If you’ve ever been around a cat, you know they can make themselves scarce when they want to. Equipped with innate stealth and the ability to slip into the tiniest, weirdest places, cats are natural ninjas.
But there’s a cat that puts all other cats to shame with its stealthiness.
In fact, this species of wild cat is so stealthy that they all managed to remain completely unseen in the Arabian Desert of the United Arab Emirates for more than 10 years.
That species is the sand cat, the smallest species of wild cats. The look a lot like house cats, but you can spot the difference by their thickly furred feet and the extra ruffle of fur around their sweet little faces, sort of similar to how you can tell a bobcat from a house cat if you can’t see the tail.
Sand cats are masters of evasion, with coats the same color as the desert sands. The thick fur on their feet allows them to not only walk silently, but to also leave barely any footprints in the sand.
Because of the rapid development in the Emirates, and because of their naturally sneaky nature, it was hard for scientists to pinpoint how many sand cats might be in the wild. Were they gone, or were they just really good at hiding?
Shakeel Ahmed, an assistant scientist at Abu Dhabi’s Environment Agency, and a few of his colleagues decided to find out back in March of 2015. Setting up cameras and leaving some snacks out as bait, they waited patiently.
And after over a decade, they spotted some! It turns out the sand cat had been around the whole time. Now, that’s sneaky.