Sand Cat Physical Description


The Sand Cat is the only slightly larger than the Black-footed Cat (the smallest African cat) weighing up to 3.4 kgs, about the size of a very small domestic cat. Males are larger than females.


The small body is stocky with short legs and a relatively long tail. There are mats of dense fur, up to 2 cm thick, on the pads of the feet. These help to protect against both the extreme desert heat and cold temperatures, and also assist with walking on the loose sand.


The light brown coat has greyish fur on the back with some feint markings and plain pale fur below. There is striping on the limbs and usually two dark bars on the forelimbs. The long tail has a few dark rings towards the end and a black tip.

Sand Cat Physical Characteristics

Sand Cat Facial Characteristics

Sand Cat Facial Characteristics


The Sand Cat has a wide face with thick white fur around the mouth and chin. There are feint diagonal red lines from the outer and inner corners of the eyes towards the edge of the face.


The large triangular ears of a Sand Cat are set low on the side of the head and have thick white hairs inside. The back of the ears are brown on the base and have a black tip.


Sand Cat Identification

When catching a glimpse of wildlife in the bush it is often difficult to identify an animal, especially if lighting is poor, or you do not see the full animal. Here are some pointers to help you confirm whether what you saw was a Sand Cat.

In Africa, Sand Cats occur in the desert regions of the north and the only other small cat they may overlap in some places is the African Wildcat. African Wildcats are much paler in the semi-arid regions and at a distance could be confused with pale coloured Sand Cats. They both have markings on their limbs and black-tipped tails, but Sand Cats are smaller than African Wildcats. If the sighting is not too distant, the large triangular ears of the Sand Cat would help distinguish it from the more domestic cat appearance of the wildcat.

The other small mammal of the desert is the Fennec Fox which is similar in size and colour to the Sand Cat, but canids have longer snouts compared to the shortened faces of cats.

Wild Cats of Africa Poster
Wild Cats of Africa Print by Roger Hall

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