Meerkats are small carnivorous animals that belong to the mongoose family. These animals are native to the southern parts of Africa, including the savannas of Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, and the Kalahari Desert.
These social animals live in groups known as “mobs” or “clans,” which consist of about 40 members.
These squirrel-like mammals often stand on their hind legs while looking after their surroundings. With their brown-striped and bushy fur, these small animals are very adorable creatures.
So, in this article, we will now discuss some amazing facts about these mammals called meerkats.
Surprising Meerkat Facts
The life of meerkats
If you wish to see these furry and adorable mammals, you must look for them in the morning, as they only go outside during the daytime.
Usually, these creatures stay in large groups and live in burrows. Also, meerkats get out of their burrows when the sun rises to look for food. Similar to ants, meerkats mainly work together.
Though they must live a challenging life in the African desert while facing continuous dangers from many predators, they are still very sociable.
Meerkats are omnivores
Meerkats are omnivores; hence, they feed on butterflies, beetles, and moths. These animals look for their favorite food with the help of their keen smelling sense.
So, sometimes they can be seen eating spiders, insects, caterpillars, etc., as well as eggs, small birds, small amphibians, arachnids, and even a few reptiles.
These mammals even feed on different types of fruits, such as tubers, citrus melons, and other roots.
Meerkats are native to Africa.
Usually, meerkats live in the deserts and grasslands of Africa, including southwestern Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia.
They live in tunnels and burrows with multiple openings, which they use to escape predators. Moreover, these animals only leave their burrows during the daytime and return if they sense any danger.
Pups of meerkats are born deaf and blind
Generally, female meerkats give birth to almost three or four offspring at a time, though some can even give birth to about eight baby meerkats.
Their offspring, also known as pups, are born in their burrows, where they can remain safe from predators. These pups weigh almost 0.9 to 1.3 ounces or 25 to 36 grams.
In addition to being born really small in size, these pups are also born deaf, blind, and almost hairless. Also, the gestation period of baby meerkats is 60 to 70 days.
The physical feature of meerkats
These creatures have a pointed, long snout and small, rounded ears. Their fur is sandy brown with darker bands on the tail and back.
Meerkats have sharp, long claws on their toes, mainly used for digging burrows.
The body of a meerkat is almost 19.68 inches or 50 centimeters long, including the tail. Also, these mammals have five toes in their forefeet and four in their hind feet.
Meerkats are sociable animals.
Meerkats generally live in a group of two to 30 members. They live in a home with an area of around 5 kilometers square to 1.9 square miles.
The homes of these animals may sometimes be as big as 5.8 square miles or 15 square kilometers, with some burrows inside of them.
The group of meerkats consists of family members, with a dominant alpha pair leading the group. Also, some families of meerkats are even dominated by female meerkats.
Meerkats can use different types of vocalizations.
Meerkats can communicate with each other by creating and sometimes even mixing various types of sounds.
According to a study, these mammals can produce almost twelve different types of sound combinations.
Meerkats use these different sounds for some reasons: to care for their young, to keep predators in check, and even to gather other meerkats. For example, they use their alarm call if they sense a predator.
Meerkats may be immune to venom.
Many researchers have different opinions on whether these mammals are immune to venom. According to some, these animals are immune to the stings of scorpions and the venom of snakes because they belong to the mongoose family.
A mongoose is mainly a small-sized carnivorous mammal with a tail and a long body. However, according to some other studies, these meerkats have only developed a few techniques to remove the stings of scorpions before eating them.
Meerkats can work together.
These cute creatures can work in groups, so they often take turns guarding their pack. Some of them work as a lookout for predators.
Everyone in the group participates in taking care of the young meerkats. While being attacked by predators, the entire group of meerkats will gather together, and then they will claw, bite, or scratch the predator until it dies or retreats.
They can kill their own species.
According to some research, out of more than 1000 different mammals, meerkats are animals that can most likely kill their own species. Followed by another mammal, the red-tailed monkey.
As per other sources, the low-ranking meerkats may sometimes kill the young of dominant members to ensure their offspring will have a higher chance of survival.
These animals teach their offspring.
According to some experts, adult meerkats teach their young how to correctly attack and feed on their prey without being harmed.
At first, adult meerkats will offer their offspring dead prey. Later on, adults will offer their young, disabled prey, like a scorpion with a stinger.
Eventually, as they age, they will learn to catch their own prey, or sometimes they are given a live scorpion.
These mammals cannot be kept as pets.
Despite their name, these mammals are not similar to cats and cannot be domesticated. Along with being illegal to own them, these animals have a very foul smell and even tend to be very aggressive.
In addition to this, meerkats are carriers of rabies and also tick-borne diseases, which can prove to be harmful to humans.
Despite all this, meerkats are still used as pets in several parts of South Africa. These mammals are used for getting rid of insects and rodents on farmlands.
Lifespan of meerkats
In the wild, meerkats tend to live for almost eight years. That is not a bad age considering how many predators they need to face. Their amazing immunity to multiple kinds of venom greatly helps them in this.
In zoos, meerkats can live even longer, generally about 12-14 years. However, in some cases, they have been known to live for around 20 years.
Meerkats are good home innovators.
Meerkats prefer to dig and spend much of their time in burrows and tunnels. However, if they can, they will frequently move into different holes already dug by other animals, such as ground squirrels, and then they will redig those holes to suit their preferences.
These burrows generally have several entrances and separate chambers for sleeping and going to the bathroom.
Meerkats don’t drink water.
Despite being inhabitants of dry deserts, meerkats don’t drink water. They get almost all the water they require from the plants and insects in their diet.
While a human cannot survive without water for long, many desert animals have adapted to live and survive perfectly in the dry climate.
The eyes of meerkats are amazing.
Meerkats are experts in digging and keeping watch. Their eyes are adapted perfectly well for both these tasks.
First, these mammals have a membranous “third eyelid” to protect their eyes from dirt and sand while digging tunnels.
Secondly, the dark patches of fur around their eyes assist them in cutting down on the sharp glare of the sun, similar to built-in sunglasses.
These creatures also have long horizontal pupils, meaning they can see in a “windscreen” without turning their heads.
Meerkats sleep in piles.
Another interesting fact about meerkats is that they prefer to sleep in piles. They behave like this mainly in the colder months to remain warm inside their burrows. Also, in summer, they might even sleep outside.
Also, according to a study at St. Andrews University in Scotland, these meerkats showcase complicated behavior similar to dolphins, chimps, and even humans. They can work together to solve problems, which is impossible for all animals.
They have many predators.
Meerkats have many predators, including hawks, eagles, snakes, jackals, and other carnivorous animals.
Meerkats rely on their group members and burrow systems to protect themselves. One meerkat will give a warning call when a predator is spotted, and the entire group will run for cover in their burrows.
Moreover, meerkats face several potential threats, including habitat loss due to agriculture and development and competition with other animal species for food and resources.
They have a structured social system.
Meerkats have a highly structured social system, with a dominant alpha pair leading the group. Other members of this group have certain roles, such as foraging for food or babysitting for pups.
Meerkats have a complex vocal language, which they use to communicate with each other and even to coordinate their activities.
The dominant females, known as breeders, are responsible for producing babies, while the low-ranking ones are called helpers.
Currently, meerkats are not listed as endangered, but conservation efforts are underway to protect their habitat and ensure their long-term survival.
These efforts include the creation of protected areas and the implementation of sustainable land-use practices.
So, meerkats are fascinating animals adapted to life in their harsh desert environment. These intelligent, social, and cooperative mammals amaze many scientists.
At the end of this article, we learned about 20 really amazing facts about these fascinating mammals called meerkats.
These facts offer us a clear picture of this interesting creature of the desert. If you want to collect some more amazing facts, you may visit our website.
I’m a former teacher with a background in child development and a passion for creating engaging and educational activities for children. I strongly understand child development and know how to create activities to help children learn and grow. Spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family, reading, and volunteering in my community.