Since they were first discovered in 1858, the Sand cat has remained one of the most interesting Felidae species. This beautiful cat is the only one of its type living in the sandy deserts which is why it is called the Sand Cat or the Sand Dune Cat. As more is learned about this graceful feline, actions are being put into place to help protect its habitat and prevent the extinction of its species.
Sand cats were first discovered by Victor Loche in 1858. This special feline lives primarily in South African deserts and in Southwest and Central Asia. Unfortunately, the Sand Dune Cat is now being threatened because its habitat is quickly being consumed by the progression of villages and towns. As its numbers are growing smaller, work is being done to protect the cat through intervention strategies such as raising cats in captivity and then releasing them in the wild once they are old enough to survive.
The Sand Cat’s Appearance
The sand dune cat is fairly small and brawny. These cats have longer tails than those of their domesticated relatives. Their ears are also larger, as they depend heavily on their hearing to find and track prey, which is both sparse and often underground. They have thick fur on their feet, especially between their toes, to help them cope with the extreme temperatures of the desert and the hot sand.
Normally having a sandy-colored coat, they may also have spots or stripes on certain areas of their bodies. Many sand cats have black stripes across their front legs and a black-tipped tail.
The average weight of a Sand cat is three to seven pounds. With their light weight, they are able to run fast which makes it easier to catch their vermin prey. With speeds ranging from 19 to 25 miles per hour, they have no trouble catching their food.
This cat survives on a diet of spiny mice, gerbils, small cape hares and other rodent species. They occasionally hunt small birds. Their preferred habitat are sand dunes that have sparse vegetation since this is where many rodents live. By day, they live in abandoned burrows made by foxes or porcupines, or will enlarge burrows made by smaller animals, like gerbils. By night, they hunt for prey, and may cover 3 or 4 miles in a single night.
For the most part, a sand dune cat prefers a life of solidarity. During mating season, they will use their scent, claw marks and a high-pitched bark to attract the attention of the opposite sex. An average litter is 3 kittens, usually born in the spring. In some areas, the female may have 2 litters per year. The offspring of the Sand cat typically weighs 1.4 to 2.0 ounces at birth. They rapidly grow and reach the age of being sexually mature around the age of one.
Since 2009, sand cats have been raised and kept in captivity to ensure the species does not die off. As of now, there are around 200 cats in captivity with new population growth helping these numbers to rise. Though growth has been slow, successful live births have been experienced.
As work is being done to protect the Sand cat, careful considerations must be taken into place. When these cats are in captivity, they are extremely prone to temperature and humidity fluctuations. Changes to their normal arid environment can result in respiratory diseases that can sometimes prove fatal.
These beautiful creatures are unique in many ways and it is hoped through ongoing efforts they will continue to thrive and grow in numbers so they are no longer considered threatened and are never labeled as endangered. The sand dune cat continues to enthrall wildlife experts who want to learn all they can about this unique feline and its habitat.