This Wildlife Wednesday, learn about the sand cat – a tabby-sized feline that can survive in the driest of deserts.
“You have cat to be kitten me right meow.” The sand cat looks too cute to be a skilled survivalist and hunter, but this desert feline is not your average kitten next door. For Wildlife Wednesday, learn why threats to their habitat also mean that some sand cats are not feline feeling fine.
As their name implies, sand cats congregate in the dry deserts of northern Africa and central Asia.
Sand cat trivia
- Sand cats are the only felines that live mostly in true deserts. Their fluffy fur and thick toe pads are also insulating, so they’re not too troubled by very hot or cold temperatures.
- Sand cats take felines’ supposed dislike of water to an extreme: they don’t need to drink water to survive and can rely quite happily on their animal prey as a source of hydration.
- Sand cats are solo hunters that emerge at night to stalk small birds, rodents, and reptiles; even poisonous snakes aren’t off the menu for these hardy hunters. They spend their days nestled in burrows or sand dunes.
Why they’re threatened
Loss of habitats, hunting by locals, and capture for sale in the pet trade are the main threats to sand cats, which are listed as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Their love of roaming also means that they rarely thrive in captivity.
Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom for sand cat populations. A kindle of four purrfect kittens were born last year at the Zoological Center of Tel Aviv in Israel—a country that hasn’t been home to any sand cats since the 1990s, when territorial conflicts destroyed their habitats. Proud parents Rotem and Sela are one success story made possible by a European breeding program that hopes to improve the species’ numbers.