Caracals are a medium sized cat found throughout Africa and parts of Asia. They are considered endangered in India but due to lack of census there is no accurate count of the species in South Africa. Unfortunately these cats are killed often in the wild due to hunting and farmers protecting their livestock. Despite this, the caracal still isn’t considered a protected species. When raised by humans, caracals can form strong and loving friendships with their owners.
The caracal is a well built, medium-size cat with large paws. It has characteristic tassels of long darker hair on the tips of its ears. Despite these tassels and their nickname “desert lynx” a caracal is not at all related to a lynx. Males can weigh 18-20 kg while females are smaller at 12-15 kg.
The caracal occurs in a variety of habitats, but is specifically not found in forests and deserts. Sufficient shelter is of the utmost importance. Caracals prefer open areas, open woodland or grassy plains and they prefer temperatures at or below 20 Celsius.
Caracals are mainly nocturnal and very seldom seen during the day and if so, early in the morning and late afternoon and on cool, overcast days. They are solitary and meet only to mate. Although a very good tree climber, they live and hunt mostly on the ground. They typically rest during the day and hunt during the cooler hours. These cats constantly use the environment to their advantage and have the ability to hide easily when shelter is not available
Caracals typically eat small rodents, mammals and birds and have been seen jumping several meters in the air to catch a bird midflight. Their diet can be very diverse, including; duiker, springbok, bushbuck, dik- dik, young impala and springbok, lambs of sheep, cape hare, dassies, squirrels, young monkeys, springhare, mice, moles, mongooses, guinea-fowl and other ground-living birds, lizards. A caracal can kill a prey up to five times their own weight!
Caracals can give birth to 1-5 kittens at a time. Peak birthing month are during October-March, after a gestation period of 2-3 months. It takes several weeks for their eyes to open and for claws to become retractable. After 5 or 6 weeks they start becoming playful and more independent!
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