The staff at the North Carolina Zoo have issued what they call a “triple threat cute alert.”
Three adorable sand cat kittens, which are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, were born at the zoo last month. All three kittens, first-time mother, Sahara, and father, Cosmo, are all doing well.
“The trio are beginning to explore their surroundings in the Desert Habitat,” according to the North Carolina Zoo, which is near Asheboro. “Lucky guests may be able to catch a glimpse of them in the coming days.”
In another fun announcement, the North Carolina Zoo explains that it will hold a public poll to name the kittens. Details of the poll, including how you can participate, will be announced soon on the North Carolina Zoo’s website and its social media channels.
Cosmo and Sahara were paired as a part of the Sand Cat Species Survival Plan and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which works to maintain a “healthy and genetically diverse population” of sand cats to increase their numbers, the Zoo explains. More than 50 sand cats live at more than 20 AZA institutions.
What’s A Sand Cat?
Sand cats, one of the world’s smallest feline species, typically weigh 4–8 pounds and are about 20 inches long. Sand cat adults are around 11 inches tall.
In the wild, sand cats live in Africa’s Sahara Desert, across the Arabian Peninsula, and parts of central Asia, including Turkmenistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Since daytime temperatures in those areas often reach 124 degrees and nighttime temperatures drop to 31 degrees, sand cats have dense hair on the pads of their feet to protect against both hot sand and cold temperatures, according to Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute.
Although the cats are cute, they can be fearsome hunters.
First, they use their superb hearing to listen for sounds of underground burrowing. Then, when they do hear those sounds, they dig rapidly to expose and then capture their prey.
Sand cats primarily eat small rodents. However, since they are opportunistic hunters, their diet also includes the occasional hare, bird, and even venomous vipers and other snakes, Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute continues.
In human care, sand cats can live to be 13 years old. It’s unknown how old they get in the wild because they are nocturnal and live in remote landscapes, which makes studying them difficult.
Know Before You Go
The North Carolina Zoo is made up of 2,600 wooded acres, which makes it the world’s largest natural habitat zoo, the Zoo explains. It is home to more than 1,700 animals and 52,000 plants.
You can learn more at the North Carolina Zoo’s Plan Your Visit webpage.