Many people admire the beauty and elegance of wild cats. This stirs desires, with some cat lovers keen to have a miniature version of such an exotic specimen in their home. This desire for something special forms the basis for numerous hybrid breeds. The Caracat is one of these, but breeding is problematic.
© Anastasiia / stock.adobe.com
History of Caracat breeding
Since there is currently no targeted breeding of Caracats, we will take a more detailed look at the history of this hybrid breed.
The hype surrounding wild cat hybrids
The Bengal and Savannah are amongst the most well-known wild cat hybrids. A distinguishing feature of these breeds is dots on the fur. The Bengal resulted from pairing domestic cats with wild Asian Leopard cats in the 1970s. In contrast, the Savannah carries the heritage of the Serval.
Both cat breeds draw attention due to their elongated body and exotic fur. The Savannah in particular is now one of the most expensive cat breeds. Depending on the generation, enthusiasts pay high four-figure sums for a cat. Caracat breeders may have had a similar success story in mind when they went public with their cats.
Caracat: Domestic cat plus Caracal
The name of the Caracat reveals its wild heritage. It results from pairing domestic cats with the Caracal. The Caracal is a feline predator weighing up to 18 kilograms native to Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Its name is derived from the Turkish 'karakulak', which translates as 'black ear'.
Although it isn't related to the lynx, the Caracal is also known as the desert lynx. In some regions, people keep Caracals to use them for hunting or for bird hunting competitions. These nimble cats can jump three metres high from a standing position. Even Caracals living in captivity will not be tamed – they are anything but cuddly cats.
How did Caracat breeding develop?
The idea of the Caracat came from the US, the land of unlimited possibilities. Targeted breeding of Abyssinian cats with the Caracal took place there, but the cats and their offspring disappeared again after a short time.
A breeding project in Europe attracted attention around ten years ago: A union of German and Austrian cat lovers planned to pair Maine Coon cats with the Caracal. The objective was to combine the Caracal's striking appearance with the gentle character of the large Maine Coon.
The idea led to plenty of controversy and even triggered petitions to stop the planned hybrid breed. Not long afterwards, there were disagreements amongst the breeding community. The website of the "International Foundation for Wild and Hybrid Cats" that was set up with the project went offline in 2011. There are currently no more intensive efforts to breed Caracats.
If breeding between Caracals and domestic cats is successful, the appearance of the offspring is not uniform. It takes several generations before a uniform type can be achieved. This has not happened with the Caracat.
The F1 generation, i.e. direct offspring of a Caracal and domestic cat, is mostly made up of cats of above-average size. They often have the exotic pattern of a Caracal and coveted lynx tufts. Since there is currently no targeted Caracat breeding, there is also no standard describing the cats' appearance.
Character and housing
There is another risk that goes with every hybrid breed: Nobody knows which characteristics the parents will pass on. Kittens often don't just inherit the looks of their parents, but their wild nature too. Aggression and heavy marking are factors that can complicate life with offspring in human care. It's also important for breeders and interested parties that strict ownership regulations are in place for wildcat hybrids up to and including the fourth generation in many countries.
Some people prefer to let a Caracat move straight in. However, they have territories extending over many kilometres in the wild and cannot be kept in species-appropriate conditions in a normal living set-up. Despite an outdoor enclosure, they can soon develop behavioural problems that overwhelm their owners. The ones who suffer are these exotic four-legged friends, which will ideally find a good home in a wildlife sanctuary.
Diet and grooming
In the wild, the Caracat eats birds, hares and mice, as well as larger prey like antelopes. So as with all cats, meat and further components such as bones of the prey are primarily on the menu. Meat should be the main component of the food for Caracats too. However, food containing grain is not suitable. If you choose BARF, i.e. feeding raw meat, you should do thorough research on the subject beforehand.
The Caracat also doesn't require any special grooming. Here too though, the fur texture depends on the cat breeds that have been paired with one another. In a combination with Maine Coon fur, the Caracat can prove more demanding in terms of grooming and require regular brushing.
Why is breeding Caracats difficult?
Presumably not just mixed public reactions have brought the Caracat project to a standstill. Breeding hybrid cats consists of some difficulties. For instance, pairing wild cats with weaker domestic cats can lead to injuries, among other things.
If the pairing is successful, the duration of the pregnancy can cause problems. Our cats gestate for an average of 63 days before kittens are born. In contrast, the gestation period of the Caracat is five to fifteen days longer.
If a domestic cat gives birth to kittens earlier, they may be premature. Overly large kittens also jeopardise the mother's health. But if the wildcat gives birth to kittens, there is the risk that she will reject them for being too small. In addition, different sets of chromosomes often result in infertile offspring. In this context, it is understandable that Caracat breeding has ground to a halt.
Moreover, genuine cat lovers don't need prestigious exotic cats, because they know that every cat is special with a unique personality.