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The caracal is one of my favorite exotic cat species. These small African cats are extremely intelligent, agile, and beautiful to look at. They are similar to servals in size and care requirements, although they are not quite as popular as pets. Their hiss is a form of communication, and this behavior can be alarming to people who are used to interpreting hissing strictly as a sign of aggression. It can be very difficult to find information on pet caracals, and much of it is contradictory. I have gotten descriptions of individual cats ranging from "nasty and downright malicious" to "the most affectionate animal I have ever known."

According to some accounts, they may have more of a "big cat" attitude because of their natural adaptation to hunting larger prey than many small felines. This translates into a certain boldness. The higher confidence level may be reflected in a more relaxed, less fearful, and more social cat. It may also be reflected in a pushier attitude that can be threatening to inexperienced owners, and some accounts say they are faster, smarter, and more active than comparable species.

I guess the best advice is to be prepared for a handful! I hope to add a caracal to my family in the future, at which point will hopefully be more qualified to comment on these amazing felines.

Caracal Facts

Description: The caracal's back and sides are typically tawny reddish brown, with a lighter underside. They have contrasting black ears with dramatically long black tufts. They have relatively short tails (but are not bobtailed). Caracals are shorter and more compact than servals, but are much more heavily built.

Size: 17-44 pounds

Range and Habitat: The caracal is widely distributed, with a range from North Africa and Turkey through the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East to Turkmenistan and central India. It is found primarily in Africa, with the exception of some deserts and heavily forested areas. The caracal is considered rare in most parts of its range, but in the Cape Provence of South Africa they are so plentiful that they are regarded as vermin and are heavily hunted.

Diet and Hunting Behavior: Caracals reportedly hunt at night, primarily on the ground although they are skilled climbers. They are fast and powerful adept at both leaping and sprinting. Unlike most small cats, they often take prey 2-3 times thier size and will kill smaller livestock such as sheep and goats. Their primary prey varies by location, consisting mainly of hyraxes, reddbuck, antelope, hares, sheep, goats, and rodents. Birds and reptiles make up a smaller percentage of their diet, and they will eat vegetation as well.

Reproduction: Litter size varies from 1-6 kittens, with one reported average of 2.19. Caracals give birth in dens such as caves and tree cavities. The newborn kitten's fur is light yellow to reddish brown with black facial markings. Their ears are flat against their heads, and their claws do not retract. The ears start to stand up by week 2. Captive caracals were reportedly weaned at 15 weeks. Permanent canine teath appear at around 4-5 months; all of the deciduous teeth have usually been replaced by the time they are 10 months old. They reach sexual maturity at about one year of age, and begin producing litters at 12-15 months. They can produce up to one litter a year.

Conservation Status: Caracals are endangered in Asia, yet hunted as vermin in South Africa. They are common in Israel, rare in Pakistan, and almost extinct in India. The species is considered plentiful in southern Africa, Nambia, Botswana, and most of eastern and southeastern Africa. Habitat loss and hunting take thier toll as with many species.

Other Information: The caracal is renowned for its leaping ability. They have been kept by Indian royalty for hunting small game, especially hares. At one point in history caracals were used in pigeon-catching competitions, and some caracals were known to take down a dozen birds before the rest of the flock could escape. They are adept at hiding in sparsely covered areas, often laying flat on the ground motionless and blending in with their surroundings.

Articles on pet caracals

Accounts of Caracals Fascinated by caracals? Can't find any information about them online? I am honored to present this article by guest author Mindy Stinner in which she writes of her experiences raising caracals. Read Article....

Sharing Territories An excellent account of challenges and ultimately success in introducing a caracal into a household already inhabited by a serval. Read Article....

Ramblings on the Subject of Caracals This is not a finished article, merely some unedited ramblings of mine regarding one of my favorite cat species. Eventually this will be expanded upon and finished, but I'm making it available in the meantime because of the scarcity of information available online. Read Article....

Pet caracal photos

To see caracal photos, visit the caracal area in the ExoticCatz.com Exotic Feline Photo Gallery.

Caracal websites

Julie's Jungle Caracal breeder offers good basic information and care sheet.

Nairobi the caracal, a resident at WildCat Haven.

Questions? Visit our wild and exotic feline discusion forum!