How do sand cats get water?

Simple: sand cats get sufficient water from their prey animals to survive without drinking free-standing water for most of the year. We should remind ourselves that the prey of the sand cat is made up of between 70%-80% water. Humans are about 60% water. A couple of researchers: WG Heptner and AA Sludskii in their book Mammals of the Soviet Union describe one captive sand cat fed fresh rodents and birds refusing fresh water for 2 months. Although another captive sand cat drank water freely.

Sand cat in Karakum Desert
Sand cat in Karakum Desert. Image: MikeB.
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In the wild they will drink water if it is available which is taking a common-sense approach! But they can live without water as they must because they are confined to areas of sandy desert. In the former Soviet Union, the sand cat thrives, it is said, in desert areas “especially among the sparsely vegetated ridges and sandy hillocks where gerbils are common, according to Heptner and Sludskii.

This cat’s anatomy and behavior enables it to live in air temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius in the Karakum Desert, for example. In winter the temperature can be as low as -25 degrees Celsius. It will retreat into burrows during inhospitable conditions and it has a thick coat while the hair on its feet protect against scorching sand and makes it easier to traverse the soft sand.

Below are some more articles on this extraordinary wild cat species. In the wild they are very approachable and seem to be fearless of humans but in captivity they can be more aggressive. I would not expect the sand cat to make a pet despite their reputedly implacable behavior when approached by humans in the wild because they’d be living in an unsettling human environment.

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