Wild Cat Behaviour
Once the cat has stalked and captured it's prey it is killed quicky. The exact method used for the killing bite varies and usually relates to the size of the cat relative to its prey.
With many of the small cats, the prey species body size is almost always less than their own and the victim is usually captured and held in the mouth. With slightly larger prey the small cat may additionally use a paw to further hold it's captive before applying the killing bite. Some small cats may also use there paws to stun the victim by applying swift blows to the body or head, particularly if the prey itself poses a danger. The sand cat, found in sandy desert locations has been observed handling venemous snakes in this fashion. Other species of cat such as the serval and caracal often use their paws catch birds just after take-off. The cat rises up on it's rear legs, jumping up to catch the bird with an extended paw and then bringing it down to the mouth where the bird is held in both paws whilst the final killing bite is applied.
In small cats the killing bite is made to the nape of the neck, the long cannine teeth penetrating and dislocating the cervical vertebrae, thus severing the spinal cord. In some instances the cat will lay on it's side with the prey in it's mouth and rake at the victims body with it's rear paws.
Larger cats often hunt prey with a body size equal to, if not larger, than their own and here the nape bite is not always successful in dispatching the victim. In such circustances the throat bite is used. Here the cat will hold the struggling animal with it's paws whilst applying a bite to the victims throat. Unlike the neck bite, which despatches the victim quickly. the throat bite takes longer to kill prey. It is also debateable as to the exact cause of death and indeed this probably varies depending on the relative sizes of prey and predator. The most probable and common cause of death from the throat bite is that of suffocation, with the windpipe of the victim being crushed by the cats powerful jaws. Some also suggest that the lower parts of the skull may be damaged in the bite, thus affecting the victims central nervous system.
One further variation to the throat bite has been observed in the big cats such as the leopard. Here the cat locks it's jaws around the muzzle or mouth of the victim and holds it until the animal has suffocated.
The Cat as Predator - It has often been said of the 'Big Cats' - and of many of the smaller wild cats too - that they are the perfect predator, a killing machine, designed with every part specially tuned for the art of hunting and catching prey.
Fur and Markings - The fur of the cat serves two distinct purposes - firstly it protects the animal against the extremes of its environment and secondly serves as camouflage to make the cat less easy to spot against the background of its habitat.
The Range of the cat - In terms of the wild cat, the word 'range, can have two distinct meanings. Firstly the range of a wild cat species can be interpreted as its distribution or geographical spread across a large area - 'ranging' across countries or contents. Secondly the 'home range' of an individual wild cat is broadly its 'neighbourhood' - the area in which it lives.
The Social Cat - It is said that cats in the wild are solitary animals - whilst this is true for the majority of the wild cat species for most of the time - there are times when the cat can become a 'social' animal, sharing its daily life with others of its species.
A Matter of Breeding - One of the most important factors leading to a strong species population is that of genetic diversity - some small populations within the cat family however are not only under attack from the pressures of hunting and habitat loss, but also from inbreeding and hybridisation.
Cats in Captivity - For thousands of years man has caged and enclosed many of the wild cat species. To varying degrees cats have been seen as status symbols to the rich, caged exhibits of 'dangerous' exotic animals or reluctant performers in circus extravaganzas - today their place in captivity has a whole different meaning - survival.