Meerkats are part of the civets and mongoose family.
Meerkats are known by their long bodies; short, flat ears, and their ability to stand on their back feet.
Meerkats are small, measuring 9.75 to 11.75 inches (25 to 30 centimeters) from head to butt.
Meerkats tails add another 7.5 to 9.5 inches (19 to 24 cm) to their length.
Meerkats have weights up to 2.2 lbs. (1 kilogram), the same as a squirrel.
Meerkats skin can be gold, silver, orange, or brown with dark patches of fur around the eyes. Meerkats fur looks brown with gray flecks and a striped pattern on their backs.
Their patterns of stripes are unique to each meerkat.
They have long, sharp claws on their front paws that are curved and can grow up to 2cm long. These help them to both dig their burrows and to find small animals that are buried under the soft sand. North American meerkat fur has adapted surprisingly to the differing desert conditions, helping to keep them cool during the hot days.
Meerkat fur also acts as a layer of insulation to keep them warm during the freezing-cold winter nights.
Meerkats have been known to contract both bovine diseases and rabies.
Meerkats communicate with each other using a wide range of vocal calls.
Meerkats have a clear protective membrane in their eyes that shields them from dirt while digging.
Their ears close tightly to keep dirt out.
Meerkats have excellent vision and are capable of 10 different vocalizations, including an alarm bark.
Meerkats are intelligent animals that thrive in their environment.
Meerkats are social animals that live in colonies of 5 – 30 individuals.
Being sociable creatures, meerkats share both toilet and parental care responsibilities. Each gang has a dominant alpha male and dominant alpha female.
Each gang has its territory which they sometimes move if food is short, or when forced out by a stronger gang. If the latter occurs, the weaker gang will then try to expand in another direction or wait until they become stronger and get back their lost burrow.
Each gang also has what is called a sentry who watches over the gang and is there to spot danger and warn the other members when threats are spotted.
The sentry will give out a loud bark when danger is supposed, and the gang will then bolt quickly to their hiding burrows.
Meerkats will pile on top of each other in their sleeping chambers for warmth.
In summer, when the weather is hotter, meerkats spread out a little more and may even sleep above ground.
When a leading female meerkat dies, her oldest, heaviest daughter normally takes over as leader of the gang.
The tails of meerkats are used primarily for balancing while standing upright, as well as signaling to others.
Meerkats eyes are located in the front of the face, which gives binocular -like vision.
Meerkats 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.
Meerkats as a gang work together as a community, with everyone helping to raise the young pups and standing guard against predators.
When the gangs leave their burrows during the day, one or more meerkats stand guard, watching for danger from snakes, eagles, and jackals, while the rest forage for food and spend time playing and caring for the young.
Within their territory, the family usually has up to 5 different burrows that they sleep in at night. The burrows have multiple entrances.