Zoological Center Tel-Aviv Ramat Gan received a wonderful surprise three weeks ago when their female Sand Cat, Rotem, gave birth to a litter of three kittens.

The reason the kittens were such a surprise is that the keepers at the Zoological Center did not believe that Rotem was interested in bonding with Kalahari, a male Sand Cat that the Center brought in after Rotem’s original mate, Sela, died the previous year.

While the keepers felt that Rotem and and Kalahari got along well enough to inhabit the same enclosure, they weren’t sure if they would form a mating bond, and therefore didn’t know exactly when Rotem became pregnant.

So when the keepers checked on Rotem on a morning three weeks ago, they were surprised to find that Rotem had already given birth and was happily caring for her three tiny kittens.

This birth is special because Sand Cats are extremely rare, considered to be a near-threatened species by the IUCN. I’ve written about Sand Cats in my Caturday series.