Genus: Felis (Total members of this genus: Chinese Mountain cat, domestic cat, Jungle cat, Sand cat, Black footed cat, African wildcat, Asian Wildcat, European wildcat)
Species: Felis margarita
Felis margarita margarita- The Sahara
Felis margarita thinobia- Turkestan
Felis margarita scheffeli- Pakistan. Classified by the IUCN as Endangered.
Felis margarita harrisoni- Arabia, Jordan
This is one of the more difficult cats to study in the wild. Of all the desert cats it is the most hardcore in terms of living in the gnarliest desert conditions. Their feet are covered with a thick layer of wiry black hair, which insulates the footpads against extremes of heat and cold, and these foot coverings allow them to walk on sand without sinking, leaving their footprints nearly invisible. They are crafty and wily too, and have learned to crouch down and shut their eyes when a light is shone on them so they can’t be tracked and hunted.
The Sand Cat is a little cat; they weigh 4-8 lbs (1.8-3.6 kg) and reach heights of 10-12 inches (25-31 cm). Their fur exactly matches the sandy rocky desert and is a pale buff beige. Black stripes are found on the legs and they have a reddish hue on their bodies and vague reddish striping on the legs. They completely blend in. They also bury all their poops so trying to find them is difficult. They are found in the Sahara, throughout the Middle East, and in Turkestan. In captivity, they have lived up to 13 years, but they have a high juvenile mortality rate (41%) in zoos. Scientists don’t know how long they live in the wild.
These cats lead a solitary existence and so they can find each other for mating purposes across the vast expanses of desert they have evolved an odd and loud mating call that sounds like the barking of a small dog. They are prodigious diggers, and indeed digging is how they hunt. Their diet consists mainly of three species of desert gerbil who live in underground tunnels. Sand cats also can be fiercesome snake hunters, which they bite quickly in the head. Sand cats will bury their kills in the sand and return later for leftovers.
This is one of the only cats who doesn’t face habitat degradation since it lives in the straight up desert. Some hold a religious belief that the Sand cat is a companion to the Prophet Mohammad so they are not hunted as livestock raiders even when they do steal some chicken.