This beautiful creature is a caracat, a hybrid domestic Abyssinian housecat crossed with a caracal (Felis catus x Caracal caracal). Only a few first-generation caracats retain the appealing black-tufted ears, not usually to the degree seen in the ideal caracat pictured here. The hybrid otherwise looks rather like a miniature cougar, or like stout overweight Abyssinian that grows to twice or three times the usual size and have evil tempers. If the breeding programs continue and spread, many varieties are inevitable, using other domestics besides Abyssinian.
First generation caracats do not meow. Like a caracat, they screech, hiss, menace, threaten, and run about crazily destroying stuff. Second generation caracats are impossibly rare because of negative health factors in the first generation and infertility of the males.
House cats and caracals are not even the same genus, and these forced breedings are not merely unnatural, but dangerous to the animals. A caracal weighs 40 pounds or more, but the average domestic is ten pounds. The mismatch in size, and violent nature of just about any cat when in mating mode, means serious injury is all too likely. It is useless to even try to breed a male caracal to a female domestic, if she survives his abuse she’ll be damaged by birthing a giant kitten, so it is generally a female caracal kept in close quarters with a male Abyssinian who with considerable risk and difficulty can get the job done.
Unfortunately there is additionally a very different gestation length in the two genuses (Caracals gestate ten days longer than Felis). The mismatch in the genetics means most of the few kittens will die; those that survive will have health problems; and achieving a stable population of third and fourth generation hybrids that might be less harmed to breed together has not proven easily achieved. It’s rare that a first generation female caracat is healthy enough to be responsibly bred.
Due to genetic defects in the hybrid, the caracat has trouble digesting normal cat foods. They are prone to projectile diarrhea and inflammatory bowel disease. They usually require lifelong specialty diets and may require expensive stomach surgery at some point.
Though the intent is to breed out the rather terrifying attributes of even the nicest full-blooded caracal (short tempers and destructive behaviors when forced to live in the unnatural conditions of domestic cats), the unwanted traits certainly do survive the first generation, and getting a third and fourth generation has not yet proven practical with so many defective sickly kittens.
Wild cat behavior has led to rampant declawing of various cat hybrids who otherwise destroy furniture and injure people with great ease and happiness. Declawing can only be regarded as animal cruelty, and frequently results in crippling after effects and chronic pain for the animal.
As with the wild caracal, a hand-raised caracat can love the hell out of you but that does not mean they will never send you to the hospital for stitches after serious bites and scratches. They are by nature temperamental, but even in a good mood, what for them is “play” is simply dangerous to children and adults. The caracat is also likely to spray, and if you ever lived with a tom cat that sprayed, which is nightmarish and eternally stinky, imagine that worsened by a factor of ten. And when it’s time for your caracat’s rabies shot, the vaccine formulated for domestic cats sometimes kills that expensive hybrid. Nor is there any certainty the vaccines are effective on wild cats and hybrids.
Abyssinian breeders and devotees have for these sundry reasons warned the public away from the uniformly irresponsible breeders producing hybrids. In other wild species hybridized with domestics, it took four generations before there was any marked improvement in behavior, and to reach that fourth generation, a great amount of suffering occurred among injured and sickly animals. The caracal is even harder on the initial breeding stock, the breeders taking dead kittens and severely injured adults for granted.
The best-established later-generation hybrids are the Bengals (Felis catus x Prionailurus bengalensisis), which after four generations are supposed to behave like domestics while looking like wild cats, but fact is, there is a high percentage of these animals being turned over to shelters when they stop being cute affectionate kittens and become adults difficult to manage. And of the smallish wildcats used in hybrid programs, caracals are simply the least suited to domestication. Frequently even as harmless and needy kittens, they are wary, alert, and untrusting, and these personality traits don’t go away just because you get in their face and make stupid baby-noises at them.
Imagine the worst-behaved domestic cat you ever encountered: destroys furniture, bites and scratches with abandon, sprays and smells horrible, shits where it wants, kills every example of wildlife that comes into the garden, and stays up all night figuring out what else it can do to make your life hell. Now imagine that bad kitty bigger than a lot of dogs. It’ll not only be the best songbird-killer you ever saw, but if it gets outside beyond sight and control, it’ll likely stalk and kill small dogs and cats in your neighbors’ yards, and when they do, I’d hope the hybrid owner would get their house sued out from under them.