Arab sand cat, or velvet cat - a predatory representative of the cat family. For the first time this animal came to the attention of man in the middle of the nineteenth century. The French general on the expedition, whose name was Margaret, was combing the Algerian desert. Among the vast 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 (sand cat) the Latin name - Felis margarita. Much time has passed since then, but interest in this species has not disappeared. A huge number of enthusiasts to this day watching the amazing cats, documenting interesting facts.
The most popular pets are cats and dogs, which we often perceive as full members of the family. Some breeds appeared as a result of painstaking selection work, but there are also those that have existed for thousands of years, preserving the basic instincts inherent in wild animals. Arab sand cat is no exception. Despite the fact that the barchan cats "made friends" not so long ago with a man, this breed is increasingly found as a pet. But before you share a living space with exotic felines, you need to learn more about their manners and character in the wild.
Arab sand cat lives in the desert regions of North Africa and Central Asia. These amazing creatures feel great in the harsh conditions of the Sahara, as well as in the sands of the Arabian desert. You can find them in arid countries such as Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
Arab sand cat has an unusual appearance. She has a rather wide and massive head, which is slightly flattened. Ears are big, but not huge. On the sides are whiskers, inherent only in this species of feline. Feet - short, massive. A large role in the formation of appearance played area habitats of these wild cats. The pads on the legs are covered with thick wool, which allows you to move on a hot surface.
As many people know, in the desert nights are very cold, the temperature can drop below zero. In order not to get hypothermia, the Arab sand cat has a thick and soft fur. Color also corresponds to the area in which sand cats live. It can be sandy or light gray, which makes the predator almost imperceptible. Tail - powerful, with dark or gray-brown stripes. With the onset of winter, the cat's fur becomes duller.
Dune cat: interesting facts
These are not domestic purrs, but wild predators, accustomed to survive in harsh natural conditions. Opened them for a long time. As early as 1858, North African representatives of desert cats were discovered. It was not the last discovery. Already in 1926, the velvet cat was re-discovered, this time in other parts of the world. In particular, it was the desert of Kara-Kuma and Kyzyl-Kuma. Today it is one of the few miniature representatives of the cat family, who live in the wild. They live in natural conditions in Southern Morocco, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, in Kazakhstan and the central part of the Arabian Peninsula.
Surprisingly, these small and weak-looking animals can go without water for weeks, and therefore survive in the most difficult climatic conditions. The secret is simple: during the day, cats hide in burrows to avoid excess fluid loss, and at night they hunt and get the necessary moisture along with food. Such features provided the opportunity to survive in the desert.
What does a sand cat look like?
This is a fairly small representative of the cat family. It can even be called small. A distinctive feature is the “shod” sole of the paws. A barchan cat lives among hot sand, and a thick layer of thick and hard fur protects sensitive pads from burns. In addition, these soles create a high support surface, which animals need to deftly move among quicksand and sandy surfaces. The fur of these cats is rather short, but very thick. This coat provides excellent protection against temperature extremes: at night - from the cold, and in the daytime - from intense heat.
The body length is only 70-90 cm. This, together with the tail, is at least 40%. That is, the cat's body itself is only about 40 cm. The height at the withers is barely 24 centimeters, and the weight is 3.5 kilograms. If we consider that there are domestic cats weighing 15-20 kg each, then these are absolutely crumbs. Dunes, or sand, the cat is perfectly adapted for survival in natural conditions. Its color allows you to fully merge with the surface of the dunes. Color ranges from golden to light brown. There are also light gray individuals, but this is more likely an exception.
Dune cat (sand cat) - this is a real extreme with amazing ability to survive. These animals live even in the driest areas, survive among the dunes, where the landscape is brightened only by dry shrubs. 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 the prey hides in the burrows. Often, attempts to find representatives of this species ended in failure. The cat hides very well, moves, clinging to the ground, and having noticed the trace of the flashlight, it presses against the sand even more and closes its eyes so that the light does not reflect in them.
Like all other members of the family, these cats are predators. Under natural conditions, they eat everything they can catch. These can be jerboas or hares, snakes and large insects. These crumbs manage to catch large enough prey, and the cat will never leave the rest of the meal, but bury it to return the next day. Barchan cat at home retains its instincts, so you are provided with eggs under the pillow and bones behind the roller of the sofa.
To save precious moisture and protect themselves from the heat, cats dig themselves mink, but this is the last resort. Most often, they use the old shelters of foxes and other desert inhabitants.
Hunting and natural enemies
These cats are skillful getters, otherwise they will not survive in the harsh desert conditions. They hunt from ambush. The cat jumps out on the victim, grabs his neck and shakes him violently. Then, with the help of teeth and claws, he tears off pieces of meat and is saturated. If the prey is large, then the cat may not leave the place of day shelter for a few more days, going on the hunt again, only when the supplies come to an end. Usually hunting grounds are very large, the territory sometimes exceeds 15 square kilometers. In winter, animals approach human settlements, but they never contact domestic cats.
Furry handsome men have natural enemies. These are snakes, large birds of prey and jackals. Natural dexterity and caution, the ability to mask and hide well saves them from destruction.
Breeding dunes cat
In the wild, reproduction of these animals occurs at the end of January. The offspring is born in April. Usually the litter is not too big, at one time the female brings 4-5 kittens. They grow up very quickly, natural conditions spur natural processes. Already in 3 weeks they make the first attempts to get out of the hole and explore the big world. At about 4 weeks, they switch from breast milk to solid foods. It will take quite a bit of time, and they will go into an adult, dangerous life. Four-month babies hunt completely independently, and in 6-8 months they are most often separated from the parent. This is surprising, because mother kittens at this age, mother still often feeds with milk.
Dune cat at home breeds more than once a year. In nature, their reproduction is seasonal, it is confined to changing environmental conditions, periods of rain and drought. In captivity, biorhythms get off. I must say that today only 9 individuals of this species live in different zoos of the world. There is information about trying to pick up kittens from nature and grow them at home as pets. It is quite possible. A bred cat grown in captivity will not be afraid of a person, but will retain all wild instincts and may one day go free, where it will perish due to lack of skills for survival and hunting.
Today, the habitat of these animals is increasingly narrowing. The reason is human economic activity. As we advance, proud and independent creatures go deeper into uninhabited territories.
- The Arabian cat is the smallest among the representatives of the feline living in the wild. The body length does not exceed ninety centimeters, and the maximum weight of the largest males is no more than three and a half kilograms.
- During the mating season, these cats make uncharacteristic for feline barking sounds that help to attract the attention of females.
- Sand cats are very cautious. Before leaving their burrow and go hunting, they take an expectant pose and spend about a quarter of an hour in it. As soon as the animal is confident in its safety, it rapidly runs out of its house and goes in search of food. Returned, too, with caution. Before you get into your home, a velvet cat watches everything that happens around, so as not to become easy prey for larger predators.
- While at night on the hunt, the Arabian cats move in short dashes, during which they strongly press their bodies to the sand. Despite such a strange method of transportation, they are able to overcome up to ten kilometers in one sortie.
- The description of an Arab sand cat will be incomplete if not noted their innate acting talent. These small wild animals can pretend to be dead. At this moment they can be ironed, taken on their hands, and they will not even budge.
- Sand cats are masters of disguise. Having spotted the danger, they forcefully press against the sand and close their eyes so that the glare of light reflected in the pupils does not reveal their location, and the natural color allows you to quickly merge with the surface.
- An Arab cat easily dispenses with fresh water. This was made possible thanks to her ability to extract life-giving moisture while eating her prey.
- These cats are considered excellent shrews. They will not be difficult to dig a large hole in which you can hide from the scorching sun. With the help of their short and incredibly powerful paws, they quickly dig up prey, which is hidden under sand, such as lizards, porcupines.
- Find rodents, hiding in the depths, they are helped by large ears, which catch even the quietest sounds. As well as whiskers that react to vibrations in the air.
- Not having finished the prey, the sand cat will not leave the carcass on the sand. He will carefully bury her and return as soon as her appetite is played out.
As already mentioned, this species of wild cats lives in a desert, arid locality. That is why the representatives of the breed are forced to hide in the afternoon from the scorching sun. Dune cats sleep in old holes of other small animals, for example foxes, porcupines. They live in pairs. The male and the female control the territory, the area of which may be sixteen square kilometers. With the onset of night, when the temperature falls seriously, the Arab cats go hunting. Their main prey is small rodents, such as lizards, jerboas. Also, the cats will not miss the opportunity to hunt a tolai hare or steal bird eggs from the nest. A real delicacy for the sand cat is the horned viper. Despite the huge concentration of deadly poison, it becomes easy prey for a furry animal. Often, cats are very close to human settlements, but do not show interest in domestic animals and never attack them.
Unbelievable, but it is a fact!
Incredibly, Arab cats kept in captivity can live for three decades! Nothing is known about the average age of individuals living in the wild. This is explained by the fact that they lead a very secretive way of life, easily disguised on the ground. For the same reason, the total number of these animals remains unknown. According to rough estimates, wild Arabian cats are about fifty thousand.
As a rule, these cats are caught by poachers, who receive quite good money for an individual sold on the black market. The price of an Arab sand cat in some European countries reaches six thousand dollars. For hunters, dune cats are of no interest, which is why the population does not have a sharp decline in numbers. However, many scientists are concerned about the fact that the habitat of these animals is constantly decreasing due to the negative impact of humans on the environment.
People living in the modern world, strive in every way to demonstrate their status. The most sophisticated method - keeping exotic animals at home. Dune cat is a very attractive species for domestication. The small size and ease of care attracts potential buyers. The price in Russia for an Arab sand cat varies between 220-260 thousand rubles.
Barchan cats feel great even in captivity. They quickly become attached to their masters and know by face every family member. They are as playful as the domestic breeds of cats, are amenable to training, for example, they get used to celebrate the natural need in the cat's tray.
In order for the barkhan cat not to spoil the furniture at home, it is necessary to purchase special toys that do not contain harmful substances. They are extremely important for the animal, because during the game all muscle groups develop and strengthen. Also, worry about the cat having its own cozy place where he can relax and gain strength.
Special attention should be paid to the health of a wild cat, which is prone to various viral infections. It is recommended to adhere to the vaccination regime, which is no different from the vaccination schedule for normal breeds. With proper care, a velvet cat can live in an apartment for up to fifteen years.
The diet should be balanced and consist exclusively of raw lean meat (preferably with small bones) and fish. Regularly give your pet the opportunity to show their predatory instincts. Let the cat get food on its own, for example, catch a mouse released in the room. It is better to completely abandon the dry food that most people feed their pets.
Movement - life
To strengthen the immune system, the velvet cat should move a lot. That is why many experts advise to keep such animals in a country or private house, where they will have enough space for walking and hunting. Buy an Arab sand cat in Moscow is very problematic. This is due not only to the fact that the species is exotic, but also to the fact that the wool of this animal does not cause an allergic reaction. And this is very relevant today.
Scientists declare that it is difficult to even roughly estimate the number of individuals living, this cat leads a so secretive lifestyle. However, conducting various observations, the experts came to the conclusion that in 1996 there were 50,000 barkhan cats in the world. This is a very small number. Such studies have prompted the fact that cats have been added to the list of protected animals. Unauthorized catching of animals for the purpose of domestication or breeding is prohibited, only reserves and zoos have such powers. The bark cat, the photo of which you can see in the article, must continue to live in its natural habitat in order to maintain the harmony of the ecosystem.
Dune cat at home
Today it is fashionable to keep houses unusual breeds of cats and dogs, exotic animals. But before you decide on such an acquisition, it is a good idea to think that this is a wild animal, which has a century of life in natural conditions, and not about a saucer with milk. For a domestic cat, living on a sofa is habitual and correct, and for desert inhabitants it is a deep stress. Of course, a lot depends on the age at which you purchased the kitten. However, there are sad cases when people bought cats, fishermen or sand cats. While the kittens were small, everything went well, and as soon as the grown-up animal began to show character and release its claws, they got rid of it.
Если вы мечтаете о такой кошке, то следует знать, что их продолжительность жизни в неволе составляет 12-14 лет, но только в случае правильного ухода. Если вы подобных навыков не имеете, более того, не приобрели необходимых знаний, скорее всего, животное умрет.
Оптимальные условия для жизни
Лучше всего, если вы живете в частном доме, так как в этом случае кошка будет иметь возможность охотиться. For the health of your wild pet, it is necessary to ensure low humidity and stable temperature in the room where the cat lives. You should not buy this animal if you have a small apartment. A free beast needs a sufficiently large space in which it can move freely.
Home maintenance faces serious stress, and hence a decrease in immunity. Totally healthy in the wild, at home such cats often begin to get sick with various viral infections. Vaccination is vital for them, do not neglect this rule. The diet must include several types of meat, usually chicken and beef.
Let's sum up
Barchan cat - a charming and amazing creature, a real flower of the desert. But a proud and independent animal does not tolerate life in the modern civilized world, so it is best to leave them in their natural habitat and give them the opportunity to continue their race. Only small kittens adapt to their domestic conditions, it will be much more difficult to tame an adult. The city has a huge number of homeless cats that are drawn to a man and are ready to purr on their knees all day long. And wild animals should be allowed to live in freedom.
And a little about the secrets.
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The average body length of an adult individual varies in the range of 65-90 cm, of which about 40% fall on the tail. The maximum height of a sandy velvet 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. The predatory mammal has a large and wide, noticeably flattened head with sideburns. Large and wide ears are completely devoid of brushes. The eyes are characterized by a yellow iris and slit pupils.
The barchan cat has short and rather strong, well-developed paws, and the feet are covered with hard wool, which protects the pads on the feet from burns when moving along the hot, hot sand in the sun. The fur of a velvet 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.
It is interesting! Individuals living on the territory of Central Asia, in winter, acquire a thicker, so-called “winter fur” dull sandy coloration with a slightly grayish tint.
Fur color varies from not too bright sand shades to light gray. In the area of the back and on the tail there are darker, grayish-brown stripes that can merge with the general coloring of the fur. The figure in the head and on the paws is dark and pronounced. The tip of the tail of the barchan cat has a characteristic blackish or coal black color. Only the chin and chest of an exotic animal differ in lighter shades.
Habitat and habitat
Dunes or sand cats are adapted to life in quite difficult and very harsh climatic conditions, thanks to which they got their name. Predatory mammals inhabit the most arid parts of our planet, including some parts of the Sahara, the Arabian Peninsula, the territory of Central Asia and Pakistan.
The animal feels most comfortable in arid desert areas, but sometimes barchan cats are found on coastal rocky ridges and in clay deserts. Easy to survive in difficult conditions helps hunt for small desert inhabitants, which are represented by rodents, lizards, small birds, insects and even snakes.
Depending on the territorial characteristics of distribution and color, several subspecies are included in the species of velvet cat:
- F.m. margarita - the smallest, most brightly colored subspecies, having on the tail from two to six dark rings,
- F.m. thin - the largest, most dull colored, with a weakly visible pattern subspecies, on the tail of which there are only two or three rings,
- F.m. schaeffeli - by coloring it resembles the previous subspecies, but with a strongly pronounced pattern and several rings on the tail,
- F.m. harrisini - has a spot on the back of the ear, and adults are characterized by the presence of from five to seven rings on the tail.
In the sands of the Sahara desert there is Felis maggarita maggarita, and on the Arabian Peninsula - Felis magaritara harrisoni. In Pakistan, there is a subspecies of Felis magarita schareffeli, and the natural conditions for the Trans-Caspian dune cat have become the territory of Iran and Turkmenistan.
Natural enemies of the barchan cat in their natural habitat are jackals, wolves and large birds of prey. Among other things, a direct negative impact on the number of such a predatory mammal is provided by people, who often, for the purpose of sale, hunt for exotic wild animals. This type of wild feline is currently under protection, and the exact number is unknown, due to the secretive lifestyle of the predator.
Diet, what eats velvet cat
Dune cats belong to the category of carnivorous predatory mammals, therefore the basis of the diet of such an animal is represented by gerbils, jerboas and other small rodents, lizards, spiders and rather large insects. Sometimes the sand cat hunts tolai hare and birds, whose nests are actively ruined. When the prey is very large and remains uneaten, the animal buries it in the sand, keeping it in case of an unsuccessful hunt.
Dune cats are also well known for their successful hunting for all kinds of poisonous snakes, including even the horned viper. With the onset of a hungry winter period, the predatory mammal quite often approaches populated areas, but, as a rule, does not attack domestic animals or birds. The sand cat is a wonderful hunter, and the paw pads, densely covered with fur, leave little or no marks on the surface of the sand.
It is interesting! Thanks to the ears directed downwards, the predator manages to capture even the smallest movements of its prey, and the insignificant size of the wild cat allows it to very dexterously hunt and catch wild jumping game.
In the process of hunting, in the presence of good moonlight, the animal sits down and squints his eyes, and in order not to be detected by smell, the predatory mammal buries its excrement deep enough into the sand. Barchan sand cats are capable of receiving a significant amount of moisture from food, so they can easily do without clean drinking water for a long time.
Reproduction and offspring
In pairs, wild cats are found only in the mating period. The mating season begins strictly individually, depending on the species and climatic conditions in the habitat of the predatory mammal.
For example, animals living in Central Asia breed in spring or early summer, and in the desert areas of the Sahara, mating occurs in winter or in spring. Males notify females about readiness for mating with loud enough sounds that vaguely resemble doggy or fox yelping.
For childbirth, the female chooses a fairly spacious and comfortable hole. The term for carrying a female velvet cat cubs is a couple of months, and litter often consists of four or five kittens. Seven or eight babies are rarely born in the litter. The kittens born to the world are blind, and their weight does not exceed 28-30 g. The female has four pairs of nipples, which allows you to feed your offspring seamlessly. In the first three or four weeks, active growth processes are observed, so kittens gain about 6–7 g of weight each day.
It is interesting! If during the mating season wild barchan cats make loud, barking sounds, then in ordinary life, such an animal meows, growls and hisses, and also knows how to purr.
As a rule, from about one and a half months, the babies of a predatory mammal cat try to hunt and dig holes themselves. In a burrow with a female, newborn babies most often remain up to six or eight months old, after which they gain complete independence. Puberty velvet cats reach about 9-15 months. Mortality rates among young sand cats is about 40-41%.
Dune cat in the wild
The habitat of the barchan cats with the beautiful Latin name felis margarita extends from the Sahara, across the Arabian Peninsula to Central Asia. It is found exclusively in arid hot regions, lives in sandy deserts, in which there is practically no vegetation, and stony valleys overgrown with shrubs. Leads nocturnal, only in the cold season is sometimes active at dusk. From the heat of the day is saved in shelters. These are mainly abandoned burrows of Korsakov, foxes, porcupines. If there are none, the cat independently digs shallow pits or expands the rodents' burrows.
Because of the hidden way of life in remote dry areas, the exact population of dune cats is unknown, but scientists call about a figure of 50,000 individuals. For the same reasons, very little is known about the dunes cats, their lifestyle and habits of felinologists. It remains only to study those that live in zoos.
Home areas of individual cats and cats can occupy up to 15 km2. and often intersect. In search of food, a velvet cat can travel up to 10 km. Tolerate can not rain and bad weather. At this time, prefers not to leave the mink, even if you have to starve. Natural enemies of the barchan cats are monitor lizards, large snakes, jackals, birds of prey.
Despite the external miniature and weakness, the velvet cat is a strong and strong predator, very hardy and fast, can reach speeds of up to 40 km / h.
By the nature of the velvet cat is very careful and unsociable. In case of danger, she will try to hide in a shelter, but if driven into a corner, she will repel the enemy.
Dune cat is a predator. In his diet includes any game that can be found. These are mainly small rodents, insects, spiders, lizards, and sometimes birds. Can do without water for a long time, getting moisture from food.
The Dune Cat is also known for its ability to hunt poisonous snakes.
In the cold season, steppe cats sometimes move closer to villages, but do not touch poultry or cats.
Barchan cats are found in many large zoos around the world, but at home they are very rare. For the house and especially the apartment the barkhan cat categorically does not fit. She needs a lot of open space. In captivity, lives in spacious enclosures that are trying to equip a natural habitat.
Barkan cats raised in captivity get used to humans, they are less aggressive and shy, but playing with them is dangerous. Can severely scratch or bite. In life, follow instincts and can not be brought up, like home. Adult animals in captivity experience the deepest stress, it often provokes neuroses, behavioral problems. Another unpleasant factor is their habit of marking the territory, which, unlike that of domestic cats, is not corrected by castration.
How to feed a dunes cat at home
The diet of a homemade bark cat must be minimally different from that in nature. Most of it should be small live rodents. In zoos, cats are given meat and meat products, sometimes eggs, poultry.
Where to buy a dandy kitten
Usually, dune cats only sell zoos to other zoos. The average price of a kitten is $ 2,000. It is almost impossible to buy a homemade bark cat legally. In Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, poachers sometimes catch adult steppe cats or pick up grown kittens for sale. Buying such exotic things is not only illegal, but also dangerous. Animals from nature remain wild for life and, besides, they can be carriers of serious diseases.