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The Ocicat originated in the USA as a cross between a Siamese and an Abyssinian, and despite the dramatic, almost 'wild' appearance of these spotted shorthair tabby cats, this is a very gentle breed with no wild cats in its ancestry. They are athletic and powerful, but graceful and elegant at the same time, and are a very extrovert breed, as you would expect from a mix of Siamese and Abyssinian. Their name emerged when the young daughter of the original breeder thought that the very first kitten looked rather like a baby ocelot, and so the name of Ocicat stuck. They are recognised by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in the UK, and small numbers are seen at GCCF shows, but they are still fairly rare here and only 112 kittens were registered with the GCCF in 2010.
The first Ocicat was born as the result of an experimental mating in 1964 when American breeder, Virginia Daly, living in Michigan crossed a Siamese with an Abyssinian in an attempt to produce a Siamese with 'Aby' points. The first kittens looked like purebred Abyssinians, but when one of the kittens was subsequently mated to a Siamese, not only did the desired Aby-pointed Siamese appear, but there was also an odd golden-coloured spotted male kitten, who was given the name of Tonga. Tonga was sold as a neutered pet, but his breeder was fascinated by this result of the Abi-Pointed Siamese programme, and repeated the mating. This time there was a female kitten, named Dali Talua, who became the foundation queen of the new Ocicat breed. The original base colours of the Ocicat were tawny (black), chocolate and cinnamon, with their corresponding dilute colours of blue, lilac and fawn, but then another breeder, Tom Brown, used an outcross to an American Shorthaired silver tabby, which in turn introduced the silver gene to these colours. Generally breeders carry out Ocicat to Ocicat matings, but occasionally an Abyssinian outcross will be used to widen the gene pool, which is permitted under the breeding policy. The Ocicat gained full Championship status in the USA through the Cat Fanciers Association in 1987, and, having first been introduced to Britain in the late 1980s, gained Championship status with the GCCF in 2005.
The Ocicat is a medium to large cat of moderate 'foreign' type, looking more like an Abyssinian than its Siamese forebears in body shape, but both males and female are heavier than they look. The most distinctive feature of the Ocicat is the spotted pattern, and show-quality cats must have perfect spots, whilst those with an unclear pattern still make excellent pets. There is the shape of a letter M on the forehead, giving the Ocicat the look of a frown, although this belies their cheerful disposition. The body is long and solid, with a sleek close-lying coat in a classic tabby pattern which can be in any one of twelve colours - tawny (black), blue, chocolate, lilac, cinnamon, fawn plus all of these colours with silver. The eyes are large and full almond shaped, and can be any colour (the deeper the better) other than blue, although there is no correlation between coat colour and eye colour. The tail is fairly long and in proportion to the body, and should have as many complete rings as possible, with the tip of the tail being the same colour as the markings.
The Ocicat is an active and intelligent breed of cat, and is very demanding of human attention, often following their special chosen person around the house. It is a cat that needs almost constant companionship, and although it hates to be left alone and will appreciate having the company of other pets, the Ocicat really craves human attention most of all. It is probably not the best choice of breed if everyone in the household is out at work every day, but with plenty of time to give them, they are the perfect family pet, as they are also very tolerant of small children. Their devoted owners report that they have almost dog-like tendencies, sometimes being described as having a dog's spirit in a cat's body, as they respond well to the human voice and are easily trained to commands, and yet they retain that unique feline independence. They love to play and are stimulated by a wide range of toys often inviting their humans to join in the game, and some enjoy splashing about in water as well. The Ocicat is quite conversational, although not meowing simply for the sake of it and their voices are fairly quiet.
The Ocicat is not known to have any breed-specific health problems, and this is often thought to be due to their broad genetic background, and many live to around the age of 15 years. In common with other cats, they need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukaemia if they go outdoors.
Ocicats are not known to be fussy eaters and will eat most good quality proprietary brands of cat food, but will also enjoy treats of cooked chicken, ham and grated cheese. However, cows' milk will probably give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available. With their sleek coats they need very little grooming apart from stroking and gentle brushing to remove any loose hairs. They tend to be very people-orientated rather than focussed on making a bid to sample the outdoor life, and will be perfectly happy and healthy living indoors, so long as they are kept occupied.