Cat of the Month ~ November 2009
The Sand cat (Felis margarita) is one of the smallest of all the wild cat species. Its body, is about the size of a small domestic cat, and can measure up to 57cm in length with a maximum weight of only 3kg. The coat varies in colour from grey to sandy yellow and is marked irregularly with indistinct stripy markings - the legs are often banded with horizontal dark stripes. Characteristic dark reddish/drown markings appear on the cheeks and to the side of the eyes as well as covering the rear of the ears. Often the chin and throat of the sand cat are white.
As its name implies the sand cat is commonly found in sandy desert areas in the arid countries of Northern Africa, Arabia and parts of Central Asia and Pakistan - sand cats indigenous to each of these areas are categorised as sub species, respectively, Felis margarita margarita (North Africa), Felis margarita harrisoni (Arabian Peninsula), Felis margarita thinobia (west of the Caspian Sea) and Felis margarita scheffeli (Pakistan). Due to its fragmented distribution across the Saharan part of its range some experts sub-catogarise the North African species of the sand cat into further distinct sub-species - Felis margarita airensis (Niger) and Felis margarita meinertzhageni (Sahara) - however due to the difficulty in obtaining accurate population figures and accurate scientific data of cats in open desert areas, exact classification is uncertain.
The sand cat’s body is well adapted to cope with the extremes of its environment - its thick fur is of medium length and acts as insulation against the extreme cold of the desert nights and its feet and pads are covered with long hair which protect them from the heat of the desert surface and give it extra support needed in moving across the soft, shifting sands.
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