|A small sleeping Sand Cat at the Hogle Zoo looks very much like a domestic cat|
-photo: M Love
Sand Cats are the smallest of all wild cats. They are approximately the size of small domestic cats, weighing in around 4 - 8 pounds, reaching lengths of no more than 36 inches, and heights of 10-12 inches. In other words, they are smaller than my little cat, Jack!
Of course, they really are dangerous and quite wild, no matter how cute they look in these photos.
|From the ISEC website - a little sand cat in motion|
These are true desert dwellers, with numerous adaptations to an arid lifestyle, and a soft and dense sandy brown coat that blends in well with their environment.
Their thick coat - they even have long, dense hairs covering the soles of their feet - insulates them well from both the hot sands and intense desert cold and helps them to move easily over shifting surfaces without sinking.
Tradition holds that these tiny cats were the companions of the Prophet Mohammed and his daughter.
|Another little cutie pie Sand Cat at the Hogle Zoo.|
These cats are nocturnal and sleep during the day
Sand Cats are listed as Near Threatened in the wild. Because they live in vast, arid locations, they're difficult to study and it's also difficult to estimate their numbers. However, they are threatened by habitat loss, hunting, and collection for the pet trade.
According to the Mother Nature Network, they went extinct in Israel around 1994. Since then, the Zoological Center of Tel Aviv has been working with a European breeding program to improve their numbers. A litter of four sand cat kittens was born at there in 2012, so things have been looking up since then.
They are certainly among the cutest endangered species in the world.
|Rotem, the Sand Cat from Germany and her four little Sand Cat kittens|
The kittens were transferred to other zoos once they were old enough to leave their mother. In this way, it is hoped the breed can continue to reproduce and be saved from extinction.
At the Hogle Zoo in Utah, they are listed as the "Arabian Sand Cat" and given the title of "SSP Animal". This designates an animal that is in danger. The SSP, or Species Survival Plan is a program that began in 1981 as a cooperative population management and conservation program for selected species in zoos and aquariums across North America. The Hogle, and other Zoos like them, are helping preserve the Sand Cat through breeding programs, research and public education.
There are no Sand Cats at the Los Angeles Zoo, however, they have a sweet couple over at The Cat House, the EFBC's Feline Conservation Center in Rosamond, California, which is in the Antelope Valley about 20 miles north of Palmdale in northern Los Angeles County.
The Cat House is home to more than 70 feline residents, including these cuties (I love these 'mug shots'!):
|Fath, a male Sand Cat|
Born in October, 2009 at the Cincinnati Zoo, he came to California in 2011
|Freta, Fath's girlfriend|
Born in 2011 in Tallin, Estonia
If you'd like to know more about the Sand Cat, and how to help in their preservation, you can visit the following sites: