Sand Cat - Ecology and Behavior

Ecology and Behavior

Sand cats live solitary lives outside of the mating season. They inhabit burrows, typically using either abandoned fox or porcupine burrows, or enlarging those dug by gerbils or other rodents. The completed burrow is generally straight, with a single entrance, and reaching up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) in length. They communicate using scent and claw marks on objects in their range, and by urine spraying, although they do not leave their feces in exposed locations as many other felids do. They make vocalizations similar to domestic cats, but also make loud, high-pitched barking sounds, especially when seeking a mate. They come out after dusk to hunt rodents, lizards, birds, and insects, although their diet may consist mostly of rodents.

They "skulk" close to the ground and will use any available cover to protect themselves. Using their large ears, they listen for prey, digging rapidly when they hear it underground. Since the sand cat obtains all the water it needs from eating its prey, it mostly stays far away from watering points where other predators may harm it.

Sand cats have been recorded to move long distances of 5–10 km (3.1–6.2 mi) in a single night, and a radio telemetry study in Israel suggests large home ranges, with one male using an area of 16 km2 (6.2 sq mi).

Sand cats congregate only for mating, so counting them is a difficult task. It seems however that their numbers have been declining in the Arabian desert following a decrease in their prey. They have been observed to travel from 5 to 10 kilometres (3.1 to 6.2 mi) per night in search of prey, but, unlike most other cats, do not defend their territories, and may even "take turns" over burrows.

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