Sand Cat Kitten Born in Israeli Zoo

A three-week old rare sand cat kitten made its public debut recently at a zoo near Tel Aviv.

A rare sand cat kitten was born in an Israeli Zoo three weeks ago, and this week made its public debut. Sand cats live in the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East and are endangered in many areas.

The kitten, named Renana ("joy" or "song" in Hebrew), was born three weeks ago to Rotem at the Zoological Center outside of Tel Aviv. Three weeks ago, Rotem refused to go in for the night and the next night she gave birth to Renana in the den in the outdoor enclosure.

Sand cats no longer exist in the wild in Israel and are listed as near-threatened in their other habitats, including the Sahara and the deserts of Iran and Pakistan. The cats are solitary and live in burrows in the deep desert. They range three to six miles at night in search of their prey, which includes rodents, lizards and birds. Unlike most cats, sand cats are not territorial. They obtain all the water they need from their prey, and so avoid watering holes where predators--including humans, wolves, snakes and raptors--could threaten it.

Sand cats are well-adapted to the desert, with small bodies and long hair growing between their toes. This cushion of fur helps insulate their foot pads when walking over hot sand. Their hind feet claws are small and blunt, which obscures their tracks and makes them difficult to track.

The Zoological Center Tel Aviv Ramat Gan - Safari where Renana was born hopes that the kitten will be able to join Israel's Sand Cat Breeding Program, which plans to reintroduce sand cats into the wild.

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