The caracal is a solitary wild cat that is known for its ability to jump high in the air to catch prey. They hunt at night using their large ears to detect prey, and use their long hind legs to catch birds. The caracal communicates with its cubs and other animals through barking and vocal cues.

Diet and Hunting Patterns

The most noticeable feature of the caracal is their long, black ear tufts. The tassels help the caracal camouflage in tall grass for their prey. These ears have over 20 muscles to hear what they are hunting. The caracals mostly hunt at night and catch a variety of prey for their diet. They consume anything they can catch including rodents, birds, hyraxes, and monkeys. Many a times the caracal will jump up to ten feet in the air to attack prey, such as birds and ostriches. They hunt by stalking their prey and approaching it very quickly, and then suddenly sprinting. Sometimes caracals will also climb trees to stash their catch in the branches.

Watch a Caracal hunt in the wild.

Disclaimer, this video shows images of the caracal consuming an animal.

Mating and Family Life

Caracal

A solitary caracal in captivity.

Caracals are mostly solitary animals that patrol and aggressively defend their territory. Most caracals only come together to mate, which occurs year round. Female caracals copulate with several males according to a strict order related to the age and size of the male. The male caracal usually does not stay around to help raise the young.

Caracal mothers make a den in nearby caves, tree cavities, or burrows as a shelter when giving birth. The baby caracals are born with their eyes sealed shut and are tiny and helpless. When they reach the age of one to two months, the baby caracals are able to eat meat and follow their mother but do not leave her until they are a year old.

Communication

The caracal communicates mood through sounds and vocal cues. When the caracal is content they will purr and will also make a variety of other mews, growls, and hisses. As they are mostly solitary animals, they communicate when mating. The caracal will also make a barking sound as a warning to other animals in the area.

Behavior (Both Wild and In Captivity)

Caracals in the wild are very territorial and always occupied with hunting. The wild cat is mostly nocturnal but is seen during the day in the cooler areas of their habitat. The hunting strategies of caracals are very deliberate and successful. They like to seek out hiding spaces among dense thickets and only venture out in open grassland to hunt. Caracals often hunt animals that are larger than them and are famous for their spectacular skill at hunting birds.

Caracal

A family of caracals play in captivity at the Oregon Zoo.

On the other hand, caracals in captivity are given deliberate structural habitats to foster their growth. Zoos feature grassland, trees, and rocks, all consistent with their natural habitat. Captive facilities also try to provide dark, enclosed spaces such as hollow trees and rock caves, as the caracals are nocturnal and solitary. In captivity it is important to provided enough vegetation in the form of shrubs, tall grass, or piles of dead branches. The caracals in captivity often like lying in or chasing objects in patches of tall grass.

Enrichment (Both Wild and In Captivity)

The main source of enrichment for caracals in the wild is hunting and watching prey. The animal is a strong hunter and uses stalking and hunting as a form of entertainment and nourishment. The caracal especially likes to jump up into trees and high places.

Caracal

Caracals play with enrichment items in captivity.

In captivity, the caracal likes outside stimuli that provide for auditory and visual interest. The caracal especially likes outside stimuli like passing trains, motorbikes, laborers, and other animals. This is a mental stimulation and provides good exercise for the animal, as they like to chase these distractions. Caracals also love playing with toys, as it is a release for pent-up energy because it encourages natural behaviors such as stalking, pouncing, throwing an object and batting it in the air, and jumping. Favorite toys include soft toys, such as rubber Kong toys, rope toys, and balls. Caracals also react strongly to feathers because birds are one of their main prey in the wild.