset. This is because they’re used to hunting at night in the wild and conserving their energy.

4. Ocelots Have Three Life Stages

The three life stages of ocelots’ are called juvenile, subadult, and adult. They are considered adults at 2 years old.

5. Oceltos Are Messy

Ocelot feces are especially stinky. They also use their feces to mark their territories, as well as other bodily fluids, like urine. They also shed heavily.

6. Ocelots Lose Their Affection

Ocelots Lose Their Affection
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No matter how hard you try, ocelots might lose their trust and affectionate nature towards you. This is especially true for male ocelots after they mated.

How to Get a Pet Ocelot

Keeping ocelots requires a permit in some countries. You need to fulfill specific requirements based on where you live. In the US, there are only four states that allow you to keep them without a license.

You can buy ocelots online or at exotic animal markets. But you need the necessary permits first in most countries. The process is different in every place, so you must check with your local authorities beforehand.

The process to get a license is also different based on your residence. You can read about the specific laws about owning exotic pets on your government’s website.[2]

Take extra care when deciding on your provider, as many of them trade ocelots illegally.

How to Get a Pet Ocelot
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Where to Buy a Pet Ocelot?

Ocelots are generally not traded as pets on the internet. But, there are special markets and shops where you can find them for sale.

The illegal pet trade is an issue, so you’ll need to look into what source you buy from.[3] Ask to see your provider’s permit that allows them to trade exotic pets.

How to Get an Ocelot Permit

To get a permit to own ocelots, you need to apply at your local council. This can be free, but generally isn’t, and the price of a permit can range from around 200$ to 600$.

There might be extra steps you need to take, but some requirements are generally present in each procedure:

  • Experience with wild animals
  • Owning wild animals before getting a permit
  • Yearly renewal of permit
  • Insurance coverage[4]

Countries and States You Can Have an Ocelot Without Permit

There are a few countries and states that don’t regulate the ownership of wild animals, including ocelots.

Here is a comparative analysis of the private ownership of ocelots (accurate as of June 2013).[5]

BannedAustria, Denmark, Greece, Russia, Thailand
License neededBrazil, China, United Kingdom, India, Japan, Malaysia
No license neededSouth Africa, USA (see list below)

There are only four states in the US that don’t require you to have a license to keep pet ocelots:

  1. Alabama
  2. Nevada
  3. North Carolina
  4. Wisconsin

You should still talk to your local authorities about laws on ocelot ownership.

Countries and States You Can Have an Ocelot Without Permit

How to Take Care of Pet Ocelots

To raise an ocelot, you need to take special care of them. It takes determination, constant attention, experience, and a professional attitude.

For both your and your pet ocelot’s health and safety, you need to have the necessary mindset and qualifications. 

If you take proper care of your ocelot, they will be affectionate and playful partners in your everyday life.


If you want to own an ocelot, you need to be sure about it. They are wildcats and will behave as such.

You need to prepare for their aggressivity and predatory instincts, as well as the expenses of upkeeping them. Only after you’re certain about owning an ocelot should you decide to buy one


Ocelots are independent animals, but they need attention. As they grow up, you need to teach them what not to do.

They are playful and you need to entertain their active nature daily. Teaching them proper playing etiquette so they won’t hurt you is also a must.[6]


How to Take Care of Pet Ocelots

Not only do you need permits for pet ocelots, but you also need to be experienced. Owning a pet cat first is a good start, but experience with other wildcats is recommended.

Seek advice from professionals and apply for some work in your local zoo. Experience with ocelots is invaluable if you want to keep one as a pet.

What Do Pet Ocelots Need?

Pet ocelots need conditions that they normally find in the wild. This includes a warm climate, a lot of space, and exercise.

As wildcats, ocelots are the happiest when they’re outside. They tend to be destructive and frustrated in confined spaces.


Ocelots live in tropical, subtropical, and semi-arid habitats in the wild. They mostly inhabit the Amazon, which has an average temperature of ~72°F and a humidity level of ~80%. You must provide them with similar conditions.

Ocelots can get sick in colder or warmer climates, as their immune system isn’t suited for those conditions.

They’re also suited to live in dense vegetation, as they have adapted to these habitats in the wild.

Ocelot habitats in the wild include:

  • Rainforests
  • Brushlands
  • Thornscrubs
  • Savannas
  • Mangroves


What Do Pet Ocelots Need
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Ocelots need a lot of space to move around. In the wild, they have extensive territories. Male ocelot territories range between 2.4-56 mi2 and female territories are between 0.62-47 mi2 in the wild.[7]

The minimum territory needed for pet ocelots is around 800 square feet. Any smaller than this can make your ocelot frustrated. 

If you have two ocelots in a smaller enclosure, they will become aggressive towards each other. 


Ocelots move and hunt daily in the wild, traveling for up to 12 hours a day. They need this movement to maintain a healthy weight and muscle mass.

As it won’t be able to move or hunt as much as in the wild, you need to keep your pet ocelot busy. Daily playtime is necessary.

Expanding the enclosure vertically is also helpful. You can plant trees or install big cat trees to keep your ocelot occupied.

What Do Pet Ocelots Eat?

Pet ocelots need the same food as wild ocelots. This includes anything they can catch, like rodents, reptiles, and amphibians. Ocelots eat around 1.9 pounds of food per day.

Ocelots are carnivores, so you should only feed them meat. 

Pet ocelots’ diet should be supplemented with taurine and calcium, as well as a mixture of organ- and muscle meat.

What Animals Do Pet Ocelots Eat?


You should feed your pet ocelot similarly to wild ocelots’ diet. Some animals may be harder to find and more expensive.

You don’t need to buy every animal wild ocelots eat. In the wild, their most hunted prey are rodents, so a diet consisting of mostly rodents is sufficient.

An optimal diet for your pet ocelot should consist of:

  • Rodents
  • Reptiles (mostly iguanas)
  • Fish and crustaceans
  • Small mammals
  • Birds

How Much Food Do Pet Ocelots Eat?

Ocelots in the wild eat 1.2-1.9 pounds of meat per day. Feeding ocelots over this amount might result in them becoming overweight.

There isn’t much risk in overfeeding, though. Ocelots hide the carcass for later consumption if they had enough to eat.

How Much Does an Ocelot Cost?

Ocelots can cost as much as $15,000, but prices may vary on where you want to buy one.

Owning a pet ocelot is costly. The price for cubs ranges between $10,000 and $15,000.

This does not include the price you have to pay for a permit.[8]

There are also additional expenses. It’s costly to maintain a big enclosure and feed ocelots daily. 

You can end up paying up to $20,000 a year to take care of them.[9]


Ocelots generally don’t make good pets. They are big, messy, and predatory wildcats by nature. Caring for them takes extensive attention and costs a lot of money. Average pet owners shouldn’t buy ocelots.

Only the most determined and prepared people should keep a pet ocelot. If you care for them and work hard, ocelots can be one of the most affectionate and playful pet friends you ever had.


Can Ocelots Live With Dogs?

No ocelots can’t live with dogs. Ocelots are territorial and dislike the presence of most animals that enter their territory. Ocelots might also attack smaller dogs.

Can Ocelots Live Inside?

You shouldn’t keep ocelots inside. They’re destructive animals that need a lot of space to roam around. For both your and the ocelot’s sake, keep your pet ocelot in an outside enclosure.

Do Ocelots Like Water?

Yes, ocelots like water. Unlike most cats, they aren’t afraid of swimming and occasionally hunt in water. If you want, you can install a small pond in your ocelot enclosure for them to swim around or to cool off.

Can I Feed Ocelots Fruit and Vegetables?

No, ocelots shouldn’t be fed fruits and vegetables. They’re carnivores and only consume meat products. If you offer your pet ocelot fruit or vegetable, they will most likely reject it.

Who Was The Most Famous Ocelot Owner?

The most famous ocelot owner was Salvador Dalí. The Spanish surrealist painter had his pet ocelot, Babou in the 60s. Dalí said Colombia’s head of state gave him the animal.

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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