Sand cat has a home range of up to 1,758 square kilometers

A study has come to the astonishing conclusion that the diminutive sand cat, about the size of a small domestic cat at 7.5 pounds, has an enormous home range in Morocco. Or, perhaps, it doesn’t have a home range at all and is nomadic. Either way the revelation is extraordinary.

In Morocco female sand cats have an average home rage between around 291.9 ± 417 km2 and male sand cats have a home range of 304.5 ± 375.7 km2.

Sand Cat
Sand Cat. Image: MikeB. The photos are paid for by Canva and I subscribe to Canva.
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“In total, we have radio-tracked 22 individuals and our study demonstrates that sand cats are using much larger than previously reported home-ranges: The male M29 tracked over a year, covered 232.4 km2…” – Alexander Silwa and colleagues.

The interesting conclusion is that although these home ranges are enormous at around 300 km², they could be a lot bigger or a lot smaller so there’s a huge degree of flexibility in the home range of the sand cat. And in one case, an individual sand cat roamed around an area of up to 1,758 km² which is about 1093 mi² over a period of 6.5 months. Astonishingly, this is a home range which is bigger than that of tigers!

It’s been suggested that this species of small wild cat is nomadic rather than being attached to a territory which they call their home.

The researchers found the revelations “truly eye-opening”.

The sand cat is the only true desert cat and the study took place in the Moroccan Sahara Desert which looks like an ideal habitat for this cat which is highly adapted to living on sand.

The Moroccan Sahara, the home of the sand cat in this study
The Moroccan Sahara, the home of the sand cat in this study.

The finding may alter the way this cat is classified in terms of their survivability. The people involved with that classification are those at the IUCN Red List. Currently they classify species as Least Concern which is a pretty slack categorisation meaning that the cat is not threatened. It means what it states that the experts are not concerned about this cat becoming extinct and that was an upgrade from Near Threatened.

Knowing their home ranges are so huge the categorisation may have to be tightened up because the research indicates that their density i.e. the number of cats over a certain area is low. Perhaps lower than the experts had ever envisaged. And this would impact the assessment of population numbers. There may be fewer sand cats than they thought.

Below are some more articles on the sand cat which may interest you. This is an adorable looking cat with very large ear flaps indicating that they rely upon sound, which they do, very strongly in order to detect prey while keeping out of sight as the desert landscape is very barren.

Link to the study: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2022.104909 which is called: Home ranges of African sand cats (Felis margarita margarita).

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