Some cat breeds are discovered naturally in the wild, some breeds have centuries-long histories of working for and with humans, while other cats are relatively new breeds that result from specific breeding experiments. Getting to know all the different ways that cat breeds have come to exist can be fascinating, and one cat with a particularly interesting history is the Ocicat. Whether you are interested in all cats, or are looking to find your next adoption, stick around to read about the Ocicat – a wonderfully sweet North American breed, with a wild-look about them.
History of the Ocicat
As the Ocicat looks like a miniature Ocelot, it is easy to assume that the Ocicat developed as a wild cat for thousands of years before it was domesticated. However, rather than having hundreds, or even thousands, of years of history, the Ocicat breed was first created in the mid 20th century by a cat breeder in Michigan named Virginia Daly. Interestingly, the creation of the Ocicat was a complete accident! Daly had been aiming to create a Siamese cat that had the coat coloration of an Abyssinian. While she succeeded in this, she also had a completely unexpected result – the Ocicat!
In 1964, she mated the child of Siamese female and a Abyssinian male with purebred Siamese to create a 3rd generation litter that was mostly Abyssinian-colored Siamese cats, but with one exception – Tonga. Tonga was born with copper eyes and golden spots, and looked completely different from his siblings. He was a new breed. Daly’s daughter was the first to notice Tonga’s resemblance to the Ocelot, and soon named the breed ‘Ocicat’ after the big cat.
Although Tonga is the first Ocicat, he would not go on to father the breed, and was, instead, neutered and sold as a pet. Siblings of his from future litters were used in a breeding programme to properly create the breed. As quickly as 1965, the first Ocicat was exhibited, and the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) were similarly quick to recognize the new breed just one year later. The Ocicat became a very popular new breed, but did not manage to reach championship status until the late 1980s.
The CFA, however, made a mistake when they registered the breed. They listed its parents as the Abyssinian and the American Shorthair, rather than the Siamese. This resulted in a period of crossbreeding with the American Shorthair that has changed aspects of the breed’s body structure, shape, and, even color.
Quick Facts About the Ocicat
After reading about the unique history of the Ocicat, you probably want to get to know this breed a little better. To help you do that, here are some quick-fire fun facts about this beautiful breed:
- The Ocicat officially comes in twelve different colors: silver, fawn, lavender, chocolate, tawney, cinnamon, fawn silver, lavender silver, blue silver, blue silver, cinnamon silver, and chocolate silver.
- It is often described as a ‘dog in a cat’s body’ due to its sociable nature, training capability, and friendliness.
- Ocicats are even known to enjoy being taken for walks with a harness!
- Breeders of Oci kittens will sell them after they are 14 weeks old, and they are likely to have been spayed or neutered, and should have their basic inoculations.
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Things You Should Know About the Ocicat
If this guide has convinced you that the Ocicat is your perfect companion, you should make sure you fully understand all their needs before you adopt. To help you make sense of their personality and their health, grooming, and care needs, the rest of this guide will go through the essential information you will need.
It is an unfortunate truth that some breeds are healthier than others. Luckily, the Ocicat is considered a fairly strong and healthy breed. However, although there is not need to panic and worry about your Ocicat’s health, there are a few concerns any Ocicat parent should be aware of. Mostly, these health concerns are associated with the Abyssinian, Siamese and American Shorthair breeds, but, as the Ocicat is descended from these breeds, you should familiarize yourself with them, and their symptoms.
Ocicats can be prone to:
- Renal Amyloidosis
- Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
- Pyruvate Kinase Disease
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums that can cause pain in your cat. Look out for an increase in aggressive behavior, excessive drooling, and any loss of appetite. As gingivitis can be related to bacterial plaque, it is essential that you commit to a high-quality dental care regime, such as daily brushing and professional cleanings twice a year.
Renal Amyloidosis is common in Abyssinian cats. Essentially, it occurs when faulty proteins replace healthy cells in the body, particularly the kidneys. It tends to develop before the age of 5, and you should watch out for excessive thirst and urination, poor coat quality, and lethargy, among other symptoms. If it is possible, you may want to ask if there have been any known cases of amyloidosis in your kitten’s ancestry when you adopt.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy occurs when the walls of your cat’s heart are thickened, making it less efficient and causing further health complications. Unfortunately, you may not immediately notice your cat’s hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, as many cats do not display any symptoms. However, you will notice secondary affects, such as blood clots. If your Ocicat appear to be suffering from limb pain, or hind limb paralysis, take them to a vet as soon as possible.
Pyruvate Kinase is another disease that is common in Abyssinian cats. It is an inherited disease that means your cat is lacking sufficient amounts of an important enzyme that lengthens the lifespan of their red blood cells. This means they have fewer red blood cells circulating at any one time, and can result in intermittent anemia. Look out for fatigue and a reduced appetite. Mostly, this anemia will pass, but make sure your Ocicat has plenty of opportunity to rest when they need to and, if your cat appears to have chronic fatigue, take them to a vet. You can also request breeders provide the ancestry of your kitten, and perform a PK deficiency test.
All breeds of cats require high-quality cat foods that are rich in protein. Unfortunately, many cat foods are padded out with cheap grains, rather than meat, so check the ingredients list to make sure that the first and second ingredients that are listed are meat. It is also a good idea to look for ‘taurine’. Taurine is an amino acid that your Ocicat will need for their vision and their heart. While most cat foods will contain taurine as standard, a few don’t, so it is always worth checking.
It is best to read the instructions on the cat food you have bought, as recommended portions can vary, however, as with most cats, Ocicats will prefer two smaller portions, rather than one large portion everyday. Take the recommended daily allowance from the packaging, and divide it in half. Then, provide half in the morning and half in the afternoon or evening. Don’t be afraid to ask your veterinarian for advice if you have any concerns or questions.
It is not advised that you feed your Ocicat using the free feeding method, which means their bowl always has food on offer for them to graze on. It is, unfortunately, a common cause of obesity. However, you must ensure that they have a constant supply of water. The water must be fresh and clean, and we suggest that their water bowl is ceramic or stainless steel, to discourage bacteria. Try to change their water, at least, twice per day, and never leave them without access to water.
Don’t be fooled by an Ocicat’s independent nature, they are social animals who need daily company. Not only are they great in households that already have pets, it may actually be advisable to have multiple pets if you are likely to spend long-hours away from home at work, as the Ocicat will get lonely. You should also ensure your pet and play with them every day once you are home from work.
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One great thing about Ocicats is that their spectacular fur does not require much attention. While longhair cats can require daily brushing and grooming, your shorthair Ocicat only needs to be groomed once a week. Natural bristle brushes can be a good match for their fur, and some Ocicat parents use a chamois brush. Remember to be gentle while you brush, and take it slowly. Brushing can be a fantastic opportunity to bond with your cat, so enjoy it!
A good order for brushing is: back, sides, stomach, and chest. You can carefully attempt their tail at the end, but be especially gentle, and ensure your cat is relaxed and happy as they can be startled when their tail is touched. Ocicats do shed, so you will want to increase brushing to twice a week, or possibly more, during shedding season. In terms of bathing, your Ocicat should mostly groom itself. Some owners find they never have to bathe an Ocicat. However, like any pet, they can still become dirty or smelly. If your Ocicat appears to be struggling to groom itself, it may be a sign of illness, so you should take them to your vet.
Claw management can be difficult, particularly with athletic cats that enjoy an active life. They need their claws for mobility and defence, but excessively sharp claws become a hazard to your family, and your furniture. If you are unsure how often to trim your Ocicat’s claws, aim for once every three weeks. You must use the correct type of nail trimmer, as human nail clipper can splinter and damage the claws, and never trim the pink parts of the nail. Only trim the white part of the claw, or you are risking pain and bleeding.
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As we’ve already discussed, Ocicat’s are prone to gingivitis, so great dental care is essential. You must clean their teeth every day. It is possible to train cats not to resist teeth cleaning excessively, but you will want to start from when they are a kitten. First, you need to get them to associate the toothbrush with something positive, such as treats, food and praise. You must also be gentle when you brush, and reward them after brushing. You cannot use human toothpaste and toothbrushes. They can damage your Ocicat’s mouth and may make them ill.
The Ocicat is quite unique when it comes to personality and temperament because there is not a clear link between its history or appearance and its behavior. Unlike most breeds, it was not bred with a specific purpose, whether to be used for catching mice or as a regal companion. Instead, it was the accidental product of a different breeding program! This means you can’t easily make assumptions about its energy levels, likes or dislikes.
Similarly, the Ocicat looks like a wild cat, but you cannot judge it from its appearance. Often, when people first meet an Ocicat, they are wary of it, as they think it may have a wild, aggressive nature. However, most Ocicats are actually complete sweethearts. They are friendly and affectionate pets, even to strangers. Although like all cats, it can act aggressively when it feels threatened, so you should not seek to make it do anything it doesn’t want to, the Ocicat is an excellent addition to all kinds of families because they are so social. They are also very likely to get along well with other pets.
Another important attribute of the Ocicat is their intelligence. You can teach them to respond to their own name and to come when you call. This means they will need intellectual attention and stimulation, so you should provide them with plenty of toys and play sessions. They are similarly agile, so try out a wide selection of toys that are suitable both for their sharp minds and athletic bodies. They have been known to be possessive over their toys, so watch out for aggressive behavior when you try to take them away, or if another cat plays with them.