Meerkats are comical, small burrowing animals found throughout southern Africa. They are not cats, as their name implies, but belong to the mongoose family. They are best known for the way they stand up on their hind legs to watch for predators, using their long tails like a tripod, to help them balance. They have big, round eyes with dark hair around them that works like sunglasses in the glaring African sun.
The social Meerkats live in groups of 10 – 30, called a “mob” or “gang.” They live underground in large burrows with multiple rooms and entrances. The whole gang works together as a community, with everyone helping to raise the young pups and stand guard against predators.
When the gangs leave their burrows during the day, one or more Meerkats stand guard, watching for danger from snakes, martial eagles and jackals, while the rest forage for food and spend time playing and caring for the young. They are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. Meerkats are good hunters and eat scorpions, insects, lizards, birds, bird eggs and fruit.
The sentries use a unique, shrill call for different predators, which is the signal for everyone to run for cover and disappear underground to safety.
More about Meerkats:
Meerkat Manor – Animal Planet
Amazing Meerkats – National Wildlife Federation
Meerkat – Atlanta Zoo