When you think of wild cats that live out in the harsh untamed places of the world you likely imagine lions, tigers, leopards, panthers, cougars, bobcats, and other fearsome beasts. What probably doesn’t come to mind is the North African Sand Dune Cat. These wild felines could easily be mistaken for an exotic breed of housecat but don’t let their size fool you, they’re every inch the accomplished hunter as their bigger cousins. As their name suggests they do indeed live in the desert and are, in fact, one of the smallest breeds of wild cat in the world. Unfortunately, due to habitat degradation they are slowly disappearing. Recently they were categorized as near threatened, which just a step above endangered.
The Sand Cat was discovered in 1858 by a French soldier and naturalist named Victor Loche.
They live out in the harsh reaches of the desert and can go without water for long stretches of time.
Like some of their bigger cousins they’re also pretty fast, clocking in at around 25 miles an hour at full sprint.
In case you were wondering, yes they do meow. They also bark and have a wide range of calls.
Because of the desert heat the cats prefer to live in burrows and will either steal them from other animals or dig them themselves.
Outside of mating the Sand Cat tends to prefer a life of solitude.
But they are still very attendant to their kittens .
And their kittens are every bit as cute as you’d hope they would be.
Their ears are astonishing, even among other cat species, and sport enlarged eardrums and extended canals that boost hearing.
Small rodents and birds make up the bulk of their diet.
Sand Cats usually have an average of two litters a year.
Unfortunately, they also tend to be more vulnerable to upper-repertory infections. Especially when in captivity.
In 2012 these cats were spotted in Iraq for the first time in recorded history.
The Sand Cat has the highest “bit force quotient” of any cat on record. Translation: they bite harder than you’d think for an animal it’s size.
Hopefully they can stay off the endangered species list indefinitely.
For a look at what Sand Cats are like in captivity check out Canyon’s story below.