a) thanks to the latest wave of my flatmates leaving and new ones being recruited, which takes up a huge amount of my time;
By complete chance I came across the wonderful caracal, the fastest of all small cats. It can leap 3 metres (10 feet) to snatch birds in mid-flight or sail through the air to pounce on small antelopes or large rodents.
Lurking behind bushes, rocks or in tall grass, the caracal sometimes even tackles larger animals like goats, making it rather unpopular with African farmers.
With long black tufts of hair on slender, elongated ears, the caracal looks at first glance very much like a lynx but is in fact far more closely related to the African Golden Cat. I think it looks more like a mini-puma than a lynx (except for its tufty ears).
It has a tail nearly a third of its body length; it can grow up to 92 cm (36 inches) in length and weigh up to 19 kg or 42 lbs., so as “small” cats go, it’s actually quite a whopper. The caracal’s geographical spread covers the Middle East and Africa, India and North West Pakistan.
The caracal loves steppes and semi deserts but can also be found in scrub- and woodland. As long as there’s cover like rocks and bushes for it to hide, it can stay in most terrains – although probably not here in Wales, where it’s continuously raining!
Apparently, the caracal can easily be tamed and was therefore used as a hunting cat in India and Iran. With is golden to russet fur and pale rings under its eyes it is very beautiful to look at. I could imagine Willow the Vampire making friends with a child from India, whose parents have smuggled a caracal into rural Stinkforthshire. Surely some fun could be had with that…the Beast of Stinkforth Moor, the Kitty of the Cattervilles, the Cat from the Black Saloon?
I feel a new playmate for Bartholomeaow coming on…but then again, probably not…caracals are loners and rarely play with others once they’ve reached adulthood. This could be an opening for a love-hate relationship between Kitty Caracal and Bartholomeaow Band. Two cats hunt as one?
Unlike other small cats, the caracal’s pupils contract to form circles rather than slits, making it probably look friendlier than it actually is! Beware Willow, this little kitty packs quite a punch and goes straight for the throat…erm…sorry, I forgot…so do you, my bloodsucking little friend.
Its name comes from the Turkish for “black ear”, namely karakulak. A young caracal has black on the outside of its ears, but these markings vanish when the animal reaches adulthood. Its ears are incredibly agile and versatile, because it uses them to locate prey. Fancy having ears that are controlled by nearly 30 different muscles! You’d never know what your ears might be up to whilst you’re talking to a friend.
In the wild a litter of caracal kittens rarely exceeds three individuals. Caracal kittens are weaned at approximately ten weeks, but may stay with their mum for up to one year to learn how to hunt and find water. They are fiercely territorial and very good at hiding, which is why they are very rarely seen in the wild.
Strangely, their qualities mark them out as an ideal friend for vampires, somebody who’d truly understand the vampire nature.
Yes, I think I shall add the caracal to Willow’s list of new friends!