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Sand Cat - Made for the desert

 

As its name implies, the sand cat is commonly found in sandy desert areaSand Cat and Kittens in the arid countries of Northern Africa, Arabia and parts of Central Asia and Pakistan. They can be difficult to study in the wild. Its feet and pads are covered with long hair which protect them from the heat of the desert surface and give it extra support needed in moving across the soft, shifting sands. These foot coverings allow them to walk on sand without sinking and leaving their footprints nearly invisible. These long tufts of hair growing between toes help it to cross soft sand and also protect the naked foot pads from the hot desert surface in summer.  They have learned to crouch down and shut their eyes when a light is shone on them, which prevents the light from reflecting their eyes for tracking. That combined with their protective coat color makes them blend right into their habitat. They also bury all of their excrement making it impossible to find and analyze so their diet can be studied.

Slightly smaller than domestic cats, these guys have short legs, wide heads with large, tapered ears and large, forward-placed eyes. The coat varies in color from grey to sandy yellow and is marked with indistinct striped markings. The legs are often banded with horizontal dark stripes. Characteristic dark reddish brown markings appear on the cheeks and to the side of the eyes as well as covering the rear of the ears - the chin and throat of the sand cat are white. The tip of the back of its ears is black and has black stripes on its elbows and dark rings at the end of its tail which ends with a black tip.

Nocturnal and crepuscular hunters of small mammals, birds, insects and reptiles, sand cats slink up to their prey silently, low to the ground. Their strategy is to get as close to the prey as possible without being seen or heard before striking. Their extremely sharp teeth and claws are ideal for grabbing and capturing prey.

In the wild it has been observed that the young sand cat develops rapidly and become independent at a relatively early age. In the spring after a 60-day gestation, sand cats give birth to two to four kittens but as many as 8 have been observed. Young offspring have distinctive markings which fade as they mature. They instinctively dig in the sand at five weeks old, and are able to fend for themselves by fall when they leave their families.

The most serious threat to small cats is habitat destructionSand Cat catcing a snake. Due to the remoteness of much of their habitat, there are conflicting reports as to the exact population status of the animal. It is quite possible that there are many more than current estimates show and recently the three sub-species found in parts of its range excluding Pakistan have been re-classified as Least Concern in the Red List of Endangered Species. The Pakistan sand cat is now listed as Near Threatened.