The sand cat is a relatively small, stocky cat with short legs, a long tail, and large, pointed ears. The head is conspicuously broad, and the ears are so widely spaced that they can be flattened horizontally, or even pointed down to aid in hunting.
The colour of the fur is a pale sandy yellow over most of the body, with pallid bars which are sometimes hardly visible, and is white on the chin and underside. There are black bands on the legs and tail, and reddish lines running across the cheeks from the outer corners of the eyes. In winter, the coat can be very thick, with the hairs reaching up to 2 inches (5.1 cm) in length. The eyes are large and greenish yellow in colour, while the nose is black. Sand cats are found primarily in both sandy and stony desert, and have a wide but apparently disjunctive distribution through the deserts of northern Africa and southwest and central Asia.