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Species Facts

The beautiful sand cat is small and stocky with a relatively long tail and short legs. With large ears set low on its head, it has a broad face with dense, well-developed cheek hair. Its coat is a pale sandy color, usually without spots or stripes except on the forelegs and tail.

  • Scientific Designation: Felis margarita
  • Endangered Status: Least Concern (LC)
  • Lifespan: 13 years
  • Weight: 2.0-3.4 kg
  • Length: 40-57 cm
  • Height: 25-26 cm
  • Tail Length: 27-35 cm

Diet

This cat is not a sit-and-wait predator. Instead, searching for prey by watching and listening as it moves, and often covers long distances while hunting. The sand cat hunts for small mammals (including gerbils), reptiles, and birds from the onset of night to the early morning.

Desert Adaptations

This cat is built for desert life, and grows long, dense hair between its toes. The hair forms a mat that covers the pads of the cat’s feet, insulating them from the hot sand and acting as a cushion. The sand cat has a distinctive way of moving: punctuated by occasional leaps, and with its belly close to the ground, it often covers the desert terrain at a run.

The sand cat copes with the extraordinary temperature variations in the desert by retreating underground to an insulating burrow. Its thick coat offers further insulation from the cold. The species survives without freestanding water, obtaining most needed moisture from its prey. 

Distribution map shows a very scattered and limited shading of the deserts in Northern Africa as well as the Middle East.

Species Distribution

The sand cat is confined to sandy deserts such as the western Sahara and those in the Middle East and parts of Asia. Its extended hunting expeditions result in it having a larger home range than most other cats.

Distribution map courtesy of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), compiled in 2016.

Threats to the Sand Cat

An interesting personality characteristic of this cat is its tameness and lack of fear of humans. Its status in the wild is unknown. However, as with other cats, the main threat to the sand cat is habitat loss.

It is classed as Least Concern (LC) in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and is listed in appendices I and II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

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