Meerkats are some of the most curious, social, and protective animals that you are ever going to meet. They’re carnivores and behave a lot like felines, yet barely weigh as much as the average squirrel. Many people love these members of the mongoose family and after exploring these interesting facts, you just might too.
1. A Love of Pokey Things
Meerkats may eat meat, but they love to eat scorpions more than anything else. When meerkats reach adulthood, the consumption of scorpions gives them a limited immunity to the venom of the tail stinger. Mom meerkats don’t make the little ones try to fight off a pokey scorpion though. After hunting down a tasty treat, the tail of the scorpion gets cut off so that everyone can have a safe meal to enjoy.
2. Everyone Pitches In To Help
When babies are born in a meerkat family, everyone comes around to help out. Baby meerkats are called pups and they are usually born 3 or 4 at a time. Some litters can have up to 8 offspring and some meerkats are born as only children as well. Everyone is born underground to be safe because the pups are blind and deaf at birth.
Dad meerkat helps out just as much as mom meerkat does to help raise the family. It takes about 9 weeks for the little ones to grow up enough to be weaned off of mom to begin enjoying some crunchy scorpion dishes. Adults in zoos have been known to live over 13 years, but out in the wild meerkats tend to reach the age of 8.
3. It’s All About the Morning Routine
Meerkats are creatures who are dedicated to their routines. Every morning, the entire meerkat family comes together for grooming and sunbathing. Once that tough task is completed, the family will begin to forage for food. Everybody has a job to help the foragers. Some will stand guard over the group to alert everyone to any potential danger. The bodyguards are relieved about once per hour to make sure fresh eyes are always surveying the area. Others will dig out new rooms. Someone takes care of the little ones. This way everyone participates.
4. Sorry Boys
Meerkats live within a matriarchal society. This means that the women are in charge. The most dominant female of the group is appointed the leader. She will decide if the time is right to go hunting, when the foraging should stop, and the other tasks that are completed during the day. If multiple families are living together in a large clan, then each family unit will have a leader and one of those leaders will be the alpha female for the combined group.
Most family groups of meerkats tend to top out at 20 members. If there are multiple families living together in a clan, then groups as large as 50 have been counted and even larger clans may exist that have not yet been discovered.
5. Lots and Lots of Burrows
Meerkats won’t just dig out one burrow to call their home. The whole family will create several additional “vacation homes” that they can enjoy as well. Family units tend to rotate through their various burrows so that foraging in each area isn’t overdone.
These extra homes also serve a second purpose. When the guard meerkats sound an alarm whistle to let the foragers know that there is a predator close, everyone scatters into the nearest burrow that is available so that everyone can be safe.
6. What Did He Say?
Meerkats also have a unique language that is incorporated into the warnings that are sounded out to the groups who are outside of the burrows. There are six known differences in the alarms that are sounded. This lets all of the meerkats know if the danger levels are high, moderate, or low. The alarms also indicate if the predator is in the air or on the ground. The meerkats only scatter into the closest burrows when the high urgency alarms sound.
7. Make Some Room, You Crazy Snake
The only thing easier than digging out your own burrow is to borrow the burrow of another creature. Meerkats aren’t above sharing burrows when it suits their needs. Other ground squirrels, mongooses, and even snakes will find a family of meerkats squatting in their burrows from time to time. Just like scorpions don’t bother meerkats, most snakes can’t use their venom against them either. It’s like a timeshare by a river, meerkat-style.
8. Faster Than Flash
Even if a meerkat would happen to get stuck above ground when a predator comes around, there’s still a pretty good chance that they’ll be able to get away. Meerkats have been tracked running as fast as 37 mph. With the advantage of being able to stand on their hind legs to survey a flat land environment, the combined effort helps them spot trouble while it is far enough away so that they can still make a break for it.
9. WWE Mortal Kombat
Meerkats aren’t just content to stay in their same position with the clan. Not only will family members work to improve their own standing, but they’ll also work to improve the standing of their other family members as well. You’ll find sneak attacks happening every now and then if a meerkat wants to have a promotion. Social activities can also become a way to advance one’s standing. The most entertaining version, however, is when the meerkats start a wresting match to see who is the best of the best. The winner receives the title.
10. Watch Out For Mom
The alpha female didn’t get into her position without knowing how to survive. If she thinks one of the infants could take her place one day, then call the meerkat funeral home. She’ll send scouts into foreign territory so they can risk life and limb before her. In a clan, only the alpha female is allowed to produce offspring. If there are other pups born, then the entire family could be banished or shopping for meerkat caskets.
11. And Then There Is the Drongo
There is a bird called the forked-tongue drongo who figured out that it is easier to scavenge for leftovers instead of trying to hunt down their own food. These crafty little feathered creatures have learned how meerkats call out their warnings and can mimic them to make the animals scatter. This leaves them with a free meal to enjoy while the rest of meerkat clan heaves a huge sigh of relief that they were able to get away.
Meerkats have been greatly loved since the friendship between one and a warthog hit the silver screen. Fewer than half of all adult meerkats will actually survive over the course of any given year because of how aggressively everyone wants a promotion, but when you’re a meerkat, all of that stress melts away with a tasty scorpion dish anyway.