The desert is a highly inhospitable place and very few creatures (beyond scorpions, snakes, fleas, cockroaches and other less cuddly creatures) call it home. But one of the cutest members of the feline family, the Sand Cat, can be found here.
The Sand Cat is a member of the cat family, a distant cousin of the delightful creatures that share our lives. A member of the genus Felis, and part of the family Felidae (Felis margarita) this is a family of small cats that can be found in true deserts, and are the only species of cats to be found in the desert. Also known as Sand Dune Cats they are found in the deserts of North Africa, and in the desert of Central and Southwest Asia: Sahara, Arabian and deserts of Pakistan and Turkestan are their homes. Interestingly, they are found far from water and can survive the extreme temperatures of the desert with the freezing nights and blistering days. They prefer flatter types of desert with little vegetation which provides sources of food to hunt and they avoid barren deserts where hunting is limited. Their main source of food is small rodents.
They are small cats with flat, wide heads, short legs and long tails. Standing close to the ground with a larger head they are remarkably cute. They have large ears, and wide ear canals, to provide them with excellent hearing and hairs at the base of the ear stop debris from entering the ear canal. Their eyes are typically greenish, yellow and their coats are a sandy color, with some soft striping and darker marking found on the face. They have a loud mating call which resembles the barking of a small dog and also have a similar range of sounds like a domestic cat.
Unfortunatley, as with many species they are at risk from encroachment by humans, feral dogs and cats and their numbers are dwindling. It is beleived there are only a few hundred in the wild and sighting them is rare. They can be found in some zoos, often not in the best condition. Presently, there is a breeding program to try and increase their numbers with the hope to re-introduce them into the wild and stabilize their numbers.