Picture of a newborn baby sand cat

This is a photograph provided by KTVB-TV Boise of a newborn sand cat, born at Zoo Boise on April 4, 2021. They announced the birth of three male baby sand cats. The parents are Nala and Simba. They are the first sand cats born at this zoo. They believe that the births are very important to the conservation of this small cat species. News media tells us that there are 51 sand cats in zoos which I presume means American zoos but it might mean worldwide zoos which is a small number.

Baby sand cat
Baby sand cat. Photo: KTVB-TV Boise.
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Many years ago, one sand cat in a zoo ate 15 mice at one sitting! And the zookeepers said that the cat would have eaten more given the opportunity.

The tiny sand cats weighed on average 90 g each at birth. When they become adults they weigh between 3 to 7.5 pounds.

Comment: you can read more about the sand cat by using the search facility on this page. There are many pages on this popular small wild cat species which, by the way, is the only true desert-living cat. They don’t need to drink water to survive as they obtain all the water that they need from their prey. They have numerous adaptations.

It should be said that sand cats do not like being in captivity. That is something the zoos don’t tell you about. There is not much publicity about the illnesses or lifespan of sand cats in captivity. So how effective is zoo-based wild cat conservation? How long will these sand cat kittens live. Can they be relocated to the wild? If not how can it be conservation?

We do know that sand cat kittens are born blind and helpless as you can well see in the photograph on this page. They weigh between 39 and 80 g normally so the kitten on this page is of a good weight. They grow rapidly gaining 12 g per day during the first three weeks of life.

The fur colour and pattern on the kitten that we see looks very much like a domestic cat’s calico coat (diluted). It is not, however, a calico coat! The coat is described at birth as being a “pale yellow or reddish grey, marked with small brown spots that join together to become transverse bands”. This quote comes from Wild Cats of the World.

At five months old they are at about 75% of their adult size. At 10 to 11 months a male weighs as much as or more than an adult female. A captive female was sexually mature by 14 months of age. A male sand cat at London Zoo lived to be about eight years of age.

It is believed that the young become independent when they are about one year old. When they disperse from the natal range it is believed that they travel quite long distances based on the distances that they travel when hunting at night in the desert.

The famously large ears of the sand cat are just beginning to grow in this photograph. They use their ears to detect and locate sound from prey. You can notice that they are set low on the head which is clear in this photograph. This enables the sand cat to take advantage of the scanty cover provided by vegetation in the desert.

Source: KTVB7.


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