Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our March/April 2017 issue. Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.
Felis margarita isn’t a trendy cocktail at your favorite Mexican restaurant. Better known as the sand cat, the tiny wild feline is a true desert dweller found in remote sandy or stony areas of North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.
Also known as the sand dune cat, the species is characterized by a flat, broad head topped with oversize ears; heavily furred paws for traction and insulation on loose, hot sand; and pale fur with indistinct markings on the body and dark stripes on the legs and tail. He leads a solitary existence, hunting at night for small rodents like gerbils, spiny mice and jerboas, supplementing his diet with the occasional young hare, snake or bug.
Fascinating fact: The sand cat is independent of drinking water. If none is available, he gets what he needs from his food.
Unlike many wild members of the cat family, the sand cat is listed as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The species is considered to be naturally rare because of its remote and desolate habitat. Another reason is because little is known about the sand cat, specifically because of his rarity. It’s difficult for scientists to evaluate whether their numbers are declining.
For this reason, sand cats were in the news recently when researchers in the United Arab Emirates used camera traps to document the cats’ presence in Abu Dhabi in 2015, some 10 years since their last sighting. The images may bring new insights into this shy and secretive feline.
About the author: Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning writer in Southern California. Her subjects include pet care, health and behavior, and wildlife and marine life conservation.