Not Stray. Endangered! Meet The Sand Cat

The sand cat is one of the most beautiful creatures in the world, if you ask me. But sadly, they’re endangered. Here’s why

By Diane Small

After enjoying a holiday in Dubai, I was surprised to discover that the Arabian desert is actually home to animals beyond snakes and birds. In fact, there are numerous exotic mammals in the region, many of which are on the verge of extinction.

Take the Sand Cat, for example. The smallest of all the wild cats, Sand Cats are about the size of domestic cats and are found in the deserts of northern Africa and central Asia. They are distinctive due to their sandy colour and large, pointed ears.

They look a bit like house cats, and it’s actually very likely that many domestic cats are genetic descendants of these beauties. Indeed, like any pussycat, these creatures love being stroked, lying in sunbeams, playing, and of course, they spend a lot of time sleeping!

Whilst domestic cats will eat mice and birds in the wild, these Arabian natives will chase down lizards, insects and snakes for sustenance in the desert.

Because the animals live in vast, arid locations, they’re difficult to study, and population estimates aren’t available, but we know that these adorable cats are mainly threatened by habitat loss due to all the massive construction going on in the Gulf, hunting for their pelts or for sports with falcons, collection for the pet trade, and of course due to wars in the Middle East such as Desert Storm.

Despite CITIES making their capture and sale illegal, there are still many sites that blatantly offer these endangered creatures up for money, and many wealthy people in the region keep them as pets with impunity.

the sand cat

Sadly, the sand cat went completely extinct in Israel due to habitat destruction following the territorial exchange between Israel and Jordan in 1994, but there are conservation centres trying to help save these beautiful animals.

One such centre is in Doha, Qatar, called al Wabra, and was founded  by the animal-loving Shiekh,  Saoud Bin Mohammed Bin Ali Al Thani.

His adoration for these creatures  led him to assemble an  international team of expert vets, biologists and keepers to help care for and conserve Sand Cats, as well as many other rare and endangered animals. Another centre is Big Cat Rescue, which is mainly focused on tigers, lions and other larger cat species.

arabian sand cat

You would think that these truly rare and gorgeous cats would be the perfect ‘poster species’ for conservation, yet little is written about them, and some who keep them as pets don’t even realise how they could be contributing to the demise of these beautiful animals.

If you’d like to help ensure the future of the sand cat, please share this article, or click here for more information.

Diane Small

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