17 caracal cat facts – Are caracals dangerous to humans & more

Caracal cat in long grass vegetation

The caracal cat is one of Africa’s ultimate hunters, a stealthy cat with an exceptional ability to hunt out prey on the savanna.

Yet nobody pays too much attention to the caracal cat, even on a safari. It’s way down on the list of favorite wildlife sights, but it shouldn’t be.

To encounter a caracal is one of an African safari’s ultimate treats, for these are extraordinary creatures different from everything else. However, there might be a few things that you want to know before meeting them.

Are caracal cats dangerous? Do they have aggressive personalities? Can they live outside of the wild? You can find all the answers and interesting information below.

Fascinating Facts About the African Caracal Cat That Might Surprise You

Let’s take a look at 17 incredible caracal cat facts so you can learn all about this astonishing animal and its intriguing behavior.

1. What does ‘caracal’ mean?

Close-up of a caracal, with its distinctive tufted ears

The word ‘caracal’ comes from the Turkish term karakulak, meaning ‘black ears’.

The caracal’s ears are arguably its most distinctive feature, sticking up and twisting in all directions, like a periscope on a submarine.

2. Is a caracal dangerous?

Quite simply, yes.

Though a caracal is not likely to wait for you to fall asleep and rip your face off on the first day, it is a cat and a wild one at that.

A caracal has the genetic makeup and tools to attack anything and anyone that it deems to be dangerous. Do caracals attack humans? Well, it is rare but still possible if the animal feels threatened.

A caracal has sharp fangs with the exclusive remit of biting to rip, shred and kill. Its retractable claws are not primarily there for scratching an itch behind its ear.

They are for slashing at possible threats and sticking into a rival’s flesh to cause harm.

3. Caracal’s closest kin

Caracal relaxing on a sandy road in Etosha, Namibia

In terms of appearance, many similarities can be noted between the caracal and the common house cat.

They both share the small, almost spherical head with tiny marble-like eyes.

However, the caracal is more closely associated with and often mistaken for the serval cat.

Despite a nearly identical body shape and structure, the visible differences between the serval and the caracal are actually quite striking. The caracal looks like a serval that hasn’t yet developed its black spots.

The easiest way to tell the two apart is by their ears. Servals don’t have the caracal cat’s distinctive ear tufts.

4. How big is a caracal cat?

Caracals can reach 1 meter in length and about 18 kg in weight. Males are always slightly heftier than their female partners.

The caracal takes a spot midway up on the size chart of the planet’s cats. It’s big enough to take care of itself and fend off a foe, but not quite big enough to mix it with the might of the apex predators.

5. Caracal cat ears

Caracal looking up, with its typical ear tufts

A caracal has ears that seem to be constantly pricked up in readiness or on alert. An amazing 20 muscles control these unnaturally long and pointy sound detectors, making it the mobile satellite system of the cat family.

These super-sensitive audio antennas are made even more effective by the tufts of hair that protrude from the top. These act as a funnel to capture and reverberate the slightest sound picked out of the air.

6. How high can a caracal jump?

Caracal jumping over a body of water, landing firmly on a rock

Although one of the smaller members of the wild cat congregation, what caracals lack in brute force they make up for with astounding agility.

The caracal cat can leap as high as 4 meters, frequently after silently stalking and then sprinting down its prey.

Often seen batting birds out of the sky, straight after terrified take-off, the reactions and coordination of these medium-sized cats are unparalleled.

7. How fast is a caracal?

The caracal can reach rates of 80 kph when in full flight. These smaller wildcats debunk the misconception that bigger ones corner the market on sprinting speed.

Subscribing to the same hunting techniques as most of its feline family, it doesn’t possess the deepest stores of stamina. So a skillfully sly approach without detection is key for any successful hunt.

8. What do caracal cats eat?

Caracal eating a piece of raw meat

As is the case with all other members of the cat family, from the smallest tabby cat to the largest Siberian tiger, the caracal feeds upon a mostly meat-based diet.

Due to size and power constraints, it would be overambitious of a caracal to try and take down a zebra or oryx like its bigger cousins, the African leopard or lion.

The caracal satisfies itself with a mixture of more miniature morsels – rodents, birds, rabbits.

But it doesn’t shy away from the odd bulkier-bodied bounty such as gazelle or some of Africa’s smallest antelope species.

9. Caracal’s durability without drinking

Like an economical car that doesn’t need to stop regularly to fill up on gas, the caracal can go for significantly longer than its cat cousins without rehydration.

Owing to an advanced water storage system and an advantageous ability to squeeze the last bits of liquid from its food, the caracal can safely survive for longer without stopping to drink.

This specialist attribute allows it to sustain itself throughout long-distance treks across dry, arid lands in search of nutrition.

In short, the caracal cat can roam further from the water, which means it can find its own food, away from the competition of lions and leopards.

10. You should not own a caracal pet

Caracal portrait on gravel road

Throughout history, the rich and famous have wanted to buy and cage the world’s wildest animals as status symbols.

It seems there’s an inane need to show a sense of superior power by taking the universe’s most magnificent creatures and enslaving them.

What is thought to be an exhibition of exuberance is actually just a sure sign of low self-esteem.

The caracal cat should not be a pet, nor should any of Africa’s magnificent cats.

11. Famous owners of wild animals

Mike Tyson – once known as ‘the baddest man on the planet’ – recently confessed to a feeling of regret for owning pet tigers.

Baddest man on the planet or not, if it had been so inclined, his ‘pet’ tiger could have snapped his neck with one brutish bite and chomped on him like a chew toy.

Mike Tyson was a product of his harrowing upbringing and environment.

Tigers are a consequence of years of evolution and predisposed nature.

They don’t maul and maim because they’re evil, vindictive, or in pain.

They do it because that’s what cats do.

This sometimes cruel and callous custom of finding ways to control and restrict those who thrive on freedom, has stretched its paws and reached its claws as far as the caracal cat.

12. Caracals as pets

Adult caracal and young staring at the camera from behind a log, in Samburu National Reserve

Physical similarities between the caracal and the common house cat have led to many caracal cats being procured as pets.

Though not as ferocious as a tiger or a lion, experts are unmoved in their criticism of anybody who thinks this wild African cat can live contently in controlled domestication.

It’s true that the caracal can be a playful little pussycat, rolling around and smooching with its human owners just like a house cat. But are caracals good pets to all?

We mustn’t forget that they are wild at heart, and as exotic creatures, the constraints of a house will become a source of great sadness and stress. So, caracal cats should never be pets.

13. Wild cats will be wild cats, including the caracal

Caracal and springbok in Etosha, Namibia

When we see some of the planet’s proudest predators burrowing their heads into a slain animal’s rib cage, some of us mistakenly view them as cold-blooded killers.

Emotion does not come into it. They are programmed to follow their animal instincts. And they will do it again without a second thought once the brain sends the necessary signal to indicate that they are hungry.

Every single member of the cat clan is designed to survive, defend and attack. Nothing else is of any interest or importance.

For more information on animals’ instinctive behavior, check out this article.

14. Caracal bite force

Caracal cat on gravel road

Although the mighty jaguar takes the top spot for the strongest bite of all big cats, the caracal has strong jaw muscles as well. They usually bite their prey on the underside of its throat or the back of the neck.

15. Can a caracal kill a human?

If you’re wondering, ‘can caracals kill humans’ or if they would, simply put, these powerful hunters prefer looking for prey to harming a human.

While they are wild animals, caracals are small, fast cats that would often run away from identified danger.

16. Why do caracals hiss so much?

Caracal hissing, Namibia

Some may mistake the caracal hissing meaning for aggressive behavior, but these sounds are ultimately a form of cat communication.

They use sounds like hisses, growls and twittering meows to express their mood, much like a content purring cat.

17. Caracal cat price

To buy a caracal legally with all the correct procedures and documentation can cost you well over $2000 (£1500).

You might think that this is a reasonable price, costing the same as a nice holiday or a second-hand car, but that’s simply the beginning.

The associated fees and hidden costs soon pile up with specialist medical bills as well as the rarity and sheer volume of food.

There’s also extra equipment needed to ensure that the caracal’s environment is conducive to a happy, healthy existence.

Caracals cost a lot to keep, and that’s before the cat hunts your neighbor’s pet puppy.

Try taking your sick caracal to a local city vet or stopping by the mini-mart to pick up its food, and you may find yourself getting some nervous, inquisitive looks.

So let’s reconfirm – caracal cats should never be pets. They are the wild inhabitants of the African savanna.

Adventure into the Wild to See African Caracal Cats

Caracal exploring the wilderness, in Kgalagadi's Transfrontier Park

The caracal is a mesmerizing cat of great courage and beauty.

With its extraordinarily long and pointy ears and its freakish ability to fling itself metres in the air and almost fly, it is a predator to be feared and an animal to inspire awe.

The best place to see a caracal cat is in its natural habitat on an exhilarating African safari.

If you’re an animal lover, you’ll likely tick off several big cats from your sightseeing bucket list.

So start planning your trip and book those tickets – a wild adventure awaits you.

5 thoughts on “17 caracal cat facts – Are caracals dangerous to humans & more”

  1. Great information, knowledgeable sites like this are always a joy. Quick question- are there domesticated cats similar to the caracal you recommend as pets?

  2. I think THIS ARTICLE is the source of people thinking that when caracals hiss and growl it doesn’t mean they’re unhappy, like it does for every other cat. This caracal owner insists they don’t meow, and that hissing and growling are how they communicate. It is, but it’s communicating it’s unhappy. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100086308684624

    I wish you could change the wording of the article to make it much more clear that caracals do indeed meow, and vocally communicate just like all other cats!

  3. This is awesome … my nephew Jared loves caracals and architecture and I love to talk to him about his interest. :-]

    Searing regards,

    Kevin Lee

      1. The claim of not suitable to be a pet is just plain bullshit. To be clear, domestic cats never lose their hunting instincts either which is why there’s no cat that wouldn’t do fine in the wild if it needs to which is why they’re forever telling us to keep cats indoors so that they don’t eat the neighbours birds.

        Caracals are suitable to be be pets, IN THE RIGHT ENVIROMENT but then again, that’s what you need to provide for any pet. If a caracal is free to enter and to leave a house as it pleases and has enough outdoor territory to keep it interested, let’s be real here. It’s not going to avoid coming to and staying in a house, where it’s fed and is warm, safe and comfortable.

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