The Ocicat is a new and still-rare breed of cat which has spots resembling a 'wild' cat and the temperament of a domestic animal, named for its resemblance to the ocelot.
Despite its appearance, there is no 'wild' DNA in the Ocicat's genepool. The species is actually a mixture of Siamese and Abyssinian, and later American Shorthairs (silver tabbies) were added to the mix for their silver colour and distinct markings.
The first breeder of Ocicats was Virginia Daly, of Berkley, Michigan, who attempted to breed an Abyssinian-pointed Siamese in 1964. The first generation of kittens appeared Abyssinian, but the surprising result in the second generation was a spotted kitten, Tonga, nicknamed an 'ocicat' by the breeder's daughter. Tonga was neutered and sold as a pet, but further breedings of his parents produced more spotted kittens, and became the base of a separate Ocicat breeding program.
There are twelve separate colour/pattern combinations registered for ocicats, and these fall into five larger groups - chocolate, cinnamon, tawny, silver and dilute. Ocicats must not have cream/red coloration or they are disqualified from showing.
The Ocicat looks like a small wild spotted cat, but is in fact a fully domestic breed originally created by combining the Siamese, Abyssinian, and American Shorthair. This beautiful spotted domestic cat has been selectively bred to emulate and encapsulate the cat of the wild, with all of its virtues and none of its drawbacks.
The story of the creation of the Ocicat is fascinating, born completely by accident on a challenge. In 1950, Virginia Daly of Dalai Cattery produced ACFA's first Redpoint Siamese female grand champion. She also produced by crossing a Red Persian and a Siamese, the grandmother of the first All-American Flamepoint Himalayan kitten. Along the way she produced a few waves among breeders who raised their eyebrows with scepticism while analysing her feline creations wondering if Daly would try making Abyssinian-pointed Siamese next.
Daly decided to take up the challenge. In 1964, She mated a Sealpoint Siamese female named Tomboy Patter, to a Ruddy Abyssinian champion named Dalai Deta Tim of Selene. Their kittens looked like Abyssinians, but Daly reasoned that they ought to be carrying the Siamese point pattern. She took a female from this litter and bred her to a champion Chocolate Point. A year later Dalai She, a female from this litter, was mated to a Chocolate Point Siamese, Champion Whitehead Elegante Sun. The resulting litter of seven was a rainbow of blacks, chestnuts, sealpoints, chocolate points, lynx points, both mackerel and classic tabbies all courtesy of Patter's daughter. An unanticipated kitten surprised Daly; this tiny little kitten nestled among the rest had dazzling golden spots on an ivory-coloured background. This astonishing kitten is known today as Tonga the first born Ocicat. Daly's daughter was delighted with this tiny kitten and chose the name Ocicat because he so resembled the spotted jungle Ocelot.
Tonga, the first Ocicat was sold to a medical student named Thomas Brown. When the Detroit newspaper publicised the lovely spotted cat and when noted geneticist, Dr. Clyde Keeler, expressed his desire to see a domestic cat that would mimic some of the vanishing wild species like the long extinct Egyptian spotted fishing cat, the breeding was repeated to produce more Ocicats.
Subsequent breedings of the sire, dam, and other Abyssinians and Siamese formed the foundation of the Ocicat breeding program. American Shorthairs were eventually added to introduce the silver colour, placement of spots, and enhance size and boning. Other breeders followed Mrs. Daly's recipe to develop other Ocicat lines with a broad genetic base. Tonga was never used for breeding purposes, although he did go on exhibition, listed as an 'Ocicat, said to be a reincarnation of the extinct Egyptian Spotted Fishing Cat'.
The Ocicat was recognised for CFA registration in 1966, but it took another twenty years to develop the breed and gain the support for provisional status. The Ocicat was advanced to championship status in May 1987.
The ideal Ocicat is a large active cat with an athletic appearance, a solid well-muscled and well-balanced long body. It has a short, close coat with a satin sheen that shows off muscles and well-defined spots to their best advantage. Their short, beautiful coats need only the occasional bathing and grooming.
While Ocicats are wild and athletic in appearance, they have retained the ingenious, people-oriented personality of the Siamese and are thoroughly trustworthy and nonaggressive. Many owners remark on the dog-like tendencies of the breed, in that they are devoted to people, are easily trained and respond well to the voice, whilst retaining their full independence. Because of their adaptability they are a joy to be with and take life in their stride. Their sociable nature may make them less suited than some other breeds to being left alone for long periods of time, but it does make them a good choice for a household already with other cats or dogs. This magnificent spotted cat never fails to capture the hearts of those fortunate enough to own them.
Ocicats come in many colours and in all colours associated with the three foundation breeds: tawny (brown spotted tabby), chocolate, cinnamon, blue, lavender, fawn, silver, chocolate silver, cinnamon silver, blue silver, lavender silver, and fawn silver. Eye colour is typically golden, green or copper.
Although only accepted for show in the spotted pattern, also appearing occasionally in a litter are Classic kittens. These kittens are remarkably beautiful with a full Ocicat pedigree, but with the spots confined to the tummy. The marbled pattern on the rest of the body is completely symmetrical, with each side of the body a mirror image of the other.
The loveable spotted Ocicat is getting more popular with every passing year and today are the number one pet in the US. It's easy to see why. They're self-sufficient, absolutely unpredictable, and just the best company you can have when life's not going your way. Whether you are owned by a cat (preferably an Ocicat) or just a fan of felines . . . congratulations! You're in the best of company.