Habitats

Cats are a cosmopolitan species and are found across much of the world.[38] Geneticist Stephen James O'Brien, of the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland, remarked on how successful cats have been in evolutionary terms: "Cats are one of evolution's most charismatic creatures. They can live on the highest mountains and in the hottest deserts."[159] They are extremely adaptable and are now present on all continents except Antarctica, and on 118 of the 131 main groups of islands – even on sub-Antarctic islands such as the Kerguelen Islands.[160][161] Feral cats can live in forests, grasslands, tundra, coastal areas, agricultural land, scrublands, urban areas and wetlands.[162] Their habitats even include small oceanic islands with no human inhabitants.[163] This ability to thrive in almost any terrestrial habitat has led to the cat's designation as one of the world's worst invasive species.[164] Despite this general adaptability, the close relatives of domestic cats, the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica) and the Arabian sand cat (Felis margarita) both inhabit desert environments,[4] and domestic cats still show similar adaptations and behaviors. In biogeography, a taxon is said to have a cosmopolitan distribution if its range extends across all or most of the world in appropriate habitats. For instance, the killer whale has a cosmopolitan distribution, extending over most of the world's oceans. The term can also apply to some diseases.[1] Other examples include humans, the lichen species Parmelia sulcata, and the mollusc genus Mytilus.[1] It may result from a broad range of environmental tolerances[2][3] or from rapid dispersal compared to the time needed for evolution. The sand cat (Felis margarita), also known as the sand dune cat, is the only felid found primarily in true desert, and has a wide but apparently disjunct distribution through the deserts of northern Africa and southwest and central Asia. Since 2002 this small cat has been listed as Near Threatened by IUCN due to concern over potential low population size

nd decline.[2] Sand cats are found in both sandy and stony desert, living in areas far from water. Having thickly furred feet they are well adapted to the extremes of a desert environment, and tolerant of extremes of hot and cold temperatures.[3] Victor Loche first described the sand cat in 1858 from a specimen found in the Sahara. He proposed to name the species in recognition of Jean Auguste Margueritte who headed the expedition into the Sahara.[4] The sand cat is a small, stocky cat with short legs, a relatively long tail. The fur is of a pale sandy color usually without spots or stripes. The lower and upper lips, chin, throat and belly are white. The ears are tawny brown at the base with a black tip. The lower part of the face is whitish, and a faint reddish line runs from the outer corner of each eye, angling down across the cheek. The large and greenish yellow eyes are surrounded by a white ring, and the naked tip of the nose is black. There are blackish bars on the limbs, and the tail has a black tip with two or three dark rings alternating with buff bands. In northern regions, the sand cat's winter coat can be very long and thick, with hairs reaching up to 2 in (5.1 cm) in length.[6] Its head and body length ranges from 39 to 52 cm (15 to 20 in), with a 23.2 to 31 cm (9.1 to 12 in) long tail. It weighs from 1.35 to 3.2 kg (3.0 to 7.1 lb). The auditory bullae and the passages from the external ears to the ear drums are greatly enlarged relative to other small felids. The undersides of the paws are protected from extreme temperatures by a thick covering of fur. The head is broad. The pinna of the ears is triangular, and the ear canal is very wide, giving the cat an enhanced sense of hearing.[7] The ears are set low, giving a broad flat appearance to the head.[5] This trait may protect the inner ears from wind-blown sand and aid detection of movements of subterranean prey. A highly developed hearing capacity is important for locating prey, which is not only sparsely distributed in arid environments, but also found underground.[3]