The life cycle of a Caracal cat (Caracal caracal) has the following phases:
- Gestation: 68 - 81 days
- Kitten: litter size 2 - 3 kittens (max 6)
- Sub-Adult: 9 - 10 months (male and female)
- Adult: 12 - 16 months (male and female)
- Lifespan: 12 years in the wild - 19 years in captivity
The three main stages of development are kitten, sub-adult or juvenile and adult. In general, young of the smaller wild cats are called 'kittens' and young of the big cats are called 'cubs'; so Lion, Leopard and Cheetah 'cubs' but Serval or Caracal 'kittens'.
Caracal cats can reproduce throughout the year with some seasonality in regions with distinct seasons. On average females give birth to one litter a year.
Caracal females are polyoestrous* and each oestrus period can last up to a week followed by gestation (pregnancy) of two to three months.
There are two to three Caracal kittens in a litter, and they will stay with the mother until nine to ten months old.
Once independent, young females will start to seek a territory close to the mother, but males will disperse widely.
*polyoestrous = more than one oestrous period in a year; oestrous = receptive to male / 'on heat'; USA spelling 'estrous'
Caracal Kitten Development
Caracal kittens weigh around 250g at birth, their eyes are closed, ears flattened against their skull and they have claws but no teeth. Their fur pattern and facial markings are similar in colouring to adults. Their eyes open between four and ten days and they can see clearly a few days after that. By one month their ears are fully erect and their claws are retractable. The first set of teeth are formed by seven months then replaced with permanent teeth by ten months. Kittens can already eat solid food from one month old and are fully weaned off mother's milk by four months.
- Newborn weight: 198g to 250g
- Fur pattern: similar to adults
- Eyes: closed at birth, open 4 to 10 days
- Ears: flattened at birth, upright by 4 weeks
- Claws: nonretractable at birth, retractable by 4 weeks
- Teeth: deciduous set by 7 months, permanent canines start at 5-6 months, all permanent teeth by 10 months
- Solid food: at 1 month
- Weaned: by 15 weeks (4 months)
Both male and female Caracal sub-adults will reach breeding maturity from a year old and can reproduce for most of their adult life.
Mortality in the wild is usually due to the killing of adult Caracals by larger carnivores, or of kittens by the smaller carnivores and other predators. On farmlands in southern Africa, Caracals are hunted by landowners as they are perceived to be the cause of livestock losses.
The average lifespan in the wild is estimated at twelve years and Caracals in captivity have been reported living up to nineteen years.