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Ocicat Cat

Ocicat Cat
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Ocicat Cat Personality

Ocicats may look wild, but they are actually affectionate, curious, and playful, and possess a very strong devotion to their human companions. Highly intelligent, Ocicats quickly learn to respond to their names and can be taught a variety of tricks, including coming on command. Begging for food is another trick that Ocicats master with very little prompting. They tend to bond with only one person and prefer that person's company to all others. They do get along well with other animals and people, however, and appreciate an animal companion to keep them company if left alone for any length of time.

Like their Abyssinian ancestors, Ocicats love to perform daring tap dances on top of your bookcases for your amusement. They are an active breed and require a good deal of space and plenty of toys and diversions to keep them occupied. Like their Siamese ancestors, Ocicats are vocal, but not annoyingly so. They want to tell you about their day when you come home at night, but they won't bore you with every detail. Also, their voices lack the Siamese rasp that some people find annoying.


Ocicat Cat Breed Traits

How is it that the Ocicat, a breed with well-placed leopard-like spots, was produced by breeding together two breeds conspicuously without such spotting? Well, it's simple, no one knows. The mystery of the Ocicat's markings has spawned various theories. One theory holds that the Abyssinian bloodline still retains a recessive spotting gene left over from crosses with the Egyptian Mau, dating back to when the Abyssinian and the Mau lived in the same region. This is possible, since the Mau's spotting gene is thought to be recessive to other tabby genes. However, the spotted patterns of the Ocicat and the Mau appear to be different from one another; the Ocicat has large thumbprint-shaped spots with a subtle suggestion of the classic tabby pattern, while the Mau's spots are randomly distributed. Another theory maintains that the spots come from latent genes on the Siamese side of the family, evidenced by the spotted ghost markings that will occasionally manifest in older Siamese.

The Ocicat's coat sports rows of spots that run along the spine from shoulder blades to tail. The spots are scattered across the shoulders and hindquarters and extend down the legs, and large thumbprint-shaped spots appear on the sides of the torso. The overall pattern gives the subtle suggestion of a classic tabby pattern, a spot circled by spots as in a bull's-eye. Like the Abyssinian, the Ocicat is an agouti breed. If you look closely at the spots, you'll see that each hair has bands of alternating color with the darker color at the tip.


Interested in the history of the Ocicat cat breed?

The first Ocicat was created in 1964 when Virginia Daly, a Michigan breeder interested in new and unusual varieties of cats, tried to create a Siamese with Abyssinian-colored points. Daly bred a seal point Siamese female to a ruddy Abyssinian male; the subsequent kittens looked like Abyssinians but carried the gene for the Siamese pattern. She then bred one of the half-Abyssinian kittens to another full Siamese and achieved her goal of producing an Abyssinian-pointed Siamese kitten.

The same litter, however, also produced an ivory male kitten with golden spots and copper eyes, which Daly named Tonga. Additional matings between Tonga's parents produced more Tonga look-alikes, and the Ocicat breed was officially launched. Daly's daughter suggested the name Ocicat because they reminded her of the spotted wild cat called the ocelot.

In 1965 the first Ocicat was exhibited to the CFA and in 1966 the CFA accepted the breed for registration, but mistakenly listed the parent breeds as Abyssinian and American Shorthair. Because of the error, new Ocicat breeders added American Shorthairs into their Ocicat lines for a short time, changing the body style from Siamese svelte to a more compact type and adding additional colors not available with the original design.

Even with the early enthusiastic reception in the CFA, the Ocicat didn't achieve Championship status until 1987. A combination of factors were responsible, the main reason being that Daly took an 11-year break from breeding and promoting Ocicats. But the word got around about the breed and soon other breeders were duplicating Daly's results and widening the gene pool. The breed has now gained in popularity and has a strong following.

Copyright © 1998 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc. based on
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CAT BREEDS by J. Anne Helgren.

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