Meerkat characteristics - Meerkats at adulthood will grow to a standing height of 12 inches (30 centimeters) and weigh around 2 lbs. (750-820 grams). A pregnant female will weigh around 2.8 lb. (1.1 kilos). Their legs are short and their bodies are long and thin. Their tails are also long and thin with a dark tip. The reason for the dark tip is to identify other gang members while foraging for food. Meerkats forage for food with their tails in an upright position enabling them to easily identify their fellow gang members. Meerkats reach sexual maturity at 10 months and adulthood at 11 months. Both males and females share similar physical traits such as short hair and gray or tan markings. The markings on their backs are unique and no two are the same. They have dark brown or black bands around their eyes. Their ears are tipped with black or dark brown. They have dark bands on their sides and back. Their faces and throat are predominately a shade of white. There are four digits on each foot with very sharp non-retractile claws which are curved. They use their claws to dig their burrows. Meerkats also have the unique ability to close their ears, this is to keep dirt out while they burrow, which they do quite often.
Meerkats fur ranges in color from silver to orange to brown. Much of this depends on the subspecies as well as the sand color in which they live.Even in close proximity in the Kalahari you will find Meerkats with tanish fur in the dried out riverbeds and orange fur in the dunes above. Their coats have a great ability to act as both an insulation to keep heat in and an exhaust system to prevent them from overheating in the harsh climate. In the winter they will spread their hair out so to create a heat insulation effect much like a wet suit. Their stomach acts as a sort of solar panel during the winter months. Under a thin layer of stomach hair is a patch of dark skin which collects heat from the winter sun in order to provide warmth on cool days.
Meerkats vision is outstanding. They have a dark band around their eyes, which reduces any glare from the sun. As a result, Meerkats have the ability to see a predatory bird as they look directly into the sun. A Meerkat removes sand from its eyes by blinking. Between the eye and eye lid there is a white membrane called the nictitating membrane. This membrane acts as a windshield wiper and removes sand from their eyes with every blink. However, their ability to see things close up is not as good. Furthermore, they seem to have a problem with depth perception, not being able to focus within 20 feet (6 meters) of themselves. Often they will bob their head up and down trying to get the perspective right. As a result of this nearsightedness, they will often miss food directly in front of them. They often depend on their sense of smell to find food.