With its remarkable spotted coat, the ocicat is a one-of-a-kind conversation starter. These cats have highly social personalities, keen minds, and dispositions that have been described as “dog-like.”
Thanks to their eye-catching coats, ocicats are certainly not hard to … spot. (sorry.) These cats are blessed with brown or gold, thumb-shaped spots all over their torsos. In rare instances, ocicat kittens will manifest with solid colors, pointed coats, or even classic tabby patterns, but by and large, this breed features those unique spots.
Ocicats come in a dozen color variations: tawny, chocolate, cinnamon, blue, lavender, and fawn, plus silver variants of all the above except tawny, and black silver.
Regardless of color, ocicats are well muscled, athletic cats. The breed is normally a little larger than the typical house cat, with males getting up to 15 pounds. They have wedge-shaped heads, large oval paws, and triangle-shaped ears set at a 45-degree angle.
The ocicat is highly social and engaging with human companions. While they’re accepting of virtually all family members and strangers, these cats are likely to form particularly strong bonds with one specific person in their households and follow them around the most.
Ocicats can very easily be trained to perform a number of tasks and tricks, such as walking on a leash and coming when their names are called, as well as sit, stay, and fetch. They are smart enough to understand not only meaning but context, so they’ll pick up on your commands and desires relatively quickly.
Ocicats do well in households with other animals including dogs, especially if they’ve been socialized with them as kittens. However, because of their highly social nature, ocicats in single-pet households can develop some separation anxiety if left alone for more than a couple hours at a time.
Ocicats are surprisingly adaptable. They make great traveling companions for people in RVs, and are happy in just about any urban or rural setting, so long as their social needs are met. They enjoy climbing, so giving them some elevation options would be a nice touch.
Ocicats love cat toys of all kinds, and have been known to become rather possessive of them, especially as kittens. Expect a certain amount of “keep away” if you’re trying to tidy up their spaces or put some toys away.
This breed sheds enough to keep it off the “hypoallergenic” list, but a weekly brushing should be all you need to do. Ocicats appreciate being wiped down with a chamois now and again, which has the added benefit of shining up their coats.
Ocicats don’t need baths unless you’re planning on showing them, in which case, opt for a shampoo that enhances their natural coat colors: bronze-tone for brown, chocolate, and cinnamon spotted ocicats; pearl-tone for blue, lilac, and fawn kitties; and a whitening shampoo for silver pets.
Ocicats are a fairly healthy breed and have relatively long lifespans. Still, there are some common ailments to be aware of, most notably liver or renal amyloidosis, pyruvate kinase deficiency, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
“Any time a cat has been custom bred for specific, ‘designer’ traits, you are definitely opening up that potential [for health issues],” says Lin Kauffman, DVM, of Prairie View Animal Hospital in Grimes, Iowa. “And, of course, the smaller your gene pool, the more common hereditary diseases can be.”
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which causes thickening (hypertrophy) of the heart muscle, is the most common form of heart disease in cats and is seen in some ocicats. An echocardiogram can confirm whether your cat has HCM.
“Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can be manageable, but at some point a cat that has [it] is probably going to go into heart failure,” says Michelle Beck, DVM, CCRT, CVA, of the Backlund Animal Clinic in Omaha, Neb. “Life expectancy after diagnosis is usually about a year or so.”
Amyloidosis, meanwhile, is a disease that occurs when a substance called amyloid, an insoluble protein, is deposited in organs such as the kidneys or liver. It results in lesions, dysfunction, and, eventually, organ failure. Pyruvate kinase is a regulatory enzyme in red blood cells, and cats deficient in this enzyme can develop anemia.
The ocicat was created on a dare. Scratch that; the ocicat was created by mistake in the midst of a dare.
In 1964, an American named Virginia Daly was challenged by a friend to try and create an Abyssinian-pointed Siamese. Daly took the challenge and succeeded in breeding an Abyssinian and a Siamese for the desired, pointed Siamese result. However, her second litter of this particular hybrid produced a single kitten with unique spots. Since the kitten resembled a wild ocelot, Daly’s daughter dubbed it “Ocicat.”
That first ocicat, named Tonga, was neutered and given as a pet. But when subsequent Aby-pointed Siamese litters continued to produce spotted kittens, Daly began breeding them back to Siamese parents and producing wholly spotted litters. Soon, other breeders began doing the same, and the Ocicat breed officially began. The breed was recognized by the CFA for championship in 1987.