The Meerkat is not a cat at all but a member of the mongoose family. The name is of Dutch origin and means Marsh Cat. They are rather small at 12 inches (standing) or 6 inches (on all fours) and about 2 pounds. They are long and slender with a black tip on their tails. They have markings on their backs that are never the same as another Meerkat. Meerkats have dark markings on their backs and sided and have gray or tan markings as well. Their fur is silver, or orange or brown
Habits of the Meerkat
Meerkats are very social animals and depend on other Meerkats to stay alive. The reason for the dark tail tip, is to locate each other. When looking for food, their tails stand straight up, for visibility to others in the tribe. They have good vision at a distance but poor close up vision.
They are constantly searching for food, as they lose considerable body weight each night (5%) and hunt as a group. When foraging they spread out to cover a larger area and eat their food alone. They constantly communicate by scents, noises or body language while hunting. While the tribe looks for food, one Meerkat stands guard and looks for predators.
Meerkats hunt for food that mostly lives underground, thus they are good diggers. They enjoy feasting on lizards, worms, snakes, grasshoppers, birds, eggs, fruit and crickets. If they are eating poisonous prey they clean the victim by dragging it through sand, to remove chemical defenses of their prey. They don’t need to drink water (they get it from their food) but will drink if a water source is around their area.
Tribes of Meerkats live in underground burrows with many entrances. Each group has it’s own territory and will fight other Meerkats to defend it. And other Meerkats tribes will invade it or sneak in for food raids. When they build their den they pile up dirt outside, and use this as a sentry perch to watch for enemies.
Each tribe has an alpha male and alpha female. The female is the boss and leads the tribe. Sometimes the female will mate with a male from another tribe, without her mate knowing it occurs. The alpha female will run off other females when she has a litter. To keep them from overthrowing her while she is weak. She also does not want them having their own litter to compete with hers. After she recovers from having a litter, she allows them to return. Meerkats will not mate with close relatives, to keep from inbreeding and weakening the tribe.
There are many animals that prey on Meerkats. Snakes and birds killing the most of them. Jackals and wild cats also hunt Meerkats, but a group of Meerkats can defend against a single jackal. Meerkats can also be killed by floods caused by sudden rain.
Habitat of the Meerkat
Meerkats live in the Kalahari Desert in Africa, in the countries of Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Botswana. This desert covers more than 1,000,000 square miles. A lot of the sand is orange, which explains why a lot of Meerkats are as well. It rains in the Kalahari from January to April and they get a whopping 12 inches a year.
As mentioned above, the Meerkats live in burrows underground. They have a series of entrances and escape holes. The escape holes are used to run into when predators approach. The Meerkats sleep as a group in sleeping chambers around 8 feet underground.
Meerkats will share their burrow with other animals. Yellow Mongooses and Ground Squirrels will live with the Meerkats. However when Meerkat pups are present, the adults will run the Mongoose’s off. They tend to make a lunch of Meerkat young.
I hope you learned a little about the Meerkat in this article on Associatedcontent.com.