FAQ on Africa Cats

Leopard in tree.
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Introduction

The large cats of Africa, Lion, Leopard and Cheetah all live within a social hierarchy with dominant males in an area having breeding rights. Lions are a social species and live in prides whereas the Cheetah is more solitary with the males living in small coalitions and the females living alone or with their young. Leopards are solitary animals with males and females living apart.

Why do Cats scratch trees?

Cats scratching trees enables them to keep their claws sharp and clean. Cats also use this action to stretch the tendons that flex the claws in order to remove the build-up from the sheath area.

Which of the Cats is the most social?

The Lion is the most social of the felids. Their pride usually consists of siblings, half-siblings or even strangers. No one really knows why coalitions are formed, but it is suspected that it is to ensure that strong genes are carried as there would be certain males who are allowed to mate with the females.

Some females of a pride may follow brothers who have been evicted and form a new group. These new prides will occupy unclaimed territory, and on some occasions, the females may return to their previous territory to give birth. This is said to be triggered by memory, which is logical, but is considered uncommon behaviour.

What enemy does a predator have?

Despite their reputation the large cats of Africa do have their enemies. The lion may be top of the predator chain but it is not uncommon for individuals to be attacked and killed by Hyenas. Buffalo have been known to kill Lions but this usually only happens during a hunt when the buffalo is fighting back.

Leopards tread warily of Lions and Hyenas which have been known to attack and kill them and although Leopards prey on Baboons it is not uncommon for Baboons to retaliate and kill the Leopard. Cheetahs are at the bottom of the predator chain and all other predators are their enemies.

What is the tip of the tail used for?

The fluffy tip of an African cat's tail is probably used for the young cubs to follow the mother through long grass. It is a contrasting colour to the rest of the body so as to stand out. The lion's tip is black in contrast to their tan body colour and the leopard's and cheetah's tip is white in contrast to their dark spots. These conspicuous tips are also used to express aggression (the Lion whips it just before a charge) or excitement (the Leopard flicks it from side to side after spotting prey).

Do the large Cats of Africa store food to consume at a later stage?

No. Cats will eat food immediately after they've caught and killed it. Consumption time depends on the size of the kill. With Lions a very big kill e.g. Giraffe might take days to consume, and as they often pull the carcass into the shade or try and hide the scent from Hyenas it was thought that they store food. It is said by some that Leopard store their food in trees but this habit is merely to keep the carcass safe from marauding lions and hyenas.

Where can the big Cats be found in Kruger?

The Cats of Africa are found in a range of habitats and in Kruger they can be seen anywhere and at any time of the day. Lions can be seen in any habitat in Kruger whereas the Leopards are generally found in the riverine woodlands with Cheetah preferring the open plains of Central and southern Kruger.



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