You live and learn – well, at least I try. And often I don’t even have to try – something I didn’t know (a category that knows no limits) just ups and surprises me. I read in the paper today about the birth of a sand cat (or sand dune cat, otherwise, Felis margarita). I wan't even aware that there were such critters as sand cats, and I certainly didn’t anticipate how damned cute they are. This sand kitten – above, with her mother - has just been born at the Ramat Gan Safari Park near Tel Aviv, Israel. The kitten is the first of the Sand Cat species, considered extinct in Israel, to be born at the safari park. “She has been named Renana and it is hoped that she will join Israel's Sand Cat Breeding Program in order to reintroduce the species back into the wild.” (3news, New Zealand).
Sand cats are so-called because hairs on the soles of their feet have helped them adapt to their desert environment by providing both insulation and traction in the sand; herewith, from the BBC’s “Wildfacts” site:
Sand cat, sand dune cat
Like some other desert animals, sand cats are capable of surviving without drinking - they obtain all the water they need through their food.
F.m. margarita, F.m.harrisoni, F.m.thinobia, F.m.scheffeli.
In captivity, sand cats live for up to 13 years.
Body length: 42-57cm, Tail length: 26-35cm, Shoulder height: unknown, Weight: 2-3kg.
Sand cats have a pale yellow, to grey-brown coat, which is slightly darker on the back and pale on the belly. A bold streak runs across each cheek from the corner of each eye.
The tail is ringed with a black tip. Sand cats have a broad head with large eyes and low-set ears. They have short limbs and dense hair on the soles of the feet. The hair on the feet serves to insulate against the intense heat and cold of their habitat, as well as aiding movement across the sand.
Sand cats range across N Africa and SW Asia (Sahara to Baluchistan).
Sand cats live in the desert and are adapted to extremely arid terrain.
They hunt rodents and occasionally hares, birds and reptiles. They are apparently able to survive without drinking free water, and obtain the moisture they require from their prey.
Sand cats are mainly active at night. They are good diggers which helps when hunting for underground prey and for digging the burrow that they rest in during the day.
Sand cats give birth to 2-4 kittens after a gestation period of 59-63 days. The kittens weigh about 39g at birth.
The IUCN lists the Pakistani subspecies F.m.scheffeli as Lower Risk. Sand cats are on CITES: Appendix II. They face persecution due to the threat they pose to livestock. F.m.scheffeli was not discovered until 1966 but has declined drastically through uncontrolled commercial dealing.
In a somewhat chaotic week that continues to consume time and mental energy, this has provided a fun (and yet informative) instant post topic. But it also reminds me of the sort of feline meme that went around the geoblogosphere not long ago, wherein photos were contributed of various cats in geologically resonant poses. Not owning a cat these days, I could not contribute, and even my daughter’s feline, Woody, has yet to show even a passing interest in the mineral and rock collection that should attract his limited attention on a daily basis – and hence provide a geofelino photo-op. But what this does do is give me an excuse, with no arenaceous connotations whatsoever, to post my photo of a quintessentially Indonesian cat that I recently found living in a quintessentially Indonesian tree.