We adopted Tikki when he was only three months old. He had been separated from his family clan to be the dominant female in a new breeding group of meerkats at an educational facility in another county. He was incorrectly identified as a female when he is, in fact, a male. Once a meerkat pup is separated from its clan for any length of time, it cannot be re-introduced to the clan without a high risk of injury or even death, as it would be seen as an intruder. Introducing a strange meerkat to any meerkat clan is fraught with risk. On being made aware of his plight, we volunteered to adopt him. So, Tikki moved in with us as an alternative to being confined alone to a cage.
Initially, his best friend and companion was Charlie, our bichon-frise, although he "adopted" us as his close family. He lives freely in the house and has access to the garden patio and has his own "scratch-patch" enclosure complete with hollow tree trunk. He is now thoroughly "humanised" but still wary of strangers, whom he will nip to demonstrate his dominance. He loves our children and grandchildren and recognises them as part of his clan, even though they don't live with us and only visit occasionally.
When he was a year old, we had him neutered (and inoculated against bovine TB and canine distemper) as his scent marking was very pungent. As a result, he is odour free and a pleasure to live with. The downside is that he has a "tummy" which is exacerbated by obesity, the scourge of captive meerkats who have limited exercise. In the wild, meerkats
may run up to five miles per day in search of food and are extremely active. In captivity, this is simply not possible.
His diet is 90% fat free. He eats a lot of calcicum in the form of red and yellow pepper, he likes green peas in-the-pod, courgette, broccoli and carrot. If anything has been sprayed with insecticide he will refuse it. His daily protein intake is a raw chicken wing-tip or a raw prawn. A portion of raw egg yolk is a monthly treat. Contrary to the norm, he does not like hard boiled egg. He is nuts about cheese and we have to be careful to only let him have a very small amount as a treat. He also likes skimmed milk and drinks about 10ml a day, which supplements his calcium intake.
He breakfasts on six Mario worms and the occasional live grasshopper.
He is extremely clean and only defecates in one particular place, next to our toilet! He gets a monthly bath, which he loves, and has an enclosed, heated hutch for his "burrow." He enjoys being brushed and groomed and has to have his toe nails trimmed regularly as, in the wild, they would be worn down by constant digging. Tikki recognises many words and phrases, responds to instruction or requests and vocalises his feelings and desires, which we have learned to understand.
He is taken on long walks using a ferret harness and lead and knows his way around our local neighbourhood and to the local forest, where he has his favorite places to dig. The harness and lead are only necessary so that we are able to retrieve him to safety from dogs, otherwise he would stay with us and not run away. He hates inclement weather and winter is purgatory to him.
Tikki has his own facebook page www.facebook.com/tikkiserretta where he has over 3,650 followers and over 420 friends who engage with him. He brings a lot of pleasure to a lot of people all over the world.
You can read more about meerkats here:
K.M.P. on Facebook and here: K.M.P.
Tikki's story, as told by Tikki himself, is a separate post.