The Detroit area is known for producing some pretty wild things – muscle cars, Madonna, Eminem, and Kid Rock just to name a few. One wild thing you probably don’t associate with the Detroit area is the Ocicat. They might look like it, but they aren’t from the jungle. These beautiful, wild-looking cats were developed just a few miles from where I’m sitting right now. They are the only totally domestic cat (no wild cats were used in the breeding) to have such a wild look.

There Are No Mistakes

Ocicats - Ocicat kittens

Photo Credit: Nickolas Titkov Flickr

In the early 1960’s a Michigan cat breeder, Virgina Daly, was attempting to breed a new type of Siamese cat. What she wanted was the ruddy color of the Abyssinian breed in the points (ears, mask, tail, and legs) of a Siamese cat. She first bred a Siamese female with a ruddy Abyssinian male, which resulted in kitties that looked Abyssinian. Then she bred one of those kitties with a Siamese cat and she got a surprise. Most of the litter did have the coloring she was going for, but one kitten was light colored and had golden spots! The spotted kitten was named Tonga. Not realizing the her own discovery, Daly had Tonga neutered and sold him as a pet through a Detroit newspaper. Through that listing Daly came into contact with a geneticist named Dr. Clyde Keeler. Keeler was looking for breeders to help him to breed a domestic cat with the look of a wild cat. Initially he wanted Daly to breed Tonga to Tonga’s mother, but that ship had sailed. Daly repeated the process that had given her Tonga and was able to get another spotted kitten. Her daughter felt that they looked like Ocelots (which are an unrelated breed of cat), so they called them Ocicats. The Ocicat breed took off quickly after it was developed. Several breeders began breeding them. Somewhere along the way American Shorthair was also mixed into the breed. Some say that the mix was intentional to give the Ocicat a bigger, more muscular look. Others say that it was the result of an error in the Cat Fancier Association’s paperwork given to the breeders. Either way, the cats turned out to be as popular as they are beautiful.

The Wild Look of Ocicats

Ocicats have a rather distinct look. Most Ocicats have thumb shaped spots all across their body that follow a classic tabby pattern (bulls-eye shape on the side). Every once in a while there will be an Ocicat born with a striped classic tabby pattern. Ocicats can be found in 12 different colors ( 6 colors and a silvertone of each of those colors). The 6 basic colors are:

  • Ocicats - adult  green eyed ocicat

    Photo Credit: Circe Individosa Flickr


  • Cinnamon
  • Chocolate
  • Blue
  • Lilac
  • Fawn

No one is exactly sure how Ocicats got their spots since they were bred from 2 non-spotted breeds. One theory is that Abyssinian cats hold a recessive gene that dates back to the days when they lived in the same area as (and probably bred with) the Egyptian Mau. Another theory is that Siamese cats have a latent gene for spots as sometimes Siamese cats will seem to have “ghost markings” as they grow older. Thanks to the introduction of the American Shorthair into the mix, the Ocicat is very athletic. They tend to have large, lean, muscular bodies. There are very few health problems known to the breed. However, Gingevitis and gum disease are fairly frequent with Ocicats. Keeping those teeth brushed and clean can help keep those problems from developing.

A Tame Temperament

Oceleots - Ocelot kittens playing

Photo Credit: Nickolas Titkov Flickr

Can’t decide between getting a cat or a dog? Well, Ocicats are cats that are known for their dog-like temperament. They are very pleasant to have around the house. Once they are a part of your family, they are devoted pets. Sometimes they choose a favorite human to bond with, but they will still interact with other people.They will get along with other pets and children just fine.  If you are the type of person who is never home, this might not be the breed of cat for you. They need plentiful social interaction. They are very active, outgoing, and love to play. Want to play fetch? No problem. Ocicats are very intelligent and can be taught to do tricks easily. If you love what you see with Ocicats, you don’t need to pay breeder prices to add one to your family. Check with your local animal rescue organizations and see if they have any up for adoption. Rescues see cats of every kind, size, shape, color, breed, and age. If you would like, you can browse adoptable Ocicats online at Petfinder!

Have you ever met an Ocicat?