A 7-year-old sand cat named Thor is the newest addition to the Smithsonian's National Zoo's Small Mammal House exhibit. Thor will serve as an ambassador to his wild cousins and teach Zoo visitors and researchers about the behaviors of this secretive species. Native to Northern Africa, Southern Asia, and the Arabian Peninsula, sand cats are the only cats that live in true desert ecosystems. They are well-adapted to survive in the desert: their foot pads have fur; they get most of the water they need by consuming prey (small birds, rodents and some reptiles); and they are able to withstand very hot and cold temperatures by burrowing in the sand. Degradation of their desert habitats is the largest threat to sand cat populations. The IUCN lists this species as near threatened.
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Photo Credit: Connor Mallon, Smithsonian's National Zoo