Sand Cat - Characteristics

Characteristics

The sand cat is a relatively small, stocky cat with short legs, a long tail, and large, pointed ears. It ranges from 39 to 57 centimetres (15 to 22 in) in length, plus a 23 to 31 centimetres (9.1 to 12 in) tail, and weighs from 1.4 to 3.4 kilograms (3.1 to 7.5 lb). The head is conspicuously broad, and the ears are so widely spaced that they can be flattened horizontally, or even pointed down to aid in hunting.

The color of the fur is a pale sandy-yellow over most of the body, with pallid bars which are sometimes hardly visible, and is white on the chin and underside. Generally the bars are more visible in the African subspecies. There are black bands on the legs and tail, and reddish lines running across the cheeks from the outer corners of the eyes. In winter, the coat can be very thick, with the hairs reaching up to 2 inches (5.1 cm) in length. The eyes are large and greenish yellow in color, while the nose is black.

Unusually among Asian cats, the sand cat has long hairs growing between its toes. These create a cushion of fur over the foot pads, helping to insulate them while moving over hot sand. The claws on the hind feet are small and blunt; combined with the fur over the foot pads, this helps to make the animal's tracks obscure and difficult to follow.

The mucosa of their eyelids is a striking black. Accompanying the large ears, the auditory bullae are also unusually large, giving the cat an enhanced sense of hearing, probably helping it to pick up vibrations in the sand. Similar adaptations are found in other desert animals, such as the fennec fox.

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