Meerkats are small mongooses native to the continent of Africa. They look like mongooses but are not. They are closely related to each other though. Humans often confuse the two of them but they are different in their own ways.
We have listed some interesting meerkat facts for kids that would help you in distinguishing among them. Hope you find it useful.
11 Most Interesting & Fun Facts about Meerkats for Kids
Ranging from South West Angola to South Africa, these animals are adapted to the dry desert regions. They are social creatures and roam around in a group that is called a gang or a mob. Let us dig into some more information about these little mammals.
1. The ears and eyes of meerkats
The face of the meerkats is white along with dark patches around the eyes. These dark patches help in glaring off the sunlight so that they have a better vision during the daytime as they are diurnal mammals.
The ears are crescent in shape and the meerkats can close them properly while digging burrows so that the sand does not get inside the ears.
Their belly area is also darker in shade to absorb enough heat while they stand on their hind legs. This is important to survive in the colder desert nights.
2. They have binocular vision
They have got eyes placed right in the front portion of their faces and that is the reason they have binocular vision, unlike the other mongoose species. It is similar to those of cats. They are also able to close their eyes properly to avoid getting sand into them.
They blink repeatedly to get out the sand particles if any of them gets inside. They also have long claws that help them in digging burrows and fight with the enemies. They balance themselves using their tail while they stand up on their hind legs.
3. Meerkats are social animals
Meerkats live in large family groups. These families are often led by a male and a female. They groom each other to become friends. While the family is together eating and playing, one meerkat watches out for the predators.
He warns the other members when he sees some danger approaching. He often makes a chirping sound and the rest of the family members withdraw themselves to the burrows. They have different chirping sounds for different purposes such as showing anger, warning others, and making friends.
4. The diet of the meerkats
Meerkats are mainly known to be insectivorous. But apart from eating insects their diet also contains reptiles like snakes and lizards, birds and their eggs, spiders, and plants as well. They can also eat scorpions without fearing their venom.
They can not survive without eating for long. They need to eat daily as they do not have extra body fat stored in their bodies. That is why they have to come out of their burrows daily to hunt for food.
Their predators include eagles, hawks, falcons, snakes, jackals, lions, and other carnivorous animals.
5. Taking care of the baby meerkats
The meerkats are old enough to reproduce at the age of one year. They can produce 1 – 7 pups in a single litter. They happen to give birth more during the spring season due to the availability of food. Although they give birth during the other times of the year as well.
On average, they have four babies at a time. The babies are taken care of by the family members. The adults bring them food and teach them how to eat before they are grown enough to hunt for their own food.
The mother allows them to get out of the burrow when they are about three weeks old.
6. The meerkats live in matriarchal groups
The family groups of meerkats have a female leader and her mating partner becomes the male leader. Together they have babies and start a family. But they do not allow their younger ones to have babies.
A family consists of a pair of male and female leaders along with their children and siblings. If a minor female produces children then she is kicked out of the family. The grandchildren are often killed by the leaders of the group.
The kicked out female then start a new family by teaming up with another male outside her family. The children often leave the families to build their individual families.
7. They are immune to the venom
Meerkats are known for eating scorpions without getting poisoned by their venom. First, they bite the stinger off and then rub them on the sand to remove the leftover venom from the scorpion exoskeleton.
Belonging to the mongoose family, they are also immune to some of the snake species. If they are attacked by a snake it is not likely that they will die right away. Some recovers completely after some time.
They also eat certain species of snakes which are less venomous. They are also adopted as house guards in some parts of the world to keep the snakes away.
8. Meerkats do not drink water
Adapted to the dry climatic conditions of the deserts, meerkats do not drink additional water apart from their diet. They take all the moisture needed from the insects and other things that they eat.
They are found in all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, in major parts of the Namib Desert in Namibia, southwestern Angola, and South Africa.
They come out during the daytime when the sun shines and warm up their burrows. During extremely hot afternoons, they might return to their burrows.
9. The baby meerkats
Before giving birth to the offspring, the mother takes the entire family to a larger burrow which is lined with grasses. Baby meerkats start their lives in these burrows and are taken care of by the adult members.
They are called by several names such as pups or puppies, kits or kittens, and sometimes even cubs. They are more like dogs in their social behavior. The newborns are no bigger than the size of a matchbox.
Their eyes and ears are shut at this stage. It takes around 10 days for them to open their ears and around 10 – 14 days for their eyes to open.
10. The daily routine of the meerkats
The meerkats are diurnal animals who have a scheduled routine for themselves. They come out of the burrow together for sunbathing and grooming each other. After that, they start their search for food.
In the meanwhile, some of the meerkats keep them guard and look out for predators. The guard is changed after every hour and a fresh pair of eyes is charged with the duty of lookout.
Some of them take care of the babies in the burrows while the others go in the food search. Some dig out burrows for making new rooms. All the roles are interchanged among the members of the family and everyone participates.
11. They have vacation homes
Meerkat families do not live in just one burrow. They have several burrows for different purposes. During the birth of the offspring, a new burrow is used as a nursery. Several others are made as vacation homes where they can enjoy apart from living as well.
They tend to rotate among these burrow homes and do not live in one specific one for long. These additional burrows also provide them with safety.
Whenever they are threatened by any predator, they scatter and get into the nearest burrow they find. They also tend to invade the burrows of other animals like squirrels.
Different Types of Meerkats
Meerkats belong to the Mongoose family but are very different from the other 35 mongoose species. The scientific name of the animal is Suricata Suricatta. There are three subspecies of Meerkats.
- Suricata Suricatta Siricata is found majorly in South Africa.
- Suricata Suricatta Majoriae is found in the Namib desert in Namibia.
- Suricata Suricatta Iona is found in southwestern Angola.
Mongoose vs Meerkat – What are the Major Differences?
Mongoose and the Meerkat belong to the same family of Herpestidae. They both are carnivorous animals and people often confuse themselves among the two. There are however some differences among them for you to distinguish better.
- Mongoose can adapt to various climatic conditions and habitats but Meerkat prefers deserts.
- The tail of the Mongoose is bushy but that of Meerkat is not.
- The Meerkats have elongated faces in comparison to the Mongoose.
- The Mongoose is immune to snake venom whereas the Meerkat is immune to the venom of scorpions.
- The Meerkats have a binocular vision but the Mongoose does not have such ability.
Also want to know about some other cute looking creatures, read these articles:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Their diet majorly consists of insects but they also feed on reptiles, birds, and even plants.
Meerkats live in the underground tunnels made by them known as burrows.
They can survive for 7 – 8 years in the wild but they can survive longer in captivity, say 12 – 15 years on average.
They are not rodents. Meerkats are mammals found in Southern Africa.
Meerkats are closely related to the mongoose.
A baby meerkat is called a pup.
A group of meerkats is known as a gang or a mob.
They can stand on their two hind feet and assess their surroundings.
Meerkats inhabit regions such as the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, the Namib Desert in Namibia, southwestern Angola, and South Africa.
Meerkats can stand 12 inches tall.
The average weight of the meerkats is 1.5 pounds.
Being a member of the mongoose family, they can attack and kill snakes.
They can run at a speed of 30 miles per hour.
Meerkats are smart and intelligent animals. They can sense danger and withdraw to their burrows. They stay alert and communicate among themselves as well.
Meerkats are adapted to dry deserted areas and do not like getting wet so it is not known of them to swim.
Meerkats are diurnal animals. They actively hunt for food during the daytime and rest in their burrows at night.
Meerkats have to be in human proximity from a very young age and that is how they can become human-friendly. They are not very calm creatures otherwise.
Lions do prey upon meerkats and eat them in the wilds.
Meerkats are not endangered currently according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
These were some amazing meerkat facts for kids. We hope you and your little ones had a fun time reading it and the information proved helpful in gaining some knowledge about these cousins of mongoose.