Because meerkats are social and highly cooperative animals that band together for survival, it's easy to perceive human-like personality traits. They stand guard for one another, they babysit one another's young, they groom one another and engage in play. But even when given human names by a television show, they are still wild animals.
"It's kind of a dicey line between humanizing animals, anthropomorphizing them, but I do see courage in them, I do see bravery, I do see selfishness. I see what's good and bad in our society," said Bennett-Wallberg.
Of course, the deeper qualities we consider human are not there. And "Meerkat Manor" does not pretend they are.
The show never ascribes emotions like love and hate. And the producers purposefully avoided saying that the meerkats grieved after Flower died -- because they didn't.
"That's one thing you kind of don't see in meerkats. You do see grieving in elephants. I mean there is grief in the animal kingdom. We know that and that's absolutely certain. We didn't see that in the meerkats. Quite honestly, they were immediately struggling to go on to, to search for food, to move on," Kaczorowski said.
Ironically, the fans took Flower's death harder than Flower's own relatives did.
Self-described "uber-fan," Mary Xanthos remembers "sitting on the couch sobbing, a grown woman just sobbing, at the thought of this little animal being killed. And that's when I knew -- wow, I'm very attached."
Inspired by Flower, Xanthos co-founded the East Coast Meerkat Society, which now has members across the country. Together they help improve conditions for meerkats in zoos, and they also gather together for screening parties.
At a recent get-together in Sierra Madre, Calif., guests donned meerkat T-shirts, munched on homemade meerkat-themed cupcakes, and quizzed one another on previous "Meerkat Manor" episodes. Fan Jess McIntyre made a special toast: "To Flower and all of her accomplishments -- both in Africa as well as in bringing all of us together, people who would have otherwise not known each other had Flower and her story not come to light."
And at that, everyone cheered.