by Shana Otis-Kuhnert
"OH, WOW! Look at this, Spots! Is it wild? Is this cat yours?"
After the few short years (nine) that I have owned and exhibited
Ocicats, this is still the reaction that I most hear and see.
It still makes me proud to answer, "Yes I belong to them."
The innate human desire of somehow co-existing with an animal
in the wild or to live like Tarzan and Jane with an array of jungle
animals, has at one time or the other surfaced in the dreams of
most people. I confess that I have never quite outgrown this yearning
for the exotic. The Ocicat, with it's wild and dramatic appearance
fulfills my desire for a jungle cat without the worry of losing
life or limb or of endangering vanishing species.
The Ocicat is special because it is a cat descended exclusively
from pedigreed domestic ancestors that were selectively bred to
resemble a jungle cat. Even though the Ocicat looks wild, it has
absolutely no crosses to feral cats.Because of this, you the new
owner will never have to worry about wild tendencies (tell that
to your husband when three of them gallop across your bed at five
in the morning.)
Oh, those wonderful accidents! The originator of the breed, Virginia
Daly, didn't start out to create an Ocicat, but rather an Abyssinian
- pointed Siamese. As fate would have it, some time later Mrs.
Daly was in correspondence with Dr. Clyde Keeler of Georgia University
who at that time had an interest in recreating a similar cat to
the now extinct Egyptian spotted fishing cat. This "new breed"
possibility rekindled Mrs. Daly's desire to breed Ocicats as a
unique and distinct breed.
The Ocicat was put on exhibition in cat shows in Detroit and soon
after, in the Minutes of a CFA annual appeared the words (paraphrased):
"The Ocicat is a breed to be recognized for registration and is
made up of Abyssinian and American Shorthair." which was not the
correct combination so, when advised of the error, CFA simply
added "Siamese." The results of this "error" was to add the beautiful
silver color, prominent in American Shorthairs, to the gene pool.
In 1966 on the verge of provisional status with CFA the drive
imperative to such a task was rerouted. Mrs. Daly became the sole
supporter of her Aunt who was in poor health, and by necessity
the Ocicat had to take a back seat. There were only 99 Ocicats
registered with CFA between the years 1966 and 1980.
In 1984 a new Ocicat breed club, Ocicats International, formed
and due to its members efforts Provisional status with CFA was
granted in 1986 and Championship status followed a year later.
With Provisional status granted in 1986, the registry closed to
Siamese and American Shorthair out-crosses, although Abyssinians
are an allowable out-cross until 2005.
Disposition and Character
The Ocicat only looks wild! Its temperament is anything but ferocious.
The Ocicat has a personality somewhat like a dog -people oriented,
devoted and easy to train. The first Ocicat I bred, GC Saga Calamity
Jane, taught me how to fetch when she was only four months old,
and because of her desire to see the outdoors she made it clear
that she was also adaptable to the leash. Ocicats dote on positive
reinforcement and readily adapt to household rules. A sharp word
or a small squirt from a water bottle can train them to stay off
cabinets and shelves.
This breed loves human companionship so much that they will follow
you from room to room. They love to watch their "people" doing
even the dullest of activities, which for me is laundry. I feel
a little more like "Jane" and less like "Hazel" with my small
Pride of spotted felines following me around. They love to sit
on your lap or beside you if there is another in that favored
position. They do not do well if left alone, on a regular basis,
for long periods. Their sociable nature makes them less suited
than some of the other breeds for this but makes them a good choice
for a household that already has other cats and dogs. It also
makes them a good choice for families with children.
Above all else the Ocicat is a spotted cat. Its short coat has
a sheen like satin stretched over rippling muscles.
The physic of the Ocicat is imposing. They are muscular and lithe
with the suggestion of a stalking animal capable of great speed.
The females weigh between 7 and 11 pounds and males average up
to 15 pounds or larger. The Ocicat is a medium to large cat that
feels heavier than it looks because of its good boning and dense
muscle. Many CFA Judges remark, when taking the Ocicat from the
judging cage, on his surprising weight and because of this (and
its looks) are very pleased that this breed is amiable to handling.
It is alert to its surroundings and shows great vitality. In the
Show Ring if the Judge does not bring "the toys" out fast enough,
a seasoned show Ocicat will often go looking for them himself.
The Ocicat Show Standard is broken down equally between points
given for Head, Body, Coat, Color, and Pattern.
The head is a modified wedge framed by moderately large alert
ears. The almond-shaped eyes are large and slant towards the ears.
The trademark of the breed is a well developed square muzzle that
makes the Ocicat look as if it would be right at home in a Tarzan
The body of an Ocicat should be solid and rather long-bodied with
depth and fullness. The back dips behind the shoulder and rises
over the hips, giving the animal a very athletic appearance. The
tail is fairly long with a slight taper from base to dark tip.
The coat on an Ocicat is tight, close-lying and sleek with a good
sheen. It is an agouti coat and where the bands of color, or ticking,
lie form the pattern. The difference in shading of each band of
color form a beautiful contrast between the ground color and its
The Ocicat comes in 12 colors. Tawny, Chocolate, and Cinnamon
each have their own color class. There is also a Silver color
class; Chocolate-Silver , Cinnamon-Silver, Silver, Blue-Silver,
Lavender-Silver, & Fawn-Silver as well as a dilute color class
for the other 3 colors; Blue, Lavender, & Fawn.
The pattern on an Ocicat is made up of thumb-shaped spots and
other tabby markings. There is an intricate, often broken, tabby
"M" on the forehead extending over the head. Rows of spots run
along the spine from shoulder blades to tail. Spots and brushstrokes
are scattered across the shoulders. There are broken bracelets
on the lower legs and broken necklaces on the throat. Large well-scattered
spots swirl along the torso forming a bull's eye - a spot circled
The pattern and its contrast give a very dramatic appearance.
As a breeder of Abyssinians in 1987 this is what first attracted
me to the breed. I bred Abys because of my desire to have a little
Mountain Lion in my house. When I first saw an Ocicat I too went,
"Oh, Wow!" and realized that here was even a wilder looking creature
with the pelt of an Ocelot and the size and presence that made
these domestic cats more closely resemble their distant cousins.
Rare, wonderful, romantic, exotic - these are all words used to
describe this intelligent breed of cat. The Ocicat clearly answers
the wish many cat fanciers have for a large, imposing cat: one
that resembles the spotted cats of the wild yet displaying the
gentle temperament of a domestic cat. The Ocicat fulfills our
dreams with the answer to the question, "Oh, wow, is that cat