How a diminutive sand cat killed a sand viper 40 centimetres long

People ask whether the sand cat can kill snakes and the answer is very positively, yes. They are incredibly adept at doing it and quite ruthless. I’m able to provide you with a description thanks to a researcher, Alain Dragesco-Joffé, who spent 13 years photographing Saharan wildlife. He photographed a sand cat attacking a sand viper.

Sand viper
Sand viper. Image by Foto-Rabe from Pixabay
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He said that the snake was forced to lower its head after being hit with several quick, light blows from the cat’s paw. The cat then hit the snake’s head with a swift, more powerful blow followed by a bite to the neck which killed it. The cat then immediately proceeded to eat the snake head-first, devouring it in 10 minutes. The snake was 40 centimetres long. The whole process was highly efficient. The cat takes all the water it needs from prey animals.

Sand cat
Sand cat. Image by Darren Coombs from Pixabay

In some areas of the sand cat’s distribution, reptiles play an important role in their diet. For example, in the Arava depression in Israel they feed on the large, diurnal spiny-tailed lizard. In the Sahara they have a reputation among the nomads for being snake hunters and they regularly kill horned vipers and sand vipers as described.

Sand cats are able to eat large amounts of food when it is available but they normally eat about 10% of their bodyweight per day. Although one captive sand cat was seen to eat 15 mice at one sitting. Remarkably, the observer, Mendelssohn, said that the cat would have continued beyond 15 mice if allowed to.

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