NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Nashville Zoo welcomed their newest caracal kittens.

Brothers, Samir and Zane are just 3-months-old. Veterinary staff took care of them for about three weeks before they were turned over to the care of Robin Mahoney and Jawnie Payne of the Nashville Zoo.

Mahoney and Payne explained that the caracals are susceptible to COVID-19, so they must wear their masks at all times around the cats. Mahoney said this is crucial to keeping them as healthy as they can be amid the pandemic.

Both caracal kittens will eventually become a part of the zoo’s Ambassador Animal Collection. Payne has been with the zoo for about two years. She said Samir and Zane are full of energy as they continue to develop.

“They love to play with anything and everything. We stopped and got some bamboo on our way up here because they love that. They even like playing with newspaper. They love wiffle balls and we have Nylabones and keys they really like playing with. And the one thing that they do love to play with that we don’t want them to play with is our shoes.”

Caracals are native to Africa. Robin Mahoney has been with the Nashville Zoo for more than 20 years. She said Samir and Zane are like babies and require a lot of care. Caracals are about 30-40lbs. when fully grown. They are most recognizable by their big black tufted ears.

“They possibly use those tufts to identify other caracals, especially when they’re on the grasses. They can kind of sense all kinds of things, see that there’s another chemical tell what mood they’re in.” Mahoney added, “They will look kind of similar (once they’re grown.) They’re just going to be a lot taller and more robust. They’ll still have that brown, and they’ll have those beautiful black ears and the markings on their face. Their ears will still remain really big as adults.”

Mahoney and Payne explained how important it is for caracal kittens to be socialized at a young age.

“It’s definitely better that they’re together. Cats do better together. We hope that they’ll stay together their whole lives, but as they become adults that could change if they have aggression issues. They’ve been spending a lot of time out at our Historic Farm and over by out festival field. Even sort of where our amphitheater is, and they certainly like to visit the gift shop,” said Mahoney.

Payne explained, “We definitely want them out as much as possible. They’re generally going out on a walk or doing something with some of their keepers at least three to four times a day. But then we also go in and socialize them throughout he day as well.”

Right now, Samir and Zane are eating Toronto meat, which is made of horse meat. This mimics more of what they would eat in the wild. Right now, they’re eating that along with some formula. Payne said over time, Samir and Zane will develop amazing jumping abilities that will eventually, allow them to eat birds.

“These guys are related to servals, which is another African cat that’s known for their jumping skills. When these guys are standing out in a field, they can jump around 9 feet in the air to swat or snatch a bird out of the sky, which is very impressive. That’s been one thing that has been a lot of fun to watch them because they never really knew how to jump just a few weeks ago. It’s really cute to watch them learn,” Payne said. “Every time I see them I’m like ‘oh my gosh’. It just reminds me of how much I love my job.”

Jim Bartoo of the Nashville Zoo told News 2 Samir and Zane will become a part of their animal shows once the zoo become fully operational again. Occasionally, the brothers can be seen on the pathways of the zoo.

The Nashville Zoo is offering a special deal during the month of August. Click here to learn more.