Meerkats are members of the mongoose family and inhabit dryer regions of southern Africa such as the Kalahari Desert. The feline Meerkat is in no way related to the Suricata suricatta, or wild meerkat. In fact such a cross would be genetically impossible.
The first Meerkats were produced in a Jaguarundi Curl breeding program. Jaguarundi Curls are a hybrid breed incoroprating the heavy boning curled ears, and polydactyl feet of the Highland Lynx with the short legs and long tail of short legged breeds such as Munchkins so the breed would have a similar apparance to the Jaguarundi.
The intent of the Jaguarundi Curl program was to eliminate the short tail gene from the breed. However, when an accidental breeding produced short tailed kittens, the short legged, short tailed kittens were immediately popular. The first ones were colorpoints, and they frequently sat in in an upright position with their front feet in the air as do many of the short legged breeds. However, due to the coloration of these first kittens, people frequently commented that their behavior mimicked that of true meerkats, and the name stuck.
The head is large but not round, with a full, well-developed muzzle that is almost square in appearance, with prominent whisker pads.
The ears may be curled or straight. They are set wide apart, usually with feathering and tufts on the tip. Curled ears curl backwards at the tips. The degree of the curl may be slight or extreme, with the tip of the ear actually curling back and touching the back side of the ear. The gene which causes the ear to curl actually hardens the cartilage in the ear dwarfs the ear size. The gene for curled ears is a dominant gene.
The wide set eyes are large and expressive, set at an angle, with colors ranging from gold to green, with blue eyes in the snows.
The tail is short. In the short-haired cats, the tail should be plush. Legs are short and powerful, attached to a long muscular body.
Meerkats come in all colors and patterns except particolors. Preferred colors are snows and minks in ticked or spotted patterns to resemble the colors of the wild meerkats. Solid colors (melanistic), tawny (ticked) coats, or spotted coats sometimes occur in the breed.
The solid pattern is self explanatory.
The tawny pattern is a ticked tabby pattern marked by ticking on the body hair with various shades of the marking color and ground color, with the outer tipping being the darkest and the undercoat being the ground color. The body may exhibit a barely perceptible spotted pattern. The tail, legs, and face will have tabby pencilings. Necklace tracings will are also frequently seen.
The leopard pattern is a spotted tabby pattern. It is marked by spots of the darker color, most prominent on the sides of the body and the belly. The spots may vary in size and shape, but should be evenly distributed. Preference is given to rosette spots which are formed by a part-circle of spots around a distinctly lighter center. Contrast with ground color may not be as distinct as in some spotted breeds . A dorsal stripe runs the length of the body to the tip of the tail. The stripe is ideally composed of spots. The markings on the face and forehead are typical tabby markings, with the underside of the body having distinct spots. Legs and tail are barred. In the sepia, mink, and snow subdivisions, it is desirable for ghost leopard spots to appear on the bodies.
Meerkats and Jaguraundi Curls are part of the Jaguarundi Curl breed group in the Rare & Exotic Feline Registry. In other words, Meerkats and Jaguarundi Curls may be bred together or may be bred to cats in the Highland Lynx breed group.
All short-tailed kittens are registered as Meerkats. Those born with long legs will be referred to as non-standard.
All long-tailed kittens are registered as Jaguarundi Curls. Those born with long legs or straight ears will be referred to as non-standard.