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Meerkats are particularly famous due to the unprecedented popularity of The Lion King and the subsequent popularity of the Animal Planet show Meerkat Manor, a series showcasing these social animals’ everyday lives. Though some have kept a Meerkat Pet (As seen on many youtube videos), showing that they are fun and loveable. However, they don’t show the special attention and care that this animal requires to be this way.
What Is A Meerkat?
The meerkat (or Suricata suricatta) is a small wild animal from southern Africa belonging to the mongoose tribe. Such petite omnivores typically only venture outdoors during daylight hours, traveling in large crowds. For detecting predators, they have a very good sense of smell, hearing, and vision; They are often seen standing upon their hind legs and alert to any threat.
What Does A Meerkat Look Like?
A meerkat’s fur is usually beige and peppered with blue, brown, and yellow. Typically, their distinct brown stripes on their back will spot these speedy creatures. Given the adorable and cuddly picture portrayed in the media, Meerkats are equipped with extremely sharp nails. This helps them to climb trees easily and rapidly dig and burrow underground in search of lunch.
Could Meerkats Be Kept As Pets?
Sure, you can own one of these cute species. Most meerkats available and living in captivity can be owned privately. However, wild animals actually make horrific pets, and meerkats are such an example that perfectly fits this situation.
What Does A Meerkat Eat?
As known omnivores, a meerkat’s natural diet primarily consists of insects, but they will also happily consume small lizards, scorpions, fruit, eggs, birds, and rodents. Obviously, Meerkats would spend most of their time digging in the sand seeking prey.
Unfortunately, meerkats kept as pets are often fed the wrong diet, becoming overweight and suffering.
Meerkat Pet: Should You Get One?
Unlike domestic cat sand dogs, meerkats are wild animals with survival instincts unblurred by thousands of years of selective breeding. These are the ultimate “togetherness” creatures, feeling comfortable and happy even when in close touch with other group members, or you, day and night.
The cruel pinnacle is to shut one away in a cage alone when it’s ‘unwanted,’ particularly after dark. It makes them completely insane, winding up either crying, being highly violent, or obsessively grooming to the point of self-mutilation. Perhaps that is due to the horror they felt of being ‘abandoned,’ and this trauma lasts a lifetime.
As long so they are still young, meerkats are friendly creatures but once they enter 6 months of age, they will fully transform into the mongoose world’s ‘pit-bulls.’ The grown meerkat, now always curious and protective of its territory will perceive visitors as intruders.
Every stranger is attacked and heavily bitten, the meerkat latching on, scratching, and not letting go. Children are prime targets because they seem vulnerable, and this can lead to major social problems with neighbors and visitors for the meerkat’s human family. The aggressiveness is just its instinctual reaction to strangers, and no punishment can stop it – it’s genetically pre-programmed.
During this onset of aggressiveness, they mark their territory. Soon, almost all of a house’s smooth surfaces are labeled. The scent lets everyone know that the meerkat is “at home” and making it feel safe and secure but uncomfortable for its cohabitants.
Clear Environmental Requirements For A Meerkat Pet
Another characteristic of the meerkats is that they live in large tunnel colonies. Such tunnels are used to battle predators. These tunnels are built by the meerkats themselves. They are expert excavators!
Meerkats are very difficult to handle, too. These animals must be exposed to natural soil conditions. It is therefore best to keep them in a large area. But, you’d have to create a cement foundation so they can’t leave their zone.
Often the lack of a place to dig causes meerkat in captivity to develop compulsive behaviors. This can be directed to furniture or other items. For example, they will attempt to build tunnels in mattresses or sofas.
Meerkat Pet: Certain Unpleasantries
Musky Smell: Meerkats, like other feliforms, have an odor that can end up in a myriad of undesirable places, including you and your clothing. They also have a deep musky scent similar to somewhat of a ferret. Training them to use a litter box is almost next to impossible.
Destruction of the house: Chew computer wires and other costly pieces of equipment with vigor, as well as carpeting and bathroom sealant.
Cost: Exotic animals need a highly qualified vet. In addition to the general cost of treatment, this can give rise to a heavy bill. They are normally sold (if you can find one) at $1,000. However, having only one animal is likely to be harmful for its mental health.
Ties Within Colonies
Meerkats tend to be very social creatures, living in big colonies of 20-30 members. Animals regularly groom within the party. Females who haven’t had babies, babysit the group’s young ones, often lactate to feed them, and when the occasion demands, may even risk their own lives while protecting them from attacks.
Young people learn by watching and imitating adults, but adults can be seen teaching them some things, including swallowing a venomous scorpion. The group’s alpha-pair also scent-mark subordinates to demonstrate their authority. A Meerkat pet will be very upset when there is a lack of company. Even after adding a second meerkat pet, this will not satisfy his emotional and genetic need for a colony.
Some Interesting Facts Regarding Meerkats:
- Meerkats live only in South Africa, including Botswana’s Kalahari Desert, Namibia’s Namib Desert, and Southwest Angola.
- They reside in colonies of 20–30 leaders.
- Meerkats can live in captivity twice as long as they can: 12–14 years vs. 3–7.
- They’re immune to some venom that can be dangerous for humans.
- They have no fats to store in their body, meerkats must continuously hunt for food.
- Meerkats have a stable hierarchy. Groups typically consist of alpha-pair parents and offspring. Subordinates will babysit this alpha pair.
- They have special warning calls identifying predators (like prairie dogs).
Final Thoughts On Meerkat Pets
Hopefully, this data will inform readers that having a meerkat pet is a bad idea. Regardless of how much love you’re able to give, the extra care and handling would definitely further torment this wild animal. Also, note that special licenses are required in the U.S. to hold animals of this type. Remember to ensure that they get proper treatment and remain in enclosures in the environment that suits their needs. A meerkat’s place is in the open Kalahari desert, and by having one in your home, you’d be keeping him imprisoned.
P.S. Here are some additional resources to help you learn more about Meerkats and their habitat:
- Are Chinchillas Good Pets? What You Need To Know
- Are Guinea Pigs Smart? Things To Know When Training Your Guinea Pig