The Ring-tailed Cat is actually not a cat, but a mammal of the raccoon family. Why it is called a cat, is a mystery, because it doesn’t really bear a resemblance to cats. As the name suggests, this little mammal has rings on it’s tail. The body is elongated and raccoon-like, though the face is more fox-like, with a pointed snout and large eyes.
The Ringtail's tail is often longer than the body
The Ringtails can be found in most parts of Northern America, in semi-arid deserts, rock plateaus, and canyons. It’s designed as probably the best climber in desert areas – not only does their long tail provide amazing balance skills, but also their hind feet can rotate over 180 degrees, giving them a large advantage in climbing and descending from cliffs and trees.
These raccoons are smaller than the average house cat, their bodies being only about 30–42 cm long. They mostly feed on insects and little prey, such as insects or small birds, as well as fruits and berries, thus they can be considered omnivores.
As adults, the Ringtails usually lead solitary lives, coming together only during the mating season, which occurs between February and May. After a gestation period of about 50 days, 2-4 cubs are born. Six months later they start to hunt on their own, while sexual maturity is reached at the age of two. The Ringtails have a life expectancy of about 7 years.
These tiny mammals have many natural predators, including bobcats, raccoons, foxes and large owls. Their population of Ringtails, however, is very stable and they’re not considered threatened in any way. They’re not being hunted, as their fur and meat are considered worthless and poachers are not interested in them.
A drawing of the Ringtail
The Ringtails are, however, being killed by humans, as they are pests to farmers, ravaging harvests. Their excellent climbing skills make sure no barn is out of their reach, just like trees in orchards, which is why many farmers attack these tiny creatures on sight.
The Ringtails are very common to see in many states of the USA, as well as many zoos. They’re common visitors to many homes at night and many people think they’re very cute. The Ringtails seem to be very friendly and social, under the condition that they’re given food, and there are even cases of people taming them and having them as pets.
These little creatures may be a disturbance to farmers, just like rats are, but we can all agree, that they’re much more attractive and scientists imply they’re more intelligent, too. Their population is in no danger and if you’re visiting some more arid parts of Northern America, chances are, you’ll see the Ringtails.