Sand cats Fluffy desert felines
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Type mammal
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Height 28cm
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Weight 3kg
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Diet carnivore

Sand cat

Felis margarita harrisoni
  • Summary

    Small in size, the sand cat is not much bigger than a domestic cat and is related to the wildcat, serval and cheetah. They are solitary animals, spending time with others only during mating season.

    The cat's coat is a pale sand colour, soft and dense. It has large canine teeth, powerful claws and sand-gripping fur on the soles of its feet.

  • Dietary

    The sand cat is a carnivore and eats lizards and small burrowing animals. In the wild, the cat emerges at dusk to hunt. It moves in the shadows, using its sensitive ears to listen out for its burrowing prey beneath the surface of the ground. When it hears something, it uses its sharp claws to rapidly dig out its prey.

    Sand cats can apparently survive without ever drinking at all, getting all the fluids they need from the juices of their prey.

  • Habitat

    In the wild, sand cats live in the deserts and semi deserts of Africa and Asia. It avoids the heat of the day by staying in its burrow, emerging at dusk to hunt.

    species range map

  • Conservation

    The sand cat is rarely seen, but the species is found over a large part of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and Asia so the global population is not currently at risk. The population in Pakistan is believed to be at risk.Threats facing the sand cat include the illegal pet trade, interaction with domestic dogs and expansion of cultivation at the desert edges.

    The sand cats at the Zoo are from the Arabian peninsula. Some people divide this species into four sub-species: the African population, the Arabian population, the Turkmenistan population and the Pakistan population.

    Red List Status Least Concern

    Red List Status Least Concern

    IUCN Red List species link

  • Did you know...

    Our female is 15 years old, which is elderly for sand cats. She is still very active, loves climbing, jumping and searching for her food.

    Sand cats have fur on their feet, not only to protect them from the heat of the sand, but also to allow them to manoeuvre on the sand easily.

  • Where to find us at Bristol Zoo

    You can find our sand cats inside Twilight World, just off the Top Terrace

    Bristol Zoo Gardens map with Twilight World

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