Laurel Klein Serieys has a soft spot for pointy-eared cats. After completing her PhD studying bobcat ecology in Los Angeles, California, she set off for Cape Town in South Africa to study a different kind of urban wild cat: the caracal.
As part of her Urban Caracal Project, Serieys set up a small mirror in the wilderness, ready for a cat to wander by, and deployed a camera trap nearby to record what happened. Eventually a female caracal did wander by – and was so startled by her reflection that she ran away. In less than a second, the cat became a furry, blurry rocket.
On the project's Facebook page, Serieys explains that she wanted to see whether mirrors could be a useful, humane way to lure a caracal into a trap, where the cats are given a quick assessment and, for some of them, a small radio collar, before being released. "There is video footage of two leopards in a tropical forest reacting very differently to a mirror – investigating for a long period of time with great curiosity, which is how we got the idea… [But] based on this footage, it won't be a technique we will employ," she says.
The same cat was seen nearby later the same day, so Serieys thinks that the mirror wasn't scary enough to drive her away permanently.