SUDAN WATCH: Sand cat - Felis margarita

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sand cat - Felis margarita

Sand Cat

Photo: Sand cat - Felis margarita. Click here for larger view.

After spending several hours online looking for information on cats in Sudan I was surprised to find very little. There is a wonderful array of information on cats being revered as Gods in Egypt. But why not Sudan, I wonder.  Do Sudanese people keep pet cats and if not, why not? I hope it is not true that some people in Southern Sudan eat cats. 

If anyone reading this has seen a Sand cat, or any other type of cat, domestic or wild, in Sudan or Chad, please share details here in the comments or email me at address in sidebar here at Sudan Watch. Any photos would be most appreciated.

Starting today, I am taking a break from Sudan Watch to catch up on rest, reading, emails and computer housekeeping. Apologies if I owe you an email, I am doing my best to reply to all emails received.

Sand cat - Felis margarita

Sand cat

Source of photo and text:


The sand cat has the appearance almost of a domestic cat albeit more muscular and obviously wilder looking. It weighs 2-3 kilograms (4.4 to 6.6 lbs). The average weight is in the order of 2.7 kg (6 lbs).

Camouflaged beautifully for sandy conditions with a pale sandy coloured tabby coat, the face is noticeably broad and the ears large set on the sides of the head. The face is both sweet, wild and a little aggressive looking at the same time. In fact the skull shape is an adaptation to desert life.

The skull contains a hearing structure, the bony covering of the middle ear called the tympanic bulla, that is enlarged and which is thought to be an adaptation to increase low-frequency hearing. The large ear flaps (pinnae) support excellent hearing too. Hearing is important in locating prey.

Although the markings are very faint there are strong stripes on the forelegs. The density of the coat colour fades to off-white on the undersides. The fur is dense and makes this cat looking larger than is the case. Its well camouflaged body allows it to hide very effectively when threatened by crouching low to the ground besides a rock with its chin touching the ground and ears flattened to mimic the rock.

An interesting feature of this cat is the thick fur that grows between its toes, which protects the pads of the paws against the hot sand of the desert. Apparently they encounter very cold conditions too so the fur insulates against cold as well.

The Sand cat can move fast when required but its short legs means it moves close to the ground.

Where do we find the Sand Cat?

At 2009, this wildcat is known or believed to occupy: Algeria, Iran, Jordan, Niger, Pakistan, Syria, Turkmenistan, UAE, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Oman, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, W. Sahara, Israel.

It may also occupy the following countries: Tunisia, Libya, Qatar, Chad, Mali, Afghanistan, Senegal and Sudan.

Source of photo and text:

Sand cat -  Felis margarita

Sand cats have big appetites. In captivity one cat was feed 15 mice and would have eaten more if given them. Normally they eat about 10% of their body weight per night. Perhaps a good proportion of this is burned off on hunting, judging by the distances travelled to find prey.

As to communication, this wildcat makes many of the sounds of the domestic cat but some are peculiar to the this cat. For example, they bark somewhat like small dogs. It is a sharp repeating call. It is used, it seems: for males seeking males; for females and males when meeting. The sand cat has a hiss that has a click attached to it.

There is also a gurgle that is used when in close contact. In addition there are the usual non-vocal calls such as leaving claw marks and urine spraying.

Source of photo and text:
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Sand cat
Sand cat - Felis margarita
Other names

English: sand dune cat

French: chat des sables

German: Sandkatze

Spanish: gato del Sahara, gato de las arenas


A small, short-legged animal, the sand or sand-dune cat has an unusually broad head with large ears set low down on the side of the head. The position of the ears may help it to present a low profile when stalking prey. Felis margarita is named after the French General Margueritte who explored much of what was the French Sahara.

Sand cats are about the size of a small domestic cat, and very similar to the Chinese desert cat (Felis bieti). Their soft dense fur is a pale sandy brown, light grey or ochre. It is slightly darker on the back and whitish on the belly, lower muzzle and chest.

There are indistinct bars on the limbs, and the black-tipped, relatively long tail has two to six black rings near the end. There is a reddish streak from the eyes across the cheeks, and the ears are rufous brown and tipped with black. Four indistinct tawny-brown stripes may mark the nape and the flanks may be marked with brownish red spots and obscure vertical stripes.

A dense mat of long (two cm) hair grows between the pads of the feet. This covers the pads, protecting them against hot sand and probably is an adaptation to help spread the animal’s weight over shifting sand.

The skull is notable for the large auditory bullae and long nasal bones. This suggests that they rely particularly on their senses of hearing and smell. Some desert animals have large noses to help them cut down water lost to evaporation from their breath. Large noses aid condensation within, so less water is lost. Adaptations like this are extremely important for desert animals.

There are six described subspecies:
F. m. margarita The Sahara, Algeria to Arabia
F. m. airensis Niger and the Sudan
F. m. meinertzhageni Sahara (Algeria)
F. m. thinobia Turkestan
F. m. scheffeli Pakistan
F. m. harrisoni Arabia/Jordan
F. m. thinobia is the largest of the subspecies and has almost no patterning at all. Individuals from the western parts of the sand cat’s range tend to be more brightly coloured and more distinctively marked.

These subspecies, and those of many other animals, are often the subject of much taxonomic debate and many are disputed.

Source of photo and text:

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Blogger selma said...

sudansse people loves cats and there is a lot of them in sudan u can find them every where they are mostly kept by the small shops owners to chase away the rats and mices

Tuesday, March 09, 2010  
Anonymous Hala said...

I am very surprised you've never seen a cat in Sudan! They're everywhere in Khartoum. So many people keep them as pets, and those that have female cats end up with multiple kittens every year that grow and leave the house, making way for the next lot of kittens the following year :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011  

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