A rarely seen wild animal found primarily in the West and Southwest USA is the Ringtail Cat. Some find this elusive animal to be absolutely adorable. Let’s take a closer look at this unique animal. Here you will find facts and also some interesting pieces of Ringtail Cat Trivia.
Not A Cat
Despite their name, the Ringtail Cat is not a cat. Instead, they belong to the raccoon family. The Ringtail Cat is known as a Procyonidae. In fact, the ring on their tail does resemble a raccoon tail. Also, like a raccoon, the Ringtail Cat cleans itself by licking its forepaws. It then wipes its face, ears, and snout.
The Ringtail Cat is wary of humans. For that reason, they are sometimes called shy. Though they are related to a raccoon, Ringtail Cats are spotted way less than their wild cousins. You wouldn’t have to drive too far across the United States to find countless raccoons dead on the side of the road. Thankfully, their elusive nature keeps Ringtails off of the highways. Death by being hit by a vehicle is much less than for a raccoon.
Other Names of Ringtail Cats
Even though Ringtails are not a cat, as mentioned above, they have been given the nickname “Miner’s Cat.” This is because they are often seen around mining camps. The reason being is that Ringtail Cats feast on rodents. Mining camps often have a large population of rodents because rodents are attracted to food left by the miners.
When a ringtail is frightened it can release a foul smelling odor from its anal gland. This is a self-defense mechanism, much like a skunk. For that reason, they have been given the name Civet Cats. Somehow the cat part of the name keeps sticking with these Procyonidaes even though they are not a cat.
The Ringtail Cat shares many characteristics with the fox. First, Ringtails have a long and bushy tail like a fox. The tail on a Ringtail Cat is often longer than the length of its body. Second, they have fox-like ears. Third, Ringtail Cats have sharp teeth which are perfectly made for eating rodents, insects, rabbits and ground squirrels. Fox and Ringtail Cats share much of the same diet. Ringtails also snack on snakes, lizards, frogs, birds, acorns, berries, and fruit.
Animals That Prey Upon the Ringtail Cat
As with most small animals, there is a large list of predators that prey upon the Ringtail Cat. Some of those predators include the Great Horned Owl, Coyotes, Bobcats and Mountain Lions. Perhaps this is part of why Ringtail Cats are considered elusive. They really need to be extra careful when they venture out to hunt.
The call of the Ringtail Cat is loud with different ranges of calls. So even though you may not see a Ringtail, you may be able to hear one. If you hear a call that includes loud and varied pitches, it may just be a Ringtail Cat. If threatened or attacked, the Ringtail Cat will give off a very high pitched and loud scream. Adults communicate with each other via loud barking or long-high wailing. Young Ringtails speak in a series of chirps and squeaks.
Arizona’s State Mammal
This elusive and cute animal is held in high self-esteem by some, even becoming a state mammal. The Ringtail Cat became Arizona’s state mammal in 1986.
The Ringtail Cat is almost fully nocturnal. They spend most of their days fast asleep in dens that they construct. This is likely a big part of the reason why it’s rare to have a Ringtail Cat sighting.
Ringtail Cats are excellent climbers. They can quickly ascend vertical walls including trees. Ringtail Cats prefer rocky piles, canyons, stone fences and places with crevices where they can hide in safety from predators. They can be found in wooded areas but it is far less common.
So there you have it. Some common and maybe some not so well known facts about Ringtail Cats have been covered. One thing is for certain and that is, they sure are cute little critters. Since you may never see one in person, I hope you enjoyed these photos and learning about this unique mammal.