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Meet the Elusive Sand Cat

Meet the Elusive Sand Cat

After about a two-month gestation period, a sand cat will bear, on the average, three kittens

IN THE heart of an arid desert, during the dark hours of the night, a sand cat emerges from its den and stops. It looks around and listens. Then, crouching low to the ground, the animal quietly begins its trek across the sandy terrain.

Suddenly, the sand cat leaps upon its unwary prey—a gerbil. Afterward, the prowl continues through the night, with the sand cat making occasional leaps into the air to catch more prey. If it catches more than it can eat, the sand cat will cover what is left with sand. It returns to its den in the early morning and seldom appears during the day. Consider some intriguing features of this elusive creature:

  • The acute hearing of sand cats helps them locate their prey, even if it is underground

  • To locate a mate, the male produces a high-pitched barking sound. The female’s sensitive hearing enables her to hear this call over a long distance

  • The hairy covering on the sand cat’s paws prevents the animal from sinking into the sand and insulates the paws from extreme sand temperatures

  •  The inside surface of each ear is covered with thick white hair, which protects the cat from windblown sand

  • Tracking the sand cat is difficult because the soles of its paws are covered with a dense mat of hair that renders its tracks nearly invisible

  • Sand cats can survive by living off the water they obtain from their prey

  • The sand of the Kara-Kum Desert can reach 176 degrees Fahrenheit (80°C). At other times the air temperature can drop to as low as -13 degrees Fahrenheit (-25°C)