Sand Cat

I thought I would share a few photographs I took of a beautiful little sand cat a few years ago at Exmoor Zoo. We haven’t had a holiday in well over 20 years, but recently my husband lets me away with the camera for three days a year. This location was chosen to give me a chance to recover after all the early mornings and late starts. (I generally get up around 4.30 every morning to get to a location for sunrise and then I don’t get to bed until nearly 11.00 at night). The zoo was well run and more to the point, it had a café, toilets and plenty of places where I could sit down.


The sand cat is the only cat to inhabit true deserts and until very recently was listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list. It was down listed to “least concern” in 2016.

It inhabits both sandy and stony desert in areas far from water. Having very furry feet, it is well adapted to the harsh conditions found in these places. They all have sandy fur – some with spots and/or stripes and some with neither. It weighs between 1.5 and 3.4 kg. It can be found in North Africa and South West or Central Asia where it can survive temperatures ranging between -5C and 52C. Although it will drink water when available, it can survive for months on just the body fluids of its prey.

There are only 200 individuals in European zoos and attempts are being made to breed them in the hope they can eventually be returned to the wild.

Zookeeper and amateur photographer.

20 thoughts on “Sand Cat

  1. Pingback: Sand Cat - Katzenworld Shop

  2. Hangaku Gozen says:

    I’ve always loved the smaller wild cats like the sand cat. They’re a reminder that our domestic cats really aren’t that different from their cousins in the deserts and jungles. Thank you for the wonderful photos! (And yes, I also appreciate well run zoos with cafes and places to sit.)

    • Zooey says:

      You are spot on. Dogs seem to have come a long way from their distant cousins and yet cats still look and behave in much the same way. A little bit of the wild in our homes 🙂

  3. Featured Cats says:

    They sure are beautiful cats and should be left alone in their natural environment, where there numbers have increased and spread naturally. I’m not a big fan of zoos, particularly those run for purely commercial reasons.

    Animal sanctuaries and those organisations that run breeding programs that release their animals back into the wild are where we should redirect our interests and funding.

    Mass audiences of cheering and screaming children are not natural in the wild.

    Many animals in zoos are there solely to attract a paying audience and they exhibit unnatural behaviours in zoos that we don’t see them using in the wild and visitors to the zoo think the animal is behaving in a funny way when in fact they act that way only when under stress.

    Unfortunately, most sand cats born in captivity only live for 30 days, primarily due to the natural instincts of the first time mother being lost or negated by the unnatural surroundings of the zoo. Very sad.

    • Zooey says:

      It was a few years ago and from what I can remember, this was a breeding programme and the cats were destined to be released. I tried very hard to find up to date information, but couldn’t find any. Hopefully that is because the numbers have increased as you say and there is no longer such a need…

  4. mvaden1948 says:

    Once upon a time….no, not a fairy tale, the Seattle Zoo had a Cat House. Yes, the sign said Cat House, There were Meerkats, Servals, Caracal (wonderful ear tufts), Genet( I saw one looking down at my table at dinner In Kenya) and several others I can’t remember. The Cat House got remodeled when they had the opportunity to have two Komodo dragons and the cats were disbursed among the other exhibits.
    Remember, if there were no zoos, most of us would never have seen a lion, tiger or bear in person, let alone an elephant or a beautiful Sand Cat or Caracal and the delightful antics of a troupe of Meerkats.

    • Zooey says:

      That’s an interesting thought. Apart from this one, I haven’t visited a zoo since I was a child. We do have the John Aspinall zoos not far from us and they have done wonders with a variety of breeding programmes 🙂

    • Featured Cats says:

      Hi mvaden1948.

      Sorry to respectfully disagree, but wild animals such as those you mention are not on this planet for our entertainment and caged viewing pleasure or to satisfy any personal desire or need to see them in person.

      I gain absolutely no pleasure or enjoyment from seeing these beautiful animals and mammals in captivity.

      Many species that you have seen over the years in a Zoo are endangered as a result of them being hunted for a Zoo or for human pleasure in owning one or wearing one or the demand to see one.

      As a scuba diver I see marine life in its real environment. Beautiful. Natural. Untouched.

      As a traveller I see wild animals….in the wild. Beautiful. Natural. Untouched.

      Over the years, society has made leaps and bounds to ban the stereotypical travelling circus and to free animals such as dancing bears and performing Elephants.

      Elephants in Thailand chained to trees for years, only to be released as a carrying taxi for paying tourists.

      We continue to fight for the release of captive Orca Whales as seen in Seaworld (3 died in 12 months) and other tourist attractions around the world.

      Not sure what pleasure can be gained from viewing an animal that is there to perform and entertain.

      As I said earlier, animal sanctuaries that exist to rehabilitate and care for sick animals or breeding programmes that exist to release animals back into the wild are the only places that we should be supporting.

      Failing that, their is always YouTube, Sir David David Attenborough or within 24 hours from anywhere on the planet you could be in Africa, Asia or The Great Barrier Reef and see as much wildlife as you can handle.

  5. Pingback: Sand Cat - Baptize A Cat?

    • helentastic67 says:

      Well, that’s not what I thought I wrote! Autocorrect quit too. I meant to write: Cats act like cats no matter where they live! (Need a new IPad too, not helping! Cheers,H

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