Sand cats: the little desert dwellers

What are sand cats?

Little cats living in the deserts of North Africa and Central Asia. Like miniature big cats, they communicate with one another by leaving scent marks and claw markings throughout their surroundings. Perfectly adapted to their environment, sand cats have large ears to hear subtle movements below or across the sand, and thick fur on their feet so they don’t burn their paws on the hot sandy surface (or leave footprints to alert others of their whereabouts). They have little need for water and obtain most of the water they need from their food – perfect for life in the desert.

Where do they live?

Similar to foxes, sand cats make use of burrows. As further down is cooler, underground can help them take refuge from the heat of the midday sun. During the winter, they tend to spend more time outside, as the days are cooler they make the most of the warming light and change their hunting tactics accordingly. They are often reported as rare and scientists aren’t sure if this is because they are rare – or if they’re just so elusive they can’t be found!

Are they threatened?

The IUCN have list the sand cat as ‘near threatened’. So they are not endangered, but the numbers of sand cats in the wild have been declining. Populations have been decreasing mostly due to desertification, which is the degradation of arid environments through human activities such as livestock grazing. Efforts to captive breed sand cats haven’t quite gone to plan either. They are one of the hardest cats to breed and mortality is often high. This is thought to be because they are very susceptible to respiratory problems