Today we discover a small feline that lives in the torrid and arid African and Asian deserts: The shy sand cat (Felis margarita Loche, 1858).

It prefers flat or slightly hilly terrain with a minimum of vegetation where it is less complicated to find food than in the dunes. It can live in temperatures between -5 and 52 ° C, seeking shelter in the den when conditions are extreme. To live it needs very little water and is able to resist for months with only the liquids obtained from the food it eats.

Victor Loche was the first European to describe the species in detail in 1858. He was baptized: Felis margarita in honor of Jean-Auguste Margueritte, the French soldier in charge of the expedition during which the animal was discovered.

The beautiful sand cat is stocky build, small in size, with short legs with long hair between the toes, has large pointed ears, large eyes and a long tail. The body is between 45 and 57 cm long and the tail varies from 28 to 35 cm. The weight varies between 1.5 and 3.5 kg. It has a large head and ears are widely spaced and has developed tympanic bubbles, which provide it with exceptional hearing to pick up vibrations on the sand. The mucous membrane that covers the eyelids is black.

In winter, the coat becomes thick, dense and long, with hairs that can reach a length of 5.1 cm. The nose is black, the eyes are greenish-yellow. The hairs between the toes form a sort of insulating cushion that covers the pads of the feet and allows them to walk quietly on the hot sand. It is not easy to find and follow its footprints because the claws of the hind legs are small and blunt and the thick fur that covers the feet makes its tracks almost invisible.

Like all felines, it is a solitary animal that accepts company only during the mating period. It generally lives in dens abandoned by porcupines or foxes, but they can also adapt those of rodents. The den is up to 3 meters long, is straight and has a single entrance. The sand cat hunts for lizards, insects, birds and a large number of rodents. It comes out of the lair after dusk. During the hunt, the sand cat tries to make itself invisible by flattening itself to the ground and looks for every shrub, rock to hide and then jump on the prey that it will have intercepted with its ears and its smell. They travel 5–10 km each evening in search of prey. They are not usually used to protect their territory and may even swap lair.
The enemies of sand cats are primarily humans, then we find birds of prey, snakes and wolves. They are sweet creatures, which unfortunately do not fear man. Sand cats show their presence to their peers through scratches on objects they find in their territory of action, odorous markings and sprays of urine. They have a similar sound to domestic cats and in addition can emit a loud bark when in love. The estrus lasts for five or six days and is accompanied by the increase in odorous markings and by constant reminders. About two months after mating, the litter of three puppies is born. Usually the birth period falls between April and May. They can have up to two litters per year. At birth, kittens weigh between 39 and 80 grams and are covered with a light yellow or reddish spotted coat.


Kittens become adults quickly and within 5 months they grow to almost the size of adult cats. After a year they become completely independent and reach sexual maturity not long after. We have little information about life expectancy in the wild, but in captivity some specimens have reached 13 years of age.