caracals

A caracal crouches in the tall grass, eyeing a bird perched on a nearby shrub. Suddenly the wild cat bursts from her hiding spot and bolts toward the fowl. As the bird takes off, so does the caracal. She leaps up six feet and swats her prey with her paw, causing it to fall to the ground. Then the cat scoops up the bird in her mouth. It’s dinnertime.

Caracals live on rocky hills or grasslands in the Middle East, Africa, and south Asia. The animal is one of more than 30 species of small wild cats. Most caracals grow about three feet long and can weigh over 40 pounds. The feline is usually most active after sunset. And this cat likes its me-time—adults spend much of their days alone, hunting for birds, rodents, rabbits, and gazelles.

The body of a caracal is built for sneak attacks. Caracals are superfast, and with footpads cushioned by stiff fur they make practically no noise as they sprint toward targets. The animals’ strong hind legs allow them to jump six feet in the air—the height of a tall adult human. Tufts of hair on the tips of a caracal’s ears may enhance their hearing, making it easier for the cat to listen for prey.

These hunters have a softer side too. Mom caracals (which usually have three babies in each litter) cuddle with their young. And the babies cuddle each other too. See, even ninjas need to snuggle sometimes.

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