Many species of wild cats have recently become less. One of the endangered is a sand dune cat - a predator tamed by people so that the population does not completely disappear.
Who is a sand cat
Dune, or sand, cat (Felis margarita) is a small predatory animal belonging to the cat family. For the first time, it came into human sight in 1858. The expeditionary French general Marguerite combed the Algerian desert. Among the endless dunes, he saw an unusual animal, previously unknown to science. The expedition led by the general consisted of a naturalist who gave the dune cat the Latin name Felis margarita (consonant with the name of the general).
In 1926, a sand cat was re-discovered, this time in another corner of the world - the Kara-Kum desert. Today it is one of the few miniature representatives of the cat family that live in the wild.
The animal leads a rather closed way of life, therefore the abundance of this species is unknown. It is estimated that it is 50 thousand adults.
These animals are caught for the purpose of enrichment, so it is likely that their numbers are declining.
Dune cat is a real extreme with an amazing ability to survive. Its habitat is the most arid place on the planet. The animal likes to settle in places with dunes, dry bushes, dunes. Most often, a cat can be found in different parts of the world:
- Arabian desert
- Central Asia
Adapting to such difficult conditions, cats lead a nomadic lifestyle. They constantly move through the desert in search of food. It is very difficult to find this cat, it moves so easily that it leaves no traces. The activity of these animals is observed mainly at night, as it is too hot during the day, and prey hides in burrows.
These cats are skilled prey, otherwise you cannot survive in the harsh desert conditions. They hunt from an ambush. The cat jumps out on the victim, grabs her by the neck and shakes it strongly (at the prey there is a fracture of the spine, and it is immobilized).
If the prey is large, then the cat may not leave the place of daytime shelter for a few more days, having gone hunting again, only when the supplies come to an end. Usually the hunting grounds are very large, the territory sometimes exceeds 15 square kilometers. In winter, animals approach human settlements, but at the same time they never come in contact with domestic cats.
Fluffy beauties have natural enemies. These are snakes, large birds of prey and jackals. Natural dexterity and caution save them from destruction, the ability to camouflage and hide well.
Subspecies of sand cats
By the type of dune cats, depending on the territorial distribution and color, several subspecies are included:
- Felis margarita margarita - the smallest, most brightly colored subspecies, having on the tail from two to six dark rings;
- Felis margarita thinobia - the largest, most dull colored, with a faint pattern, on the tail of which there are only two or three rings;
- Félis margarita schéfféli - coloring resembles the previous subspecies, but with a strongly pronounced pattern and several rings on the tail;
- Felis margarita harrisoni - has a spot on the back of the ear, and adults are characterized by the presence of five to seven rings on the tail.
Unlike other wild representatives from the cat family, dune cats are characterized by the smallest size and quite original appearance.
The average body length of an adult varies between 65–90 cm, of which about 40% falls on the tail. The maximum height of the sand dune cat at the withers is no more than 24-30 cm. Males are somewhat larger than females, but their body weight does not exceed 2.1-3.4 kg.
Dune cat is the smallest vulture cat
A predatory mammal has a large and wide, markedly flattened head with whiskers. Large and wide ears are completely devoid of tassels. The eyes are characterized by a yellow iris and slit-shaped pupils.
A sand dune has short and fairly strong, well-developed paws, and the feet are covered with stiff hair that protects the pads on the paws from burns when moving along sand heated in the sun. The fur of a dune cat is thick and soft, therefore it is able to perfectly protect the body of a predatory mammal from low-temperature exposure at night and overheating on hot days.
The color of a cat’s coat can range from sand to light gray. On the back and tail you can see the gray-brown stripes, which more often merge with the general fur shade or look darker than it. On the head and legs, a darker, pronounced pattern. The tip of the tail in the animal is dark, and on the chest and chin, the coat is lighter than in other places. Fur seals in Central Asia grow a thicker coat in the cold season, which has a dull-sandy shade with a grayish tinge.
The color of the animal helps him to remain invisible among the sands and stones.
This pussy is modest and secretive. Moving to a new territory, she hides even in the afternoon. In this regard, naturalistic photographers are looking for a cat at night. The roaming of the animal is a quiet process. If, nevertheless, a person manages to see a dune cat, the latter freezes in place with his eyes closed so that the animal does not give out their luster. But during the hunt, the cat acts quickly and leaves no traces on the sandy surface. The speed of the animal can reach 40 km / h.
A sand cat is a real strategist: he will not leave the prey, but he will not drag it into the hole, but will bury it and eat it when it is hungry.
During the hunt, the sand dune cat moves rapidly, leaving no traces in the sand
It is common for this breed of cats to pull porcupines and lizards directly from the sand. Fur seals have an interesting structure of ears and good hearing, so they catch every rustle underground. Thanks to the mustache, the animal feels slight vibrations in the air and goes on the trail of the nest with the chicks. In general, it is typical for him to eat almost any prey that he manages to catch:
- gophers and gerbils;
- monitor lizards and geckos;
- small birds with chicks;
- small hares;
Traditional dry or wet foods intended for domestic cats are strongly discouraged. In captivity, a dune fur seal can be fed with the following fresh products:
- poultry meat;
- with a domestic mouse, if you can catch it yourself.
Photo gallery: products that can be fed a captive cat in captivity
- You can feed beef cat at home
- Fish is good food for a captive dune cat
- You can offer raw poultry meat to a velvet cat
At 9-14 months, the animal matures for mating, which occurs once a year. Cats are pregnant in the middle of winter, and childbirth at the beginning of spring. Animals living in zoos have the opportunity to give birth more often, since in captivity it is easier for them to survive and all the energy of the animals goes to procreation. During the mating season, males and females make barking sounds.
A month after birth, kittens begin to hunt on their own.
A pregnant cat is looking for a den for posterity. If she does not find anything suitable, she digs a hole on her own. A cat can give birth to 4-8 kittens at a time. 2 weeks after birth, the cubs open their eyes, and a month later the babies go hunting for the first time. Cats live in captivity for 10–11 years, but there is no exact figure due to the secretive lifestyle of these animals.
Video: offspring of a sand dune cat in the wild
Life in captivity
A sand cat will never become completely domestic, but you can accustom it to the presence of people. In this case, you need to take not an adult cat, but a small kitten. You need to understand that the hunting instinct in the animal will continue, and there will also be a need for a nomadic lifestyle. To rebuild this behavior of the pet should be with extreme caution, because a person can easily lose the trust of the pet.
In captivity, this animal can give birth 2-3 times a year. Some people try to take advantage of this and replenish their capital, because the cost of one animal is 200 thousand rubles. With proper education, the cat gets used to all members of the family.
Never buy animals from poachers, because by doing so you yourself become accomplices of crime!
The necessary conditions
In order for the cat to get used to home conditions, you need to feed him with your hands, talk to him. These pets must be kept at a stable, warm temperature and dry air. The room for keeping the animal is not very suitable, since under such conditions the animal will begin to stress and, as a result, a decrease in immunity.
A sand dart cat quickly assimilates human speech, reacts to master's intonation. She quickly accustomed to the tray. But scolding her for wrongdoing should not be. So that the animal does not spoil the property, you need to purchase many toys for it. In a suitable climate, you can build an aviary for a cat, equipping such a "home" as follows:
- pour sand into it;
- make shelters;
- plant shrubs.
It would be nice to put a house with heating in the aviary. In captivity, the animal lives 15 years, but this period can also extend under conditions of detention close to natural.
Video: a dune cat in the zoo of Israel gave birth to kittens
A sand cat is a rather modest cautious animal that does not like to meet people in the wild. However, in captivity, you can tame it by creating all the necessary conditions for a pet. Only small kittens adapt well to home conditions, it will be much more difficult to tame an adult. The population is considered rare - it is not listed in the Red Book, but is under protection.