Ringtail Cat… Pet to the Miners of Old

By Melissa Wynn

Ringtail cats are named for the 7 or 8 black rings on their long puffy tail. Not a cat at all, these curious creatures are actually related to the raccoon. Living throughout the American West and Southwest, Ringtail Cats are rarely seen due to their timid and nocturnal nature. You are much more likely to hear them squeaking or chirping in the night since they are quite the little chatterboxes. Also referred to as the Miner’s Cat, Ringtails were kept as pets by settlers and mining prospectors. The miners would cut a hole in a small box and put it in a warm spot, giving their “cat” a safe place to sleep during the day. The Ringtail would repay them in kind by ridding their cabins of vermin by night. They were said to be easily tamed and affection pets. Although their adorable little faces make it quite tempting, capturing a Ringtail cat today is not an option. They are listed as a fully protected species in California. The old miners must have enjoyed having such an odd pet.

Full grown Ringtail Cats measure between 24 and 32 inches total length and weigh 2 to 3 pounds. Shy and solitary, they prefer to go it alone except during mating season. Mating occurs during spring and two to four cubs are born after about 45 days. Males feed their mate during her pregnancy then head back to hills until next spring. Ringtail cubs are born hairless and blind but they grow up fast. These speedy learners are able to hunt on their own at 4 months and can have a litter of their own by 10 months. Ringtail Cats live about 7 years in the wild but those raised in captivity can live up to 14 years. Fasinating little critters, I would enjoy a chance to see one.

Some facts curtesy of wikipedia.com and desertusa.com