Vital Stats:Life Span: 10 to 15 years
HistoryYou aren’t going dotty when you see an Ocicat. You are indeed seeing a small spotted cat, but he’s not wild. Far from it. The Ocicat was created through crosses between Siamese, Abyssinian and American Shorthair cats. He might be named after the ocelot, a small South American wild felid, but he’s all domestic cat. The Ocicat is one of those happy accidents that sometimes occur in cat breeding. In an attempt to achieve Abyssinian points in her Siamese cats, breeder Virginia Daly crossed a sealpoint Siamese and a ruddy Abyssinian in 1964. The resulting kittens looked like Abys, and when she crossed one of them with a Siamese, she got not only Aby-pointed Siamese but also one kitten who had an ivory-colored coat dotted with gold spots. She named him Tonga and sold him as a pet, but when repeat breedings produced more spotted kittens, they became the foundation of a new breed. American Shorthairs were also used in their development, to add greater size and bring in the silver color. Ocicats were recognized by the Cat Fanciers Association and The International Cat Association in 1987. They are also recognized by all other cat registries.
SizeThe Ocicat ranges in size from six to 15 pounds
PersonalityThe devoted and playful Ocicat loves people and will trail their footsteps through the house or ride on a shoulder. Guests are welcomed by this generally social cat as new opportunities for petting or lap sitting. Ocicats don’t even mind being carried around as long as they are with you. As with any animal, they come in a range of personalities, so some are more shy than others. Favorite activities include retrieving toys and learning to walk on a leash. Ocicats are highly intelligent and learn tricks easily. Puzzle toys are a good way to keep them occupied and entertained. Carefully put away anything you don’t want him to have. He is perfectly capable of figuring out how to open doors or undo latches. His Siamese ancestors bequeathed the Ocicat a tendency to be vocal, but he is not as loud or as demanding. He is sensitive and will respond to nothing more than a verbal correction. Although the Ocicat is adaptable, he doesn’t like being left alone. Be sure he has another cat or dog as a companion if you aren’t home during the day.
HealthBoth pedigreed cats and mixed-breed cats have varying incidences of health problems that may be genetic in nature. Ocicats are generally healthy, but they have the potential to develop certain health problems. Progressive retinal atrophy, which leads to blindness, has been seen in a few cats in the breed, but it is not thought to be a major problem. Some Ocicats have also been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the most common form of heart disease in cats. Their Siamese and Abyssinian heritage may also predispose them to renal or liver amyloidosis and early periodontal disease.
CareThe Ocicat’s short, smooth coat is simple to groom with weekly brushing or combing to remove dead hairs. A bath is rarely necessary. Brush the teeth to prevent periodontal disease. Daily dental hygiene is best, but weekly brushing is better than nothing. Trim the nails weekly. Wipe the corners of the eyes with a soft, damp cloth to remove any discharge. Use a separate area of the cloth for each eye so you don’t run the risk of spreading any infection. Check the ears weekly. If they look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball or soft damp cloth moistened with a 50-50 mixture of cider vinegar and warm water. Avoid using cotton swabs, which can damage the interior of the ear. Keep the litter box spotlessly clean. Cats are very particular about bathroom hygiene. It’s a good idea to keep an Ocicat as an indoor-only cat to protect him from diseases spread by other cats, attacks by dogs or coyotes, and the other dangers that face cats who go outdoors, such as being hit by a car. Ocicats who go outdoors also run the risk of being stolen by someone who would like to have such an unusual cat without paying for it.
Coat Color And GroomingThe Ocicat stands out for his spotted coat, which gives him the look of a small wildcat. The short, smooth, satiny coat comes in 12 colors, all of which feature dark thumbprint-shaped spots on a light background. Like the Abyssinian, which was one of his ancestors, the Ocicat has what’s called an agouti coat, meaning that each hair has several bands of color (the exception is the tip of the tail). The spots are formed where those bands of color meet. Rows of round spots run along the spine, and more spots are scattered across the shoulders and rear end, extending down the legs. Broken “bracelets” of spots encircle the legs and broken “necklaces” adorn the throat. Large, well-scattered spots appear on the side of the body and on the belly. The tail has what look like horizontal brushstrokes going ‘round it, sometimes alternating with spots. Markings around the eyes and on the cheeks make the Ocicat look as if he has been at work with a mascara tube. The forehead is marked with an M (for mischief, no doubt) and small spots cover the lower neck and shoulders. Some Ocicats have classic, mackerel and ticked tabby coats, which are beautiful, but aren’t correct for the show ring. Those cats have the same great Ocicat personality, however, and make wonderful pets. The Ocicat has a medium-size to large body. He is muscular yet graceful. Large ears corner the modified wedge-shaped head. Some Ocicats have tufts of fur that extend vertically from the tips of the ears. Large almond-shaped eyes angle slightly upward and can be any color except blue. The lengthy tail has a dark tip.
Children And Other PetsThe gentle and playful Ocicat is well suited to life with families with children and cat-friendly dogs. He can learn tricks, enjoys interactive toys, and loves the attention he receives from children who treat him politely and with respect. Supervise young children and show them how to pet the cat nicely. Instead of holding or carrying the cat, have them sit on the floor and pet him. It’s likely that the Ocicat will dominate other cats in the household and may even rule the dogs. Always introduce any pets, even other cats, slowly and in a controlled setting.