Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) - Leopardus Lineage
Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)
By Tom Smylie (US Fish & Wildlife Service, Image Archive) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The beautifully marked Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) is widespread and common throughout most of its range in Latin America, however only a remnant population remains of its prior North American distribution. In spite of better legal protection the Ocleot is still hunted illegally for the fur and pet trade, and clearing of its natural forest habitat for farming has become a major threat to its survival.

Leopardus Lineage

1. Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)

2. Geoffroy’s Cat (Leopardus geoffroyi)

3. Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita)

4. Margay (Leopardus wiedii)

5. Pampas Cat (Leopardus colocola)

6. Northern Tiger Cat (Leopardus tigrinus)

7. Southern Tiger Cat (Leopardus guttulus)

8. Guiña or Kodkod (Leopardus guigna)

Unique Facts about Ocelots

~ Largest of the small cats of Latin America ~

~ Agile climber and rests in trees ~

~ Strong swimmer and catches fish and crabs ~

Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) Classification

Ocelots belong to the genus Leopardus and the full taxonomy, scientific classification or higher classification of the Ocelot species is:

Kingdom: Animalia (animals)

Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)

Class: Mammalia (mammals)

Order: Carnivora (carnivores)

Suborder: Feliformia (cat-like)

Family: Felidae (cats)

Subfamily: Felinae (small cats)

Genus: Leopardus

Species: Leopardus pardalis (Ocelot)


L.p. pardalis

L.p. mitis

The scientific name for the Ocelot cat is Leopardus pardalis which is also known as the binomial name, species name, latin name, biological name or zoological name. Some use the term 'botanical name' however that term is only applicable to the plant kingdom (botany) and not the animal kingdom (zoology).

Ocelot in jungle habitat

Juvenile ocelot standing in forest habitat

Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) Subspecies

Historically up to nine subspecies of Ocelots were recognized:

  • Leopardus pardalis pardalis
  • Leopardus pardalis aequatorialis
  • Leopardus pardalis albescens
  • Leopardus pardalis melanurus
  • Leopardus pardalis mitis
  • Leopardus pardalis pseudopardalis
  • Leopardus pardalis pusaeus
  • Leopardus pardalis sonoriensis
  • Leopardus pardalis steinbachi

However the last Felidae taxonomy revision in 2017 suggests only two subspecies, pending further research:

1. Leopardus pardalis pardalis

Texas and Arizona south to Costa Rica - smaller and more grey.

2. Leopardus pardalis mitis

Northern and central South America - larger and more yellow.

Ocelot Conservation & Research

The global conservation status for Ocelots is Least Concern (LC) across all regions and subspecies.

The following organizations are dedicated to research and conservation of Ocelots:

CK Wildlife Research Institute - Ocelot Research Texas

Rainforest Alliance - Ocelot Conservation Latin America

Please support these organizations with their important work if you can. No matter how the size of your contribution, every bit helps!

Ocelot portrait by Giovanni G Bellani

Ocelot walking through jungle habitat

Ocelot Facts and Information

These organizations have well researched and authoritative information on Ocelots:

Molecular population genetics, evolutionary biology and biological conservation of neotropical carnivores.

Field Guide to the Wild Cats of South America (Spanish)

Neotropical Cats by TG de Oliveira (1994)
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