The Ocicat cat is the first wholly domestic feline bred to parallel a wild cat. The first Ocicat was developed in 1964 by accident. Breeder Virginia Daly had the privilege of receiving this unprecedented outcome of a cross between a seal point Siamese female and a ruddy Abyssinian male. Daly was shocked when her intention of creating a Siamese with Abyssinian points was met with the unexpected result of a litter containing an ivory kitten with golden spots. The image of Ocelot, an endangered wild cat that ranges from south-western Texas to Argentina, immediately came to mind and Daly’s daughter appropriately named the breed Ocicat.
Dyla mentioned this breed in passing to geneticist Clyde Keeler in a letter. This incited the interest of Keeler to reproduce this breed. The American Shorthair was later added to the breed line. Shorthair influence produced silver color coats and also added size and musculature to a body that was comparable to the agile Abyssinian and svelte Siamese. The result is a kitten that looks like it has stepped out of the wild.
The first Ocicat, Tonga, was exhibited at a Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) show in 1965. A year later, the CFA accepted the breed for registration. However, the journey to recognition was slow as Daly took an 11-year break in between the breeding program. It was not until the early 1980s that Daly, together with other breeders and fanciers, came back full force in her efforts to bring the Ocicat full recognition.
Finally, in May 1986, the Ocicat claimed the provisional status under the CFA and a year later the CFA granted the breed championship status. The success did not stop there as the Ocicat continued to gain recognition for championship status in all North American cat associations.
Physical appearance and attributes
The Ocicat is a medium to large cat that weighs approximately between 10 -15 pounds for males and 7 – 12 pounds for females. Its moderate body is semi-foreign in nature and is of a substantial musculature. It takes an athletic form with toned curvatures. The back is level or might be slightly higher in the rear. It has medium long legs that are proportionate to the body and well-muscled. Extending the legs are oval and compact paws. Vigor is also spotted in its fairly long tail of medium thickness, tapering slightly to a rounded tip.
The Ocicat has a modified wedge head that is neither tapering like the Siamese nor rounded like the Abyssinian. When viewed in profile, a gentle rise can be traced from the bridge of the nose to its brow and the muzzle is visibly of a good length. Its face is also defined by a firm chin and a strong jaw. The pair of ears is moderately large and is set at a 45 degree angle to the imaginary horizontal line that runs across the brow. They taper into a nice rounded tip with possible tufts or lynx tips that would extend the ear line. The Ocicat has large almond eyes that are wide-set and rimmed with fine, neat mascara markings. The outer corners show a slight upward slant towards the ears. Eye color does not correspond with coat color and pattern; all colors except blue are accepted.
The most impressive feature of the Ocicat is its spotted coat that is short and close-lying, giving it a lustrous and satiny gloss. Like the coat of Abyssinian, Ocicat has an agouti coat; each hair has alternating color distributed along the entire hair shaft. The striking coat is marked by the beautifully contrasting spots on its entire body. The intricacies of the spotting pattern begin with the distinct tabby “M” marking on its forehead that extends up over the head to between the ears. This then breaks into rows of spots that run neatly down its entire spine area before spanning out to assort its entire body. Such spotting pattern runs from across the shoulder blades down to its hindquarters and would transit seamlessly into longer broken strips of horizontal brush strokes towards the legs, throat and tail. The more broken the strips are, the better.
The stunning coat can come in a variety of colors with complementing spots. These include blue, chocolate, cinnamon, fawn, lavender, tawny and six shades of silver. The hue of color is usually lighter around the eyes, lower jaw and chin. The clarity of contrast between the spots and the body’s base color, together with the luster of its satiny coat, has made the Ocicat a truly striking breed.
Personality and temperament
This first purely domestic feline breed in spotted beauty has a confidence that matches its wild look, yet a contrasting temperament desired of any domestic cats. Its exceptional confidence spills over to its outgoing nature, even towards strangers. It does not shy away from cuddle or from being held. The entire family will get to experience the joy of interacting with this loving and sociable breed. However, the Ocicat will reserve its companionship to the one member with whom it has developed a special attachment, always finding its space near to this loved one.
Playful by nature, its favorite activities include the game fetch where it derives pleasure from the power and energy spent in running. Climbing tall perches releases the same adrenaline for this agile breed and there should be nothing too high in the house that is not within the reach of the agile Ocicat. Simple enjoyment can also be derived from interactive toys such as whirling and luring bait.
With an astute mind, the Ocicat quickly learns how to respond to its name. Tricks are also acquired with ease, albeit the needed patience from owners. Ocicat also has enough curiosity and intelligence to teach itself the skills needed to manipulate doors, drawers, switches and buttons. This breed thrives with human companionship and would not do well in isolation.
Care and health concern
The Ocicat is a generally healthy breed with a possible lifespan of between 15 – 18 years. Health concerns would include problems that have affected its parent breeds. These include liver or renal amyloidosis, which is caused by an insoluble protein called amyloid that is deposited in the kidneys or liver. Such hereditary disease would result in lesions or dysfunction in the organs and its eventual failure.
Deficiency of Pyruvate Kinase (PK), a regulatory enzyme for the metabolism of red blood cells, is another hereditary condition which would result in anemia. Caused by a recessive gene, the condition can be removed by breeding cats away from the possible gene pool with PK deficiency, which is done through DNA testing.
The cat should be received with a written health guarantee from qualified breeders. Health testing would help ensure that the cat does not inherit any genetic diseases or other diseases common in cats
Grooming the Ocicat cat is fairly easy. The shorthair coat needs only a weekly brushing that would remove dead hair and distribute skin oil. Efforts should also be extended to weekly nail trimming and regular ear checks for infections or odor. The Ocicat is also prone to gingivitis disease. Thus, frequent teeth brushing with vet-approved product is necessary.
The ideal home
The active and companion-dependent Ocicat would thrive well in homes where members are ready to set aside an extended period of time to care, love and interact with the pet. Otherwise, companionship from other pets should be considered, while still retaining the daily basic human connection. Ocicat can also play well with young children who know how to treat it with care and gentleness.
Though suited for indoor living, an adventure zone should be created. The Ocicat’s agility and intelligence should be encouraged and promoted with all the necessary interactive toys, cat trees and scratching posts. Outdoor spaces and gardens would be a bonus, but it would need to be escaped-proof and safe.
The confidence and devotion of the Ocicat cat have made it a breed capable of exceptional interaction and bond with its favorite people. Acrobatic, sociable and loving, the Ocicat cat will be a pet that will not fail to supply the home with comical antics, affection and joy.