The sand cat, or
, may look like a typical house cat. However, it is actually a diminutive predator whose unique characteristics allow it to survive in the harsh deserts of the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa.
The sand cat is roughly 50 times smaller than a lion, weighing six to nine pounds and measuring 30 to 37 inches. The sand cat's gray-blond coat helps it camouflage when hunting and hiding from predators. The animal has short stocky limbs to help it dig, definitive rust-red markings along its cheeks, and dense wiry hairs that protect its paw pads from the scorching desert sand.
The nocturnal feline typically eats small mammals such as jumping mice and voles, but it will also eat birds, lizards, and locusts. It uses its keen sense of sight and sound to stalk prey and locate potential predators such as owls, jackals, snakes, and sometimes even scorpions. It can live up to eight years in the wild, and 13 years in captivity.
The sand cat is typically found in the northwestern Sahara, the Arabian Peninsula, and central Asian deserts. It sleeps in burrows during the day, and it comes out to hunt at night.
Because it is able to survive in its tough desert habitat, the sand cat is a truly extraordinary animal.
Encyclopedia of Animals