Sand Kittens Filmed in the Wild for the First Time Ever

Caught on camera for the first time, wild African sand cat kittens look almost like domesticated kittens, but even cuter!

When we think of wild cats, we typically think about big cats that roar – like lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars. But there are other kinds of wild cats that look almost like the ones we’ve trained to live in our houses.

Possibly the cutest among them are the “sand cats” of the North African and Middle Eastern deserts. But you probably haven’t seen much about them on TV, because their camouflaged, sand-colored fur makes them extremely difficult to find.

Researchers have collected a handful of photos of adult sand cats in the wild and video of kittens born in captivity. But, until now, they’ve never spotted sand kittens in the wild.

Adult sand cat

Lucky for us, one determined wild cat photographer has finally found them!

Director of Panthera France Grégory Breton was about to give up after a 7-hour drive back from a sand cat expedition in the Sahara Desert, when three pairs of tiny eyes reflected back the light of his spot lamp.

He’d been talking to his driver to keep him awake, while his other wild cat researcher friend kept his eyes peeled on the roof. Just two miles from camp, they were amazed to find the cats they’d been searching for since 2013.

Nine days into their expedition, their driver began to think the researchers were crazy. He’d grown up in the Moroccan Sahara, but had never seen a sand cat before.

“We believe this was the first time researchers ever documented wild sand cat kittens in their African range,” Breton said in a blog post about the adventure.

Because their instinct is to freeze when faced with predators, the kittens held still for a full hour of photos and video recording, perhaps believing they were invisible.

Besides their camouflaged fur, the cats are also hard to find in the wild because they mostly come out at night, clean up the remains of their prey, and leave no tracks because their paws are padded with fur to protect them from the hot sand.

Though they are no bigger than house cats, their wild instincts are much stronger, making them excellent hunters of rodents, rabbits, birds, insects and reptiles. The cats are so adapted to the desert they don’t even need to drink water. They get all the water they need from their prey.

The cats are listed asnear threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Their habitat is rapidly being degraded by human settlement and livestock grazing. They are also threatened by people who sell them on the black market for pets, which the researchers warn is a terrible idea.

Not only is domesticity extremely boring for these very wild cats, they are very difficult to breed in captivity and vulnerable to respiratory illness.

Breton believes Panthera’s ongoing research on sand cats will help conservation efforts.