Sand cat

Latin Name
Felis margarita

Class
Mammals

Order
Carnivora

Description

A small, fierce predator, the sand cat is roughly the size of a domestic cat, weighing up to 7 pounds. The species has a pale coat with dark stripes on the tail and legs. Long hairs extending from the ears protect the animal's hearing against the sand of its desert environment.


 

Range

The sand cat can be found from North Africa's Sahara Desert through the Middle East into Central Asia.


Status

The sand cat’s isolated, extreme environments make it difficult for scientists to study the species. As a result, its numbers in the wild aren’t precisely known. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists them as near-threatened. Lincoln Park Zoo cooperatively manages sand cat populations with other institutions in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.


Habitat

This hardy predator inhabits dry, sandy deserts. It's adapted to withstand temperatures ranging from below freezing to well over 100 F.


Niche

Nocturnal hunters, sand cats use their formidable sense of hearing to locate rodents, insects and reptiles beneath the sands. They are known to attack and consume venomous snakes. In turn, they are preyed on by jackals, snakes and owls.


Life History

Excellent diggers, sand cats spend much of the desert day in burrows dug beneath the sand, helping them to stay cool. They rarely drink water, obtaining the moisture they require from prey. The species is solitary, coming together only to breed.




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Lincoln Park Zoo Exhibit