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Bobcat

Like many felines, Bobcats are solitary animals. The bobcat is extremely territorial and marks its boundaries with urine and droppings, as well as by digging up the ground. Like other cat species, when a bobcat approaches the scent mark of another, it raises its head with its mouth half open, and upper lip slightly withdrawn. This look gives the cat a grimacing or growl-like appearance. It will stand still, rotate its head, or appear to be staring. This behavior is called "flehmen". They will flehm after smelling any unusual odor. When they do this, they are not expressing any anger suggested by the growl-like look, but in fact activating an organ in the roof of the mouth behind the incisors. This organ is called the vomeronasal organ (VNO) or Jacobson's organ. You can see the openings to the VNO on your domestic cat. They are two small holes in a slightly raised area on the roof.

This organ allows the cat to detect molecules of substances called pheromones. Pheromones are too heavy to be inhaled and detected by typical nasal methods. Pheromones are found in the marking and birth fluids of cats. They provide a way that cats can identify each other more closely or determine if a female is in estrus, ready to mate.

The male and female interact almost exclusively during the mating season. A successful male's home range overlaps with those of several females, and may also overlap the territory of another male. The home ranges of females, which are smaller than those of the males, do not overlap one another.

These cats rarely vocalize, although they often yowl and hiss during the mating season. A male can tell from a female’s urine when she is ready to mate. Mating takes place in the winter and the male mates with all the females that share his territory.

The blind and helpless young are born in early spring. At this time, the female drives the male away from the den, although he usually remains in the area. Mothers with young are extremely aggressive. The kittens’ eyes open after a week, but they continue to suckle for eight weeks.

Once the kittens can eat solid food, the female allows the male to return to the den. Male bobcats are unusual among cat species because they bring food to both the mother and kittens. As the kittens grow, the whole family travels throughout the family territory, living in a number of different dens. When the kittens are five months old, they learn to hunt from their mother. At this time, the male loses interest in the kittens and he returns to his own territory. The young stay with their mother for six to nine months, or until the next breeding season. They then find territories of their own.

Rabbits and hares make up two-thirds of the bobcat's diet. The remainder consists of squirrels and mice.

Bobcats sometimes prey on deer, domestic sheep and goats, and an occasional cat or dog. The bobcat creeps up on its prey until it is close enough to pounce on and kill the animal. The bobcat is very strong for its size and kills its larger prey by biting and clawing at the base of the skull. During a night-long hunt, a male bobcat may travel as far as 25 miles to find prey.


Caracal

Caracala can be found in the Veld Grassland in South Africa, and in central Africa and India. This environment is generally dry and hot. The cat's habitat can also be savannah, scrub and acacia woodlands, or mountains and hilly areas.

Its head/body is 24-36 inches long, and its tail is 9-12 inches long. Its shoulder height is 15-20 inches. Its weight is 28-42 lbs. It has a shape like a cat but it's bigger and has bigger ears. The cat has a short coat whose color varies from tawny-brown to reddish-grey, sometimes even getting as dark as wine-red. Its head is shaped like an upside-down triangle. The ears are black on the outside and pale on the inside, with two-inch tufts of black hair coming out of them. The fur around the eyes is paler than the rest of the coat. The caracal has powerful jaws on a short muzzle. Its claws can retract into its large paws. It is faster than any other cat its size.

The caracal male is sexually mature at 12-15 months of age, and the female at 14-16 months. They mate year-round. Their gestation period is 69-78 days, and they usually have 1 to 6 young. The kittens weigh about 10.5 oz. As soon as they are born, the kittens have bold facial markings. At first, they only eat, sleep and make some noise. Their mother carries the kittens in her mouth by the back of the neck. They play with each other, and they learn to hunt that way. They are independent after about a year, when their mother will have another litter. The male does not help to raise the children; caracals live alone, not in pairs or groups, except when the mother raises the cubs.

The caracal is solitary, and can live as long as 17 years in captivity. They are active at night, mostly hunting smaller mammals, such as rabbits and porcupines, or even larger mammals like sheep, young antelope or deer. They have a special skill at catching birds. Their strong legs enable them to jump high enough to actually bat birds out of the air with their large paws.

The caracal's only predator is man. Humans hunt the caracal for its fur and meat in many places, sometimes to prevent this cat from killing livestock, mostly in Namibia and South Africa. There is no national legislation to protect the caracal. However, in some places these animals are protected legally. Hunting the caracal is forbidden in 10 countries in Africa. Hunting and trade are regulated in 6 countries in Africa. However, in areas where the caracal is not in danger, there are no laws protecting them.


Cerval

The Cerval, caracal and wild cat make up the group of small to medium-sized cats of East Africa. They are not as well-known as the large cats, probably because they are smaller, mainly nocturnal and solitary.

The Cerval is much larger than the domestic cat. It is long-legged, the hind legs longer than the front legs. Its neck is long and its head small, with large, erect ears.

The Cerval's coat is yellowish-tan, with black spots, bands and stripes. The tail is ringed with black, and the underparts of the body are white or light tan. Individual Cervals can be identified by their unique features-diverse patterns of spots and stripes, nicks or cuts in their ears, and variations in color.

Cervals are common on the savannas where there is plenty of water. They seem to prefer areas of bush, tall grass and dry reed beds near streams, but are found in high-altitude moorlands and bamboo thickets. Black Cervals occur in Kenya's high country.

The Cerval is mainly nocturnal, but even in the daytime it can be difficult to see in tall grass. It hunts by sight and sound more than scent. With its acute hearing, a Cerval can locate prey that is moving underground. If hunting prey above ground, the Cerval raises its head above the grass and listens for movement. Once a sound is located, the Cerval stealthily approaches, then leaps and pounces. It often plays with its catch before eating it.

A Cerval has a territory of up to 5 square miles that it continually marks by spraying urine on grass and bushes along the borders. The marking alerts Cervals in overlapping territories to keep their distance.

Cervals eat a great variety of prey, including birds, snakes, lizards, frogs and insects, and are notorious poultry raiders. They are quite successful hunters, catching an average of 50 percent of all prey hunted; they seldom eat carrion.

Cervals lead solitary lives and come together in pairs only for a few days when the female is in heat. Cerval kittens, born in litters of two to four, are difficult to observe as the mother hides them well and frequently changes the hiding place. Because the female raises the litter alone, she has to hunt frequently to feed them.

When the young are large enough to hunt, the mother drives the males out. Young females remain there somewhat longer, but when they become sexually mature they too leave to establish their own territories.

Cervals are prey of hyenas, hunting dogs and leopards.

Cervals have a variety of vocalizations, including a high-pitched cry used to call other Cervals. When angry they snarl, growl and spit. When content they purr. Cervals are found in most parts of Africa, with the exception of central equatorial Africa, the very southern part of the continent and the Sahara region.


Cheetah

The lion is said to be majestic, the leopard ferocious and shrewd. But elegant and graceful best describes the cheetah. The cheetah is smaller than the other two cats, but by far the fastest at speeds of 70 miles per hour it can run faster than all other animals.

Now restricted to sub-Saharan Africa, wild cheetahs once were found in most of Africa, the plains of southern Asia, the Middle East and India.

The cheetah is built for speed. It has long, slim, muscular legs, a small, rounded head set on a long neck, a flexible spine, a deep chest, nonretractable claws, special pads on its feet for traction and a long, tail for balance. Although fast, the cheetah cannot run at full speed for long distances, 100 yards is about the limit, because it may overheat.

Cheetahs have distinctive black "tear stripes" that connect from the inside corner of each eye to the mouth that may serve as an antiglare device for daytime hunting.

Cheetahs are found in open and partially open savannas.

Cheetah mothers spend a long time teaching their young how to hunt small live antelopes are brought back to the cubs and released so they can chase and catch them. Unlike most other cats, the cheetah usually hunts during daylight, preferring early morning or early evening, but is also active on moonlit nights.

Cheetahs do not roar like lions, but they purr, hiss, whine and growl. They also make a variety of contact calls, the most common is a birdlike chirping sound.

Once a cheetah has made a kill, it eats quickly and keeps an eye out for scavengers lions, leopards, hyenas, vultures and jackals will occasionally take away their kills. Although cheetahs usually prey on the smaller antelopes such as Thomson's gazelles and impalas, they can catch wildebeests and zebras if hunting together. They also hunt hares and other small mammals and birds.

Although known as an animal of the open plains that relies on speed to catch its prey, research has shown that the cheetah depends on cover to stalk prey. The cheetah gets as close to the prey as possible, then in a burst of speed tries to outrun its quarry. Once the cheetah closes in, it knocks the prey to the ground with its paw and suffocates the animal with a bite to the neck.

With a life span of 10 to 12 years, the cheetah is basically a solitary animal. At times a male will accompany a female for a short while after mating, but most often the female is alone or with her cubs. Two to four cubs are born in a secluded place. Their eyes do not open for a week or two, and they are helpless at first. When the mother is hunting, she leaves them hidden, but by 6 weeks of age they are able to follow her. They are suckled for 2 to 3 months but begin to eat meat as early as 3 weeks.

By 4 months the cheetah cub is a tawny yellow and almost completely spotted; the tail has bands of black and by adulthood a white tip. The grayish mantle disappears more slowly; the last traces are still visible when the cubs are adult-sized at 15 months.

A shy creature that roams widely, the cheetah is not seen as easily as some other cats. Never numerous, cheetahs have become extinct in many areas, principally due to shrinking habitat, loss of species to prey upon, disease and a high rate of cub mortality. In some areas 50 to 75 percent of all cheetah cubs die before 3 months.

The name cheetah comes from an Indian word meaning "spotted one." The young cub has a long gray-blue coat and a black underbelly that rapidly lightens and becomes spotted. Early peoples trained cheetahs for hunting, and many civilizations depicted them in their art and in written records. Cheetahs were so popular that Akbar the Great of India was said to have kept a stable of about 1,000.


Cougar

Observations of the western subspecies suggest that cougars begin breeding when 2 or 3 years old and breed thereafter once every 2 to 3 years. Whether or not there is a definite breeding season is a matter of contention. Courtship is initiated by the female and generally includes mating with a number of males.

Except when prey is scarce, cougars do not normally feed on carrion other than their own kills or possibly those taken away from other predators. They usually carry or drag their kills to a secluded area under cover to feed and drag marks are frequently found at fresh kill sites. Cougars generally begin feeding on the viscera, liver, heart, lungs, etc. through the abdomen or thorax but like other carnivores, individuals differ. Some begin feeding on the neck or shoulder while others prefer the hindquarters. Like other cats, cougars normally leave relatively clean-cut edges when they feed compared to the ragged edges of tissue and bone left by coyotes. They also may break large bones in feeding on domestic and wild animals.

Cougars frequently try to cover their kills with soil, vegetation, leaves, grass, limbs, or snow. They may eviscerate prey and cover the viscera separately from the rest of the carcass. Even where little debris is available, bits of soil, rock, grass or sticks may be found on the carcass. However, where multiple kills are made at one time, there may be no effort to cover more than one or two of them.

Cougar "scrapes" or "scratches", composed of mounds of soil, grass, leaves, or snow, are probably a means of communication with other cougars. These scrapes are generally 6 to 8 inches high and urine is deposited on the mounds. Male cougars appear to make scrapes as territorial markers around their kills and near trails and deposit urine and feces on them. These markers may be considerably larger than others, up to 2 feet long, 12 inches wide and 6 to 8 inches high in some cases.


Leopard

The most secretive and elusive of the large carnivores, the leopard is also the shrewdest. Pound for pound, it is the strongest climber of the large cats and capable of killing prey larger than itself.

Leopards come in a wide variety of coat colors, from a light buff or tawny in warmer, dryer areas to a dark shade in deep forests. The spots, or rosettes, are circular in East African leopards but square in southern African leopards.

Dense bush in rocky surroundings and riverine forest are their favorite habitats, but leopards adapt to many places in both warm and cold climates. Their adaptability, in fact, has helped them survive the loss of habitat to increasing human settlement. Leopards are primarily nocturnal, usually resting during the daytime in trees or thick bush. The spotted coat provides almost perfect camouflage.

When a leopard stalks prey, it keeps a low profile and slinks through the grass or bush until it is close enough to launch an attack. When not hunting, it can move through herds of antelopes without unduly disturbing them by flipping its tail over its back to reveal the white underside, a sign that it is not seeking prey.

Leopards are basically solitary and go out of their way to avoid one another. Each animal has a home range that overlaps with its neighbors; the male's range is much larger and generally overlaps with those of several females. A leopard usually does not tolerate intrusion into its own range except to mate. Unexpected encounters between leopards can lead to fights.

Leopards growl and spit with a screaming roar of fury when angry and they purr when content. They announce their presence to other leopards with a rasping or sawing cough. They have a good sense of smell and mark their ranges with urine; they also leave claw marks on trees to warn other leopards to stay away.

Leopards continually move about their home ranges, seldom staying in an area for more than two or three days at a time. With marking and calling, they usually know one another's whereabouts. A male will accompany a female in estrus for a week or so before they part and return to solitude.

As they grow, cubs learn to hunt small animals. The leopard is a cunning, stealthy hunter, and its prey ranges from strong-scented carrion, fish, reptiles and birds to mammals such as rodents, hares, hyraxes, warthogs, antelopes, monkeys and baboons.

A litter includes two or three cubs, whose coats appear to be smoky gray as the rosettes are not yet clearly delineated. The female abandons her nomadic wandering until the cubs are large enough to accompany her. She keeps them hidden for about the first 8 weeks, giving them meat when they are 6 or 7 weeks old and suckling them for 3 months or longer.

Leopards have long been preyed upon by man. Their soft, dense, beautiful fur has been used for ceremonial robes and coats. Different parts of the leopard the tail, claws and whiskers are popular as fetishes. These cats have a reputation as wanton killers, but research does not support the claim. In some areas farmers try to exterminate them, while in others leopards are considered symbols of wisdom. Leopards do well in captivity, and some have lived as long as 21 years.

The elegant, powerfully built leopard has a long body, relatively short legs and a broad head. Its tawny coat is covered with dark, irregular circles called "rosettes." Both lions and hyenas will take away a leopard's kill if they can. To prevent this leopards store their larger kills in trees where they can feed on them in relative safety.


Lion

Lions at one time were found from Greece through the Middle East to northern India, but today only a very small population remains in India. In the past lions lived in most parts of Africa, but are now confined to the sub-Saharan region.

Most cat species live a fundamentally solitary existence, but the lion is an exception. It has developed a social system based on teamwork and a division of labor within the pride, and an extended but closed family unit centered around a group of related females. The average pride consists of about 15 individuals, including five to 10 females with their young and two or three territorial males that are usually brothers or pride mates.

Generally a tawny yellow, lions, like other species, tend to be lighter in color in hot, arid areas and darker in areas of dense vegetation. Mature male lions are unique among the cat species for the thick mane of brown or black hair that encircles the head and neck. The tails of lions end in a horny spine covered with a tuft of hair.

Lions are found in savannas, grasslands, dense bush and woodlands.

Females do 85 to 90 percent of the pride's hunting, while the males patrol the territory and protect the pride, for which they take the "lion's share" of the females' prey. When resting, lions seem to enjoy good fellowship with lots of touching, head rubbing, licking and purring. But when it comes to food, each lion looks out for itself. Squabbling and fighting are common, with adult males usually eating first, followed by the females and then the cubs.

Lions are the laziest of the big cats. They usually spend 16 to 20 hours a day sleeping and resting, devoting the remaining hours to hunting, courting or protecting their territory. They keep in contact with one another by roaring loud enough to be heard up to five miles away. The pride usually remains intact until the males are challenged and successfully driven away or killed by other males, who then take over. Not all lions live in prides. At maturity, young males leave the units of their birth and spend several years as nomads before they become strong enough to take over a pride of their own. Some never stop wandering and continue to follow migrating herds; but the nomadic life is much more difficult, with little time for resting or reproducing.

Within the pride, the territorial males are the fathers of all the cubs. When a lioness is in heat, a male will join her, staying with her constantly. The pair usually mates for less than a minute, but it does so about every 15 to 30 minutes over a period of four to five days.

Lions may hunt at any hour, but they typically go after large prey at night. They hunt together to increase their success rate, since prey can be difficult to catch and can outrun a single lion. The lions fan out along a broad front or semicircle to creep up on prey. Once with within striking distance, they bound in among the startled animals, knock one down and kill it with a bite to the neck or throat. Hunts are successful about half the time.

Cooperative hunting enables lions to take prey as large as wildebeests, zebras, buffaloes, young elephants, rhinos, hippos and giraffes, any of which can provide several meals for the pride. Mice, lizards, tortoises, warthogs, antelopes and even crocodiles also form part of a lion's diet. Because they often take over kills made by hyenas, cheetahs and leopards, scavenged food provides more than 50 percent of their diets in areas like the Serengeti plains.

Litters consist of two or three cubs that weigh about 3 pounds each. Some mothers carefully nurture the young; others may neglect or abandon them, especially when food is scarce. Usually two or more females in a pride give birth about the same time, and the cubs are raised together. A lioness will permit cubs other than her own to suckle, sometimes enabling a neglected infant to survive. Capable hunters by 2 years of age, lions become fully grown between 5 and 6 years and normally live about 13 years.

Lions have long been killed in rituals of bravery, as hunting trophies and for their medicinal and magical powers. Although lions are now protected in many parts of Africa, they were once considered to be stock-raiding vermin and were killed on sight. In some areas, livestock predation remains a severe problem.

Most lions drink water daily if available, but can go four or five days without it. Lions in arid areas seem to obtain needed moisture from the stomach contents of their prey. When males take over a pride, they usually kill the cubs. The females come into estrus and the new males sire other cubs.