Common Name: Caracal Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata) Class: Mammalia Order: Carnivora Family: Felidae Genus: Felinae (Caracal) Species: caracal
Misc: The name Caracal is derived from a Turkish word “karakulak” meaning “black ear.” The Caracal was once trained for bird hunting in Iran and India. They were put into arenas containing a flock of pigeons, and wagers were made as to how many the cat would take down. This is the origination of the expression “to put a cat amongst the pigeons.” The Caracal is capable of leaping into the air and knocking down 10-12 birds at one time!
Size and Appearance: Often referred to as the desert lynx, the Caracal does not actually possess the same physical attributes of members of the lynx family, such as the characteristic ruff of hair around the face. Instead, it has a short, dense coat, usually a uniform tawny-brown to brick-red, and black (melanistic) individuals have been recorded. As the name implies, the backs of the ears are black and topped with long black tufts about 1.75 inches long. This tuft is the characteristic that Caracals do share with the members of the lynx family. It is the largest member of Africa’s small cats, and it’s most formidable. Males can weigh as much as 40 pounds, and females as much as 35. They stand between 16-20 inches at the shoulder, and are 35-39 inches long.
Habitat: Caracals live in the drier savannah and woodland regions of sub-Saharan Africa, and prefer the more scrubby, arid habitats. They will also inhabit evergreen and montane forests, but are not found in tropical rain forests.
Distribution: Central Africa, South Africa, west Africa, southwest Asia, Middle East.
Reproduction and Offspring: After a gestation of approximately 78-81 days, females produce a litter of 1-4 kittens, with 2 being the average. They begin to open their eyes on their first day of life, but it takes 6-10 days for them to completely open. They are weaned at 10 weeks, and will remain with their mothers for up to a year. They attain sexual maturity between 12-16 months. In captivity, Caracals have lived up to 19 years.
Social System and Communication: Caracals are solitary animals, and social interactions are limited to periods of mating, except for mothers with kittens. Hear our purrs, hisses, snarls, calls, and growl sounds HERE
Hunting and Diet: Caracals prey on a variety of mammals, with the most common being rodents, hares, hyraxes, and small antelope. Unlike the other small African cats, Caracals will not hesitate to kill prey larger then themselves, such as adult springbok or young Kudu. Caracals have also been reported on occasion (although this is an exception rather than a rule) to store their kills in trees, as do the leopards. These cats are mostly nocturnal, but have been spotted in daylight in protected areas.
Principal Threats: Caracals are mostly killed for livestock predation, although this only occurs in a few of its ranges it still adds up to large numbers of deaths (2219 animals in one area alone). In other areas of its range, it fights hunting for its skin and for its meat, which some bush tribes consider to be a luxury.
Status: CITES: Appendix II. IUCN: Not listed.
Felid TAG 2003 recommendation: Caracals (Caracal caracal). Caracals are managed with the assistance of an international studbook. Most recent importations are from Namibia. Ultimately, a pure subspecies can be maintained in North America. Although the TAG originally targeted the Asian race from Turkmenistan for the RCP, it became apparent that only highly inbred hybrids were present in North America. More likely, no aspect of this race is in this region, or likely to become available. The population target for the PMP is 80 individuals.
How rare is this cat ? The International Species Information Service lists 169 in zoos worldwide, with 52 being in the U.S.
Information reprinted With Permission from the IUCN Wild Cats Book
The word “Cheetah” is derived from the Hindi word “Chita” meaning “spotted one”. The Cheetah is the fastest land animal reaching speeds of 45 – 70 mph. Cheetahs have also been known to swim, although they do not like to. The Cheetah is not one of the Great Cats, because it does not have a floating Hyoid bone in its neck it can not roar, therefore it is a Lesser Cat. Cheetahs have been considered through out history to be a sleek and beautiful cat.
Cheetahs have been in captivity for over 5,000 years and were first tamed by the Sumarians. By far the Cheetah has been considered the easiest of the exotic cats to tame. The Cheetahs were used as hunting partners for sport in Asia prior to Assyrian Dynasty in Libya, during the reign of the Kings. Their keen eyesight played a major role, which aided in the hunt.
Cheetahs have also been pets to many people dating back to such historical figures as Gengis Khan and Akbar the Great of India and Mogul Emperor. Akbar (1555-1600 AD) had a collection of an estimated 6,000 Cheetah, which only produced one litter each year. 25% of Cheetah in captivity will breed more than once. This along with several other studies has proven the Cheetah does not breed well in captivity.
The Asiatic Cheetah-Acinonyx venaticus, was hunted to near extinction by the European and Asian royalty. Their beautiful pelt was a symbol of wealth and was worn proudly. Although the pelt was not coveted as that of the Leopard, these cats were almost completely destroyed. Today only an estimated 50 of this sub-species exist in small isolated groups scattered throughout Eastern Iran.
The King Cheetah was once considered it own species, however now it has been proven to be nothing more than a genetic mutation. King Cheetah originated from Central Africa, where they were used for hunting. These Cheetah were part of a breeding program to acquire genetic mutations, such as fur patterns, size, and rare and unusual color forms, with no regard to the genetic integrity of the species. This African Cheetah can only be found naturally in Zimbabwe and South Africa Transvaal Province providing that both of the parents carry the recessive gene.
The Cheetah is a tall and elegant cat in appearance. Large chest, narrow waist, long thin legs, and a slim well muscled build this animal was definitely made for speed. The Cheetahs coat varies from a tawny to golden tone covered in a pattern of solid black spots averaging .75″-1.5″ in diameter. The Cheetahs beautiful pelt became more protected in 1970, when the fur trade regulations were strengthened. The fur is coarse to the touch not silky as it appears. The Cheetahs long thick tail has spots, which turn into rings and at the end is tipped with white. The throat and abdomen are a creamy white in color. The Cheetah has a small head with high set eyes and short rounded ears tipped with white on the back. The most well known characteristic is however the distinct black “tear mark”, which runs from the inside corner of the eye down to the corner of the mouth.
Cubs are born with a mantle of fur running from the back of the neck down to the rump. This clever disguise aids in camouflaging the kittens in the high grass while they are following their mother. This mane like feature begins to disappear at the age of 3 months, but still remains visible at 2 years of age. The fur color of a newborn cub is medium gray, which gradually evolves into the adult colors by the age of 4 months.
The King Cheetah has a fur pattern mutation, which turned the small rounded spots into large connected black patches. This mutation is caused from a lack of genetic diversity.
The Cheetah weighs an average of 83-145 lbs., making them about the same weight as that of a leopard. The length of a Cheetah is approximately 70″-86″ from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail. Being an extremely tall cat the Cheetah stands at an average of 32″ tall.
Newborn cubs weigh an average of 5.25-10.5 oz. The body length of a cub is approximately 11.8″, which may vary.
The Cheetah prefers to live in open grasslands, savannas, dense vegetation, and sometimes even mountainous terrain. The open land of grasslands and semi-desert better accommodates the Cheetahs way of hunting, which is running as opposed to the stalk and pounce method. Namibia is home to the largest population of Cheetah at about 2,500 cats. Due to the continuous growth of farmland and expanding development 95% of the Namibian Cheetah live on cultivated farmland.
The Cheetah was once widely distributed throughout Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Asia Minor, and even East of India. Fossils were recorded to be found from China, Northern India, Southern Europe, and as far as the Western United States. Sadly now the species is burning out and can be found sparsely scattered amongst Namibia, Kenya, Asia, as well as a handful of other small countries.
The Cheetah above all else is the most reproductive cat. Why then is it so endangered? The answer is two-fold. Cheetah cubs often fall prey to Lions, Jackals, Birds of Prey, and Hyenas, as the mother must leave them behind while hunting for food. Even if the mother was near, she could not fend off an animal as large as a Lion or Hyena, the Cheetah was built for running not fighting. 90% of Cheetahs born die with in the first 3 months, 50% of which are destroyed by predators. The other 40% fall victim to lack of genetic diversity. This is the second reason for their inability to survive. This genetic peril is responsible for weak and underdeveloped immune systems. Disease and illness attack a weak immune system, which in turn causes death. Most cubs do not even make it past 1 month old when this is the case.
After a gestation period of 90-95 days a female Cheetah will give birth to a litter of 3-5 cubs. The largest litter recorded in captivity was 8. The male Cheetah does not participate in the rearing of the cubs. The mother may leave the cubs for as long as 48 hours in order to hunt for enough food to sustain her in a lactating state. If the food supply is too scarce the mother may abandon the cubs, so as to maintain her way of life. Also if the litter is lost with in the first few weeks the female will come into estrus in the next few days. If this is not the case the mother will return and move the cubs from one location to another to better hide the smell of her young from predators. Sometimes the mother will even wait until night falls to return to her cubs, so that she is not as easily followed.
The cubs are usually weaned at 6-8 weeks and will then leave the den and follow the mother from then on. If a young cub loses its original family, due to some great misfortune, it will find another family and join them despite the ill will from the new mother and being out cast by the new brothers and sisters. At 5 months old, the cubs are playing with one another, sharpening their stalking, chasing, and wrestling skills in a playful manner. At 6 months the mother Cheetah will fetch live prey injuring it and then giving it to the cubs so they may practice the art of the kill. At 8 months the cubs are chasing inappropriately large prey such as Giraffes. A Cheetah will not be a very skilled and efficient hunter until about 3 years of age. Cheetah cubs kill less than 10% of the prey, which the family feeds on. At 15-24 months the cubs will leave the mother, but may stay together for several more months. Young females will leave her brothers when they reach sexual maturity. Young males will travel far from parents and will lay claim to a territory as large as 300-800 square miles. Young females will stay closer to home and may even overlap territory with the mother.
Female Cheetahs are solitary animals except when rearing a litter. Mothers with cubs will usually stay with in close proximity of one another. Females only come in contact with other Cheetahs in order to mate.
Males on the other hand will sometimes form coalitions of 2-3 in order to defend more land. These coalitions are mostly formed between brothers, but sometimes include outsiders. 30 % of coalitions are unrelated. Males are not territorial towards each other, but are in fact towards other males or coalitions. Due to coalitions fighting against one another the ratio has dropped to one male for every two females.
Cheetahs communicate in many different ways. Some of these are through vocalizations such as purrs, bleats, barks, growls, hisses, and a high pitched chirping sound. Another way to communicate is through marking. A Cheetah will mark their territory by urinating or by cheek and chin rubbing. Saliva that is secreted contains the same chemical information about the animals, as does the urine. Cheetahs will mark territory so that they can better avoid one another.
The Cheetah is the fastest land animal, reaching a top speed of 70 mph! The Cheetah however can only run for short sprints of up to 300 yards. These sprints will usually last for 20 seconds, but rarely ever reach a full minute. Non-retractable claws and tough pads on their feet closely resemble that of a dog. These features offer better traction to get to those high speeds. A long heavy tail acts as a rudder for making those sharp turns while in pursuit. The Cheetah’s long fluid body is set over extremely light bones, this accompanied with large nasal passages, and oversized lungs, liver, heart and adrenals enable rapid physical response. This response is imperative to accommodate the Cheetah’s way of hunting. A strong spring-like spine gives added reach to the Cheetah’s long legs. A stride is the measured distance between successive imprints of the same paw. With the added reach given by the spine 1 stride can stretch as far as 7-8 meters. The Cheetah averages 4 strides per second or 1 stride per .28 seconds as the horse averages 1 stride per .44 seconds and can reach top speeds of 43 mph. The Cheetah can out run the horse going from 0-45 mph in 2 seconds flat, though this will not very last very long. The horse would inevitably win in the long run.
Cheetahs are equipped with several special features that are crucial in successful and efficient hunting. Binocular vision is a very important asset since Cheetahs rely on sight to hunt as opposed to scent. The retinal fovea of the eye is of an elongated shape, giving a sharp wide-angle view. This aspect of the eye is also adapted for speed. The dark “tear marks” on the Cheetahs face reduce glare from the bright sun also and aid in excellent vision. The Cheetahs will perch upon a fallen tree or rocky ledge to scope out the surroundings and potential prey. The Cheetah is also a very vocal animal. With the ability to mimic the calls of some birds, by displaying a high pitched chirping sound. When a bird falls for this deceiving call it will also fall prey to the sly Cheetah.
The Cheetah is a carnivorous animal and a diurnal hunter, which means it hunts during the day usually early morning and late afternoon. Cheetahs are solitary hunters except when living in a coalition. When this is the case they will hunt in groups so that they can take down larger prey. Unlike the common misconception, the Cheetah will pick out animals that have strayed from the herd as a target, not necessarily the weak or old. After chasing down and catching the prey, the Cheetah suffocates larger animals with a bite to the jugular and holding for as long as 15-25 minutes. Smaller animals are killed with a quick bite to the head usually killing them instantly. By this time the Cheetah is so tired from the chase that it must wait for as long as a half hour before consuming its meal, and could not fend off other predators, who might want to steal the Cheetah’s dinner. The Cheetah’s resting heart rate is approximately 120-170 beats per minute, while it’s heart rate after a chase is 200-250 beats per minute. The Cheetah’s resting breaths vary from 20-30 per minute depending on whether the Cheetah is in direct sunlight or in the shade, after a chase the Cheetah’s breaths per minute are 150-200! When done resting the Cheetah will quickly eat, as they can not defend their food from other predators for this reason they will not bury the food and come back for another meal. Half of the Cheetah’s hunts are successful, the other half are hard life lessons.
The Cheetah’s diet consists of a wide range of prey from steenbok, rabbits, wildebeest calves, duikers, kudu, and impala to springbok, hartebeest, oryx, roan, sable, birds and warthog. The most preferred and most hunted by the cheetah however is the Thompson’s Gazelle. Something about these graceful animals just makes a Cheetah’s tummy roar! Cheetahs consume an average of 6-8 lbs. of food each day, and in some cases may go as long as 4-10 days with out water.
Extinction Is Forever
The Cheetah is considered Endangered in Appendix 1 to the Conservation Of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Humans have been proven to be the most feared predator by the Cheetah. Living space and adequate food supply is being robbed from these innocent creatures. Farmland is expanding into the Cheetah’s natural environment leaving the Cheetah to move on or be killed by paranoid farmers. A law was passed authorizing ranchers to shoot on sight any Cheetahs due to an alleged imposing threat to livestock. In 1980 alone ranchers killed a reported 6,829 Cheetahs. Poachers also pose a threat to the Cheetah, whose pelt was coveted and was doomed to become a fad. In the 1960’s 1,500 Cheetah pelts each year were imported into the United States due to an accessory fad. It was considered hip and a sign of wealth to wear a Cheetah fur. The number of Cheetahs has consistently dropped every year since 1900. In 1900 there were over 100,000 Cheetahs, in 1970 the numbers plummeted to 20,000-25,000 Cheetahs, and to this day there are only 10,000 Cheetahs. One tenth of which live in captivity. Due to the unavailability of land and food and the dangerous threat brought on by ranchers and poachers the Cheetah’s lifespan in the wild is 4-6 years, where as in captivity the Cheetah will live to 10-15 years old.
The cheetah, which has suffered a dramatic 90 per cent decline over the past century, becoming extinct in 18 countries of its original range, with less than 10,000 adults surviving in Africa and a meagre 50 in Asia, mainly around Iran’s Kavir desert, due to severe habitat loss, over-hunting and poor breeding in captivity. November 2008 –The critically endangered cheetah, the world’s fastest land animal, is set to obtain added international protection next week at a United Nations-backed conference seeking to strengthen conservation of species that often cross national borders.
Felid TAG 2003 recommendation: Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus). After determining correct husbandry techniques for reproduction,
cheetah populations have increased without the need for additional founders. Unfortunately, recent importations usually sought specimens of the “king” or “rex” color morpho-types which are not appropriate for conservation breeding. Some of these individuals have been imported without regard to genetic need and often related to individuals already in North America. The target population for cheetahs in North America is 300 individuals. Since disease and stress are such prevalent causes for cheetah mortality, many of the new breedings will take place off zoo properties.
How rare is this cat? The International Species Information Service lists 680 in zoos worldwide, with 227 being in the U.S.
Common Names: Cougar, Puma, Panther,
Mountain Lion, Catamount Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata) Class: Mammalia Order: Carnivora Family: Felidae Genus: Felinae (Puma) Species: concolor Sub-species:
Eastern Texas to Florida – P.c.coryi –IUCN: Endangered, CITES:Appendix I Northeastern US and southeastern Canada Cougar – P.c. couguar – IUCN: Endangered, CITES: Appendix I Central American Cougar – P.c. costaricensis – CITES: Appendix I Misc: The cougar has the greatest natural distribution of any mammal in the Western Hemisphere except for man.
The cougar is extremely agile and has great jumping power and may leap from the ground up to a height of 18 feet into a tree. It is a good swimmer but prefers not to enter the water. Sight is its most acute sense with a good sense of hearing, but is thought to have a poorly developed sense of smell.
Size and Appearance: The cougar is the largest cat in the genus “felis”, and is comparable in size as the leopard. They vary in length from 59 – 108 inches with a tail length of 21 – 36 inches, and height from 23 – 28 inches at the shoulder. Weight can vary greatly, between 75 and 250 pounds. They have a long body with a small head, short face, and a long neck and tail. They are powerfully built, and the hind legs are larger than the front. The ears are small, short and rounded.
Habitat: The cougar thrives in montane, coniferous forests, lowland tropical forests, swamps, grassland, dry brush country, or any other area with adequate cover and prey.
Distribution: Western North America from British Columbia and south Alberta south through west Wyoming to California and west Texas. Also south Texas, Louisiana, south Alabama, Tennessee, and peninsular Florida.
Reproduction and Offspring: There is no fixed mating season, but in North America, the majority of births occur between late winter and early spring. Females tend to reproduce every other year, and give birth to litters of 1 – 6 (usually 2-3) kittens after a gestation of 90-96 days. Mothers give birth to their young in dens that are lined with moss or vegetation, usually in rock shelters, crevices, piles of rocks, thickets, caves, or some other protected place. Kittens weigh approximately 7-16 ounces at birth, and have spotted coats until they are around 6 months old. They will continue to nurse for 3 or more months, but will begin to take meat at 6 weeks. The kittens will remain with their mothers until they are 1-2 years old, and after separating, siblings will remain together for another 2-3 months. Females reach sexual maturity around 2.5 and males around 3 years. They will not begin to reproduce until they have established themselves a permanent home area. The may remain reproductive until 12 years of age for females, and 20 years for males.
In captivity, cougars have lived over 20 years, as compared to 8 – 10 in the wild. At Big Cat Rescue one cougar lived to one month shy of 30 years.
Social System and Communication: Cougars are solitary cats and will avoid other individuals except for during mating. They communicate by the use visual and olfactory signals, and the males regularly make scrapes in the soil or snow. Their vocalizations include growls, hisses, and bird-like whistles. They purr like the domestic cats, and during estrus, the females give off loud, hair-raising screams. Hear our purrs, hisses, snarls, calls, and growl sounds HERE
Hunting and Diet: Cougars primarily feed on large mammals, preferring deer, but they will also eat Coyotes, Porcupines, Beaver, mice marmots, hares, raccoons, birds and even grasshoppers. They kill by stalking to within 30 feet of their prey before pouncing from its hiding place. It leaps onto its victim’s back and bites into the neck and holds with its sharp claws.
Principal Threats: According to 2001 statistics provided from actual sales of hunting permits, almost 2100 cougars are still being killed each year. This figure does not include all the cougars killed by hunters who do not buy licenses nor report their kills. Less than 3% of our population are hunters but they kill over 100 million animals each year for sport.
Status: CITES: Appendix I, USDI: Endangered
2003 Felid TAG recommendation: Puma (Puma concolor). A widely held species, the Felid TAG is urging the elimination of this species from collections, whenever possible, in favor of similar-sized, but rarer SSP or PMP felid species. Only acquisition of pumas needed for education or zoogeographic exhibit themes is recommended. With the exception of the Florida panther, no breeding is recommended. The present zoo population of pumas is comprised of more than 200 individuals, and the studbook keeper is striving to reduce this number to 120 or less. In cases of exhibition need, new animals should be acquired from other AZA institutions or, alternatively, cubs from sanctuary or rescue programs.
How rare is this cat ? The International Species Information Service lists 334 in zoos worldwide, with 119 being in the U.S.
Misc.:One of the most popular pets of all times, there is currently more than 100 million animals in existence worldwide. Humans spend more than $1.5 billion dollars per year feeding their feline companions, and more than $200 million per year on cat litter!
There are more than 30 different breeds of domestic cat and it is believed that all originated from the African Wildcat. Domestication is thought to have occurred more than 4000 years ago in Egypt, and originally occurred for religious purposes.
The expression that most aptly describes the difference between the canine companion versus the feline companion is “My dog thinks he’s human, my cat thinks he’s god”.
Size and Appearance: Almost impossible to describe, the domestic cat comes in a wide variety of colors and coat lengths. There are longhaired breeds like the Persian, and cats with virtually no hair like the Mexican Hairless. There are even cats with almost no tail at all like the Manx cat, or very short legs like the Munchkin. They can be as varied in size, ranging from 5 pounds all the way up to more than 20.
Habitat: Everywhere, mostly associated with human dwellings. Sadly, due to the irresponsibility of man, there are now feral populations of domestic cats everywhere.
Reproduction and Offspring: Females tend to come in heat 3-4 times per year, and after a gestation of 63-66 days they produce litters of 1-8 kittens, most commonly 3-5. They weigh 3-4 ounces at birth, and their eyes open between 7-20 days. They learn to walk around 9-15 days, eat solid food at 4 weeks and are weaned between 8-10 weeks. Independence is around 6 months, with sexual maturity being reached around 10-12 months.
Social System and Communication: Solitary by nature, yet in areas with abundant food sources, they establish a social organization and hierarchies and tolerate each other quite well.
Hunting and Diet: Outdoor and feral cats prey on a variety of small mammals and birds, including mice, rats, squirrels, gophers, moles, shrews, hares and rabbits. As for birds, they prefer sparrows, starlings, robins, doves, and ground nesting birds like grouse, quail and pheasants. Cats will also include grass and other vegetation as part of their diet. Fish, insects and domestic chickens may also be taken.
Principal Threats: Because of their ability to survive so well and reproduce in large numbers, cats have become nuisances in areas of human populations. Each year, hundreds of thousands of unwanted or abandoned cats are euthanised here in the United States alone. Because humans are also irresponsible in their keeping of pets and do not spay and neuter, the number of unwanted kittens is astronomical, adding to the numbers of euthanised animals each year. Keeping animals as outdoor cats invites thousands of cats to be killed by automobiles each year, or by other predators.
HomeoAnimal interviewed 200 rescues and shelters allowing them to create the best content possible in order to help these animals that only ask for the RIGHT person to adopt them. They created a series of 12 articles. In these, they talk about the benefits of adopting an animal, the myths that are all too often associated with adoption, what one should consider before adopting and during adoption process, and also tips for taking care of the new chosen pet. http://www.homeoanimal.com/blog-animal-health/ultimate-guide-pet-adoption-sneak-preview/
June 28, 2007 (HealthDay News) — Painstaking genetic research shows that the cat first became domesticated soon after humans began farming and building the first civilizations, somewhere in the ancient Near East.
And, in typical feline fashion, the decision to take up residence was theirs.
“Cats weren’t domesticated on purpose, they just kind of invited themselves in,” said study lead author Carlos Driscoll, a doctoral fellow at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. He conducted the research while at the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s Laboratory of Genomic Diversity, in Frederick, Md.
By now, the world’s Fluffys and Sylvesters have planted their paws firmly across the globe. But these millions of cats appear to share a common ancestor, according to researchers reporting in the June 29, 2007 issue of Science.
Driscoll’s team used genetic material gathered from cats worldwide to distinguish wild breeds from domesticated cats and hybrids, and to help determine when and where domestication first occurred.
“Cat domestication became complete by about 3,600 years ago, although the process probably began much earlier,” Driscoll said. “It probably began with the origins of agriculture, which was about 12,000 years ago.”
As farmland in the Fertile Crescent (modern-day Iraq) kept humans rooted in one locale, the first cities grew.
“Cats are very adaptable, and they adapted themselves to this new environment,” Driscoll said.
Still, outside of their talent for eating mice and rats, felines weren’t of any obvious value to humankind — not like pigs, goats and cattle, which people worked hard to domesticate.
Instead, cats likely won humans over with a charm offensive, Driscoll said.
“Cats are nice. They tame down well, and there was just no reason for people not to like them,” he said. As cats started to hang around cities and homes, “they were tolerated and encouraged,” he added. It appears to have been the perfect plan, since the house cat now outranks the dog as the world’s most populous pet.
The NCI study drew on genetic material from 979 domestic cats found “in Scotland, down though Cape Town, and all the way to Mongolia and lots of places in between,” Driscoll said. The researchers also sampled the DNA of the world’s remaining pockets of truly wild cats: Felis silvestris silvestris in Europe; Felis s. lybica in Africa and the Near East; Felis s. ornata in Central Asia; Felis s. cafra from the Sahara desert, and Felis s. bieti from the Chinese desert.
Prior to this work, specialists in feline evolution had based much of their theories on the archaeological and paleontological record. But, Driscoll said, cats’ bones and other remains can only tell scientists so much. “There’s actually very little physiological difference between wild cats and domestic cats,” he said. “It’s very difficult to tell them apart from their bones.”
The common house cat also varies little in behavioral terms from its wilder cousins, he said. “Just by knowing how [house] cats can survive in the wild, you can tell they’re not very much changed from their wild ancestors,” Driscoll said. “They hunt just as well as a wild cat, and they breed even more prolifically.”
Based largely on the archaeological record, some experts had speculated that the domestication of the cat occurred in separate places at separate times, giving rise to distinct lineages around the world.
But the new gene study tells a different tale.
“All [domestic] cats are related to one another, and they all come from the same place, and that’s the Near East” Driscoll said. Today’s domestic cats probably all descend from the wild cat native to the area, Felis s. lybica.
Looking much farther back into the record, Driscoll and his colleagues also discovered that the various lineages of wild cat began branching off from a common ancestor, Felis silvestris, more than 100,000 years ago — much earlier than was originally assumed.
The findings are more than an historical curiosity. “Of the 36 or 37 species of cat, all of them are threatened or endangered except for the domestic cat. There’s a real conservation aspect of this work,” Driscoll pointed out. That’s because one big problem facing the world’s wild cats is their tendency to breed with feral relatives of nearby domestic cats.
The new findings “give us more evidence for a genetic basis to differentiate wild cats from domestic cats and the hybrids of the two,” explained Bill Swanson, director of animal research at the Cincinnati Zoo. “So, if you are working to conserve wild cats, it gives you a way to determine if that population is genetically pure or if there have been domestic cat genes incorporated into that population,” he said.
Interbreeding is a particular problem for European varieties, such as the Scottish wildcat, a focus of Driscoll’s work in the field.
That the gene work was carried out at the National Cancer Institute points to its importance for human health, as well.
“Cats are great models for human genetic disease,” Driscoll explained. “Things like retinal atrophy, for example. The Laboratory of Genomic Diversity is interested in that. They’re interested in making the cat a better ‘model.’ This is a kind of genetic background check on the cat.”
Find out more about cat genome research at the NCI Laboratory of Genomic Diversity:
See why cats land on their feet in this interesting video.
Information reprinted With Permission from Feline Facts
Before you buy a kitten or take your pet to a shelter
As I read this, I thought that so much of this sentiment applies to what we witness in our rescuing of wildcats. “DON’T BREED OR BUY WHILE SANCTUARIES FILL UP” – just changing a few words…it’s what we try to educate, too. (Having put in time volunteering at a shelter’s euthanasia department, crying my way home every day, believe me, this all rings very true and deserves sharing far and wide). These are some of the very same issues our staff deal with every day, too.
“I think our society needs a huge “Wake-up” call.
As a shelter manager, I am going to share a little insight with you all…a view from the inside if you will.
First off, all of you breeders/sellers should be made to work in the “back” of an animal shelter for just one day.
Maybe if you saw the life drain from a few sad, lost, confused eyes, you would change your mind about breeding and selling to people you don’t even know. That puppy or kitten you just sold will most likely end up in my shelter when it’s not cute anymore.
So, how would you feel if you knew that there’s about a 90% chance that pet will never walk out of the shelter it is going to be dumped at? Purebred or not! About 50% of all of the pets that are “owner surrenders” or “strays,” that come into my shelter are purebred.
The most common excuses I hear are;
“We are moving and we can’t take our dog (or cat).” Really? Where are you moving to that doesn’t allow pets?
Or they say “The dog got bigger than we thought it would.” How big did you think a German Shepherd would get?
“We don’t have time for her.” Really? I work a 10-12 hour day and still have time for my 6 dogs!
“She’s tearing up our yard.” How about making her a part of your family?
They always tell me: “We just don’t want to have to stress about finding a place for her. We know she’ll get adopted, she’s a good pet.” Odds are your pet won’t get adopted & how stressful do you think being in a shelter is?
Well, let me tell you, your pet has 72 hours to find a new family from the moment you drop it off. Sometimes a little longer if the shelter isn’t full and your dog manages to stay completely healthy. If it sniffles, it dies.
Your pet will be confined to a small run/kennel in a room with about 25 other barking or crying animals. It will have to relieve itself where it eats and sleeps. It will be depressed and it will cry constantly for the family that abandoned it.
If your pet is lucky, I will have enough volunteers in that day to take him/her for a walk or give them a loving pat. If not, your pet won’t get any attention besides having a bowl of food slid under the kennel door and the waste sprayed out of its pen with a high-powered hose.
If your pet is an adult, black, part exotic, or any of the “Bully” breeds (pit bull, rottie, mastiff, etc) it was pretty much dead when you walked it through the front door. Those pets just don’t get adopted.
It doesn’t matter how ‘sweet’ or ‘well behaved’ they are. If your pet doesn’t get adopted within its 72 hours and the shelter is full, it will be destroyed. If the shelter isn’t full and your pet is good enough, and of a desirable enough breed it may get a stay of execution, but not for long.
Most dogs get very kennel protective after about a week and are destroyed for showing aggression. Even the sweetest dogs will turn in this environment.
If your pet makes it over all of those hurdles, chances are it will get kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection and will be destroyed because shelters just don’t have the funds to pay for even a $100 treatment.
Bobtailed Not Bobcats
Here’s a little euthanasia 101 for those of you that have never witnessed a perfectly healthy, scared animal being “put-down:”
First, your pet will be taken from its kennel on a leash. They always look like they think they are going for a walk – happy, wagging their tails. Until they get to “The Room,” every one of them freaks out and puts on the brakes when we get to the door. It must smell like death or they can feel the sad souls that are left in there, it’s strange, but it happens with every one of them.
Your dog or cat will be restrained, held down by 1 or 2 vet techs depending on the size and how freaked out they are. Then a euthanasia tech or a vet will start the process. They will find a vein in the front leg and inject a lethal dose of the “pink stuff.” Hopefully, your pet doesn’t panic from being restrained and jerk. I’ve seen the needles tear out of a leg and been covered with the resulting blood and been deafened by the yelps and screams.
They all don’t just “go to sleep,” sometimes they spasm for a while, gasp for air and defecate on themselves. When it all ends, your pets corpse will be stacked like firewood in a large freezer in the back with all of the other animals that were killed waiting to be picked up like garbage.
What happens next? Cremated? Taken to the dump? Rendered into pet food? You’ll never know and it probably won’t even cross your mind. It was just an animal and you can always buy another one, right? I hope that those of you that have read this are bawling your eyes out and can’t get the pictures out of your head I deal with everyday on the way home from work.
I hate my job, I hate that it exists & I hate that it will always be there unless you people make some changes and realize that the lives you are affecting go much further than the pets you dump at a shelter.
Between 9 and 11 MILLION animals die every year in shelters and only you can stop it. I do my best to save every life I can but rescues are always full, and there are more animals coming in everyday than there are homes.
My point to all of this DON’T BREED OR BUY WHILE SHELTER PETS DIE!
Hate me if you want to. The truth hurts and reality is what it is. I just hope I maybe changed one person’s mind about breeding their pet, taking their loving pet to a shelter, or buying a pet. I hope that someone will walk into my shelter and say “I saw this and it made me want to adopt.”
THAT WOULD MAKE IT WORTH IT!!!!”
If you like what we are doing to promote responsible cat care you can help us do it:
Jaguar: Panthera onca Common Name: Jaguar Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata) Class: Mammalia Order: Carnivora Family: Felidae Genus: Pantherinae Panthera Species: onca Misc: The Jaguar and the Leopard are often confused with one another in zoos. Their coloring and markings are so similar that it is difficult for people to distinguish them. The difference lies in the center of the Jaguars rosettes, because unlike the leopard, the Jaguar has spots inside of its rosettes! The Jag is also a much stockier animal than its cousin, with shorter legs and tail – giving it more of a pit bull type appearance.
Leopard coat pattern
Jaguar coat pattern
The name Jaguar comes from the ancient Indian name “yaguar” which meant “the killer which overcomes its prey in a single bound.”
Size and Appearance: Jags are the largest felines in the Americas. Adult males can reach an overall length of more than 7 feet, and can weigh anywhere from 150 to 200 pounds. As mentioned above, its coat color and markings are very similar to the leopard, with a rich tawny or yellow background with large black rosettes and spots. It has a larger head, more compact body, and much more powerful paws! The Jaguar also occurs with an all black (melanistic) coat, and like the leopard, the spots can still be seen on black individuals. Albino individuals have been reported as well.
Habitat: The Jaguar is commonly found in rain forests, savannahs, and swamps, but at the northern end of its territory it may enter scrub country and even deserts. The Jaguar still has a stronghold in the Amazon basin, but has been nearly wiped out of all drier regions. Wherever it is found, it requires fresh water as the Jaguar is an excellent swimmer. To see Jaguars in the wild, or help them there, check out www.guato.org
Distribution: Once found here in the United States (California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Florida), this cat was hunted to extinction here in the late 1940s. Today, it is found in Mexico, but swiftly declining and Central America, and the strongest populations being found in the Mato Grosso, Brazil; The Pantanal, bordering Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay; Chiapas State, Mexico; and the Yucatan Peninsula/northern Guatemala/Belize.
Reproduction and Offspring: Jaguars have no defined breeding season and will mate any time of year. After a gestation period of about 100 days, the female will give birth to a litter of 2-4 cubs. Mothers will continue to feed and protect her young until they are about 1 year old, and they will continue to stay with her until they are about 2 years old. They will reach sexual maturity between 2-3 years for females, and 3-4 for males.
In captivity, jags lived over 20 years, as compared to 11 – 12 in the wild.
Social System and Communication: The Jaguar is solitary and terrestrial, although it is an adept tree climber. It marks its territory with urine and tree scrapes, in the same fashion as the other great cats. It has a variety of vocalizations, including, roars, grunts, and meows.
Hunting and Diet: Jaguars will pursue almost any kind of animal prey within its range, with its favorite being the peccary (a type of wild pig) and the capybara (the worlds largest rodent). Other food items are caiman, tapirs, and fish. Jaguars differ from all the other cats in their method of killing. Once they’ve caught their prey they pierce the skulls with their canines, demonstrating the amazing strength of their powerful jaws. They were once presumed to be nocturnal, but recent studies have shown that they are active during the daytime, with high peaks of activity during dawn and dusk. Jaguars are also more energetic than their larger cousins, and are active for 50-60% of a 24 hour period.
Threats: Deforestation rates are high in Latin America and fragmentation of forest habitat isolates jaguar populations so that they are more vulnerable to the predations of man. People compete with jaguars for prey, and jaguars are frequently shot on sight, despite protective legislation. Jaguars are also known to kill cattle, and are killed by ranchers as pest species. The vulnerability of the jaguar to persecution is demonstrated by its disappearance by the mid-1900’s from the south-western US and northern Mexico. Commercial hunting and trapping of jaguars for their pelts has declined drastically since the mid-1970’s, when anti-fur campaigns and CITES controls progressively shut down international markets.
Status: CITES: Appendix I. IUCN: Near Threatened. The jaguar is fully protected at the national level across most of its range, with hunting prohibited in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela, and hunting restrictions in place in Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru. The species also occurs within protected areas in some of its range.
Felid TAG recommendation: Jaguar (Pantherinae Panthera onca). Although perhaps the longest-lived large felid species, the recently approved SSP found the North American population in AZA zoos and most other locations to be aging and virtually untraceable. As this time, only 22 of the 95 U.S. jaguars can be traced back to nature. This population is being managed as an education population because of its relative abundance in many parts of its range. Additional founders are expected to be periodically available for inclusion into the SSP. The target population is 120 individuals.
How rare is this cat ? The International Species Information Service lists 292 worldwide, with 95 being in the U.S.
What is Big Cat Rescue doing for the Jaguar? We participated in an AZA sanctioned study by being the only facility to provide tracking information via detailed photos and casts of paw prints from our captive South American Pumas so that they could be discerned from jaguar tracks in Costa Rica. This will help researchers determine local populations and their habits so that land can be protected for their future.
National Geographic aired a wonderful documentary by Dr. Alan Rabinowitz called, In Search of the Jaguar.
Belize Jaguar Project: In January 2015 an enclosure for two displaced wild jaguars, Lady Hill and Mistletoe, in Belize was sponsored in honor of all of the Big Cat Rescue volunteers, interns, and staff. Since then the team at the Belize Zoo has been working through the rainy season to build the enclosure.
The main structure is now complete and includes night houses, swimming pools, and lots of natural habitat for these two jaguars to enjoy. The last step is to roof the enclosure, which they are currently working on. Here are a few photos of the progress.
These two jaguars were nuisance cats who came into very close proximity to where people reside. In order to spare their lives they were trapped and taken to the Belize Zoo which is a sanctuary for native wildlife that can not be released back into the wild. Had these two jaguars not been removed, they would have been terminated by the government.
Meet some of the jaguars who have lived at Big Cat Rescue:
Common Name: Snow Leopard Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata) Class: Mammalia Order: Carnivora Family: Felidae Genus: Pantherinae Uncia Species: uncia
Misc.: This species, like the clouded leopard, is one of those that is somewhere between the small cats and the great cats in that it can’t purr like the small cats and it can’t roar like the true great cats. It makes a happy sound similar to the tiger’s chuffing.
Its greatest threats are the hunting of its main prey species in the mountains, and the poisoning of other of its prey species, leaving the snow leopard with out a means of sustaining itself. There is also a demand now for snow leopard bones in traditional Chinese medicine as a substitute for tiger bones. Unfortunately, there is still a demand for fur coats from snow leopard skins in some countries, but luckily that has greatly diminished. At one time here in the US, a coat from a snow leopard sold for up to $50,000.00.
Sub-Species: A single species – There has been some attempt to recognize different sub-species of snow leopard, but at this time all attempts have been rejected.
Size and Appearance: The snow leopard is unique among the felids for the smokey-gray coloring of its coat patterned with dark gray rosettes and spots, and because of that it became nearly extinct. It’s unique color makes an ideal camouflage in its mountain environment of bare rocks and snow. Further adaptations for high altitude life include an enlarged nasal cavity, shortened limbs, well developed chest muscles, long hair with a dense, wooly undercoat, and a tail over 3 feet long. They use their tails like a coat in the winter, wrapping it around themselves when lying or sitting for added warmth. Snow leopards molt twice a year with the summer coat being not quite as dense as the winter one. Males weigh between 90-115 lbs, with females weighing between 75-90lbs. Their skull is large, short and broad with a short muzzle, resembling the Siberian lynx in its appearance. They have round pupils like the great cats, varying in color from pale yellow to green-grey. Their broad footpads are covered with fur to provide insulation as well as increasing the surface area allowing them to distribute their weight more evenly over the snow.
In captivity, Snow leopards usually die young due to compromised immune systems.
Habitat: The snow leopard ranges includes alpine meadows, treeless rocky mountains and rhododendron forests. Most of their range occurs in Tibet and other parts of China associated with steep rocky slopes, with arid shrub land, grassland or steppe vegetation. Occasionally, in parts of their habitats they visit open coniferous forests, but generally avoid dense forests. They are found at high elevations of 3000-4500 meters (9800 ft – 14800 ft.), and even higher in the Himalayas.
Reproduction and Offspring: The snow leopards reproductive season is from early January to mid March which is the time when vocalizations can most commonly be heard. Litters of 1-5 (most commonly 2-3) will occur following a 98-104 day gestation period. They are born beneath rocks or in rock crevices and their dens are lined with fur. Their spots at birth are completely black, developing into rosettes with age. Their eyes open between 7-10 days, they begin crawling after 10 days, and begin eating solid foods at 2 months. The young will leave their mothers between the ages of 18-22 months, and siblings may stay together for some time following their independence. They will reach sexual maturity between 2-3 years and stay reproductive up until they are 15.
Social System and Communication: Unknown. Some evidence leads to the conclusion that they are solitary except for breeding pairs and mothers with offspring. Territories are marked with scrapes, scats, scent sprays and claw rakings. While it is believed that they have large territories, it is also believed that the territories of multiple animals of both sexes overlap.
Hear our chuffs, hisses, snarls, calls, and growl sounds HERE
Hunting and Diet: Snow leopards are very opportunistic hunters capable of killing prey up to 3 times their own weight. They will also equally take small prey, more so in the summer months when marmots become a main staple in their diets. Their most common prey sources are: wild sheep and goats; pikas; hares; game birds. They kill on the average of 1 large prey item every 10-15 days and stay with the kill for 3-4 days.
Status: Appendix I CITES. There are believed to be 5000 to 7500 of these great cats left in the wild and 476 in captivity. There are only 28 of these cats paired in approved SSP breeding programs.
Felid TAG recommendation: Snow leopard (Pantherinae Uncia uncia). This species has functioned well with a target population of 200 animals. In addition to having a large founder base, new founders are available from captive sources in Europe and range-country zoos. This species does well in captivity, is managed by a wide variety of owners, and now has a stable population in nature.
How rare is this cat ? The International Species Information Service lists 476 in zoos worldwide, with 236 being in the U.S.
Information taken from IUCN Status Survey and Feline Facts (SOS Care)