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Tiger, Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

Sand Cat

Sand CatThis is one of the more difficult cats to study in the wild. Their foot coverings allow them to walk on sand without sinking, leaving their footprints nearly invisible. They have learned to crouch down and shut their eyes when a light is shone on them, which prevents the light from reflecting their eyes for tracking. That combined with their protective coat color makes them blend right into their habitat. They also bury all of their excrement making it impossible to find and analyze so their diet can be studied.

Zoological name: Felis margarita

Species: "A Cat Called Margarita"

There are six different subspecies (types) of sand cat, each found in a different part of northern Africa or southwest Asia.
- F. m. margarita (The Sahara, Algeria to Arabia )
- F. m. airensis (Niger and the Sudan )
- F. m. meinertzhageni (Sahara Algeria)
- F. m. thinobia (Turkestan )
- F. m. scheffeli (Pakistan )
- F. m. harrisoni (Arabia/Jordan )
F. m. thinobia is the largest of the subspecies and has almost no patterning at all. Individuals from the western parts of the sand cat?s range tend to be more brightly coloured and more distinctively marked.

These subspecies, and those of many other animals, are often the subject of much taxonomic debate and many are disputed.

Presence on the planet: The sand cat inhabits the arid regions, in five distinct populations in the Middle East. Two occur in the Sahara desert in northern Africa, one population is in southern Saudi Arabia, one around the Caspian Sea in Russia, and one in Pakistan.
Sand Cat
Habitat: Sand cats inhabit inhospitable arid regions which are characterized by rolling sand dunes, flat stony plains and rocky deserts. They seems to display a preference for ergs, regions of shifting sand, and areas of sand dunes covered with sparse vegetation.There is no freestanding water throughout much of the range of the sand cat. They must rely on getting sufficient moisture from their prey.

Physical appearance:The sand cat is a very small cat with short legs. They have a very large wide head, and huge ears that set low on either side of the head. The dense soft fur can be any color from sandy to a light grey in ground color, with bands of dark brown to black around its legs, dark bands coming from the corner of each eye on the sides of its face, and a white muzzle. The cat also has black tabby markings on its face and body. They have profuse hair covering the pads of their feet, to protect their feet from the searing hot sands.

Diet: The diet of the Sand cat consists of small rodents, lizards, insectsand snakes, which they stun with rapid blows to the head before killing. The usually hunt at night.

Reproduction & offspring: These cats have been reported to have 2 litters per year in parts of their territory in both March-April, and again in October. Gestation is 59-63 days, after which females produce a litter of 2-4 kittens. At birth, the newborns weigh approximately 1.5-2 ounces, and will gain about 12 grams per day. Their eyes will normally be open by the 14th day, and they will begin to walk by the 21st day. They begin to take solid food at 5 weeks and become independent by 3-4 months. They reach sexual maturity.

Births occur in the spring in India. A litter of one to three kittens is born in a secluded den after a gestation of approximately 67 days. The kittens lack the rusty spotting of the adults and their irises are light blue. Nothing is known of their development but it is probably much like that of domestic kittens.

Sand Cat Conservation status: Zoo populations of sand cats are dwindling, and are extremely inbred, they are likely to have been descended from only one wild-caught pair. Sand Cats can currently be seen at London Zoo and Twycross Zoo. The irony of this situation is that F. m. scheffeli comprises the captive populations, and this subspecies may be extinct in the wild.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) lists the sand cat on Appendix II (Conservation and Legal Status of Wild Cats. Cat News 12, 1990, p. 26.). All international commerce in sand cat products is strictly regulated.

The IUCN Red List has the Pakistan sand cat (F. m. scheffeli) as Near Threatened, other sand cats as Least Concern.

Life span: 13 years
Behaviour of Sand cat!

It is thought that their well-developed ears enable accurate location of prey by sound alone, in a similar manner to the serval. Sand cats hunt exclusively at night, but Mendelssohn (1989) reports that they are often seen outside their burrows during the day. Sand cats have a contact call which is a short, bark-like vocalization, a low-pitched miaow.
Sand cats display well-developed burrowing behaviour, it has been proposed that they may also hunt for their food by digging.
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