Felis catus (original combination)
Felis catus domestica (invalid junior synonym)
The domestic cat (
Felis silvestris catus or
Felis catus) is a
small, typically furry, carnivorous mammal. They are often called
house cats when kept as indoor pets or simply cats when there is no
need to distinguish them from other felids and felines. They are often
valued by humans for companionship and for their ability to hunt
vermin. There are more than seventy cat breeds recognized by various
Cats are similar in anatomy to the other felids, with a strong
flexible body, quick reflexes, sharp retractable claws and teeth
adapted to killing small prey.
Cat senses fit a crepuscular and
predatory ecological niche. Cats can hear sounds too faint or too high
in frequency for human ears, such as those made by mice and other
small animals. They can see in near darkness. Like most other mammals,
cats have poorer color vision and a better sense of smell than humans.
Cats, despite being solitary hunters, are a social species, and cat
communication includes the use of a variety of vocalizations (mewing,
purring, trilling, hissing, growling and grunting) as well as cat
pheromones and types of cat-specific body language.
Cats have a high breeding rate. Under controlled breeding, they can
be bred and shown as registered pedigree pets, a hobby known as cat
fancy. Failure to control the breeding of pet cats by neutering, as
well as the abandonment of former household pets, has resulted in
large numbers of feral cats worldwide, requiring population
control. In certain areas outside cats' native range, this has
contributed, along with habitat destruction and other factors, to the
extinction of many bird species. Cats have been known to extirpate a
bird species within specific regions and may have contributed to the
extinction of isolated island populations. Cats are thought to be
primarily responsible for the extinction of 33 species of birds since
the 1600s,[better source needed] and the presence of feral
and free-ranging cats makes some otherwise suitable locations
unsuitable for attempted species reintroduction.
Because cats were venerated in ancient Egypt, they were commonly
believed to have been domesticated there, but there may have been
instances of domestication as early as the
Neolithic from around 9,500
years ago (7500 BC). A genetic study in 2007 concluded that
all domestic cats are descended from Near Eastern wildcats, having
diverged around 8000 BC in the Middle East. A 2016 study found
that leopard cats were undergoing domestication independently in China
around 5500 BC, though this line of partially domesticated cats leaves
no trace in the domesticated populations of today. A 2017
study confirmed that domestic cats are descendants of those first
domesticated by farmers in the
Near East around 9,000 years
As of a 2007 study, cats are the second-most popular pet in the U.S.
by number of pets owned, behind freshwater fish. In a 2010 study,
they were ranked the third-most popular pet in the UK, after fish and
dogs, with around 8 million being owned.
1 Taxonomy and evolution
2 Nomenclature and etymology
4.5 Hunting and feeding
5.3 Impact on prey species
5.4 Impact on birds
6 Interaction with humans
6.5 Infections transmitted from cats to humans
6.6 History and mythology
6.6.1 Superstitions and cat burning
7 See also
10 External links
Taxonomy and evolution
The domestic cat is believed to have evolved from the Near Eastern
wildcat, whose range covers vast portions of the
Middle East westward
to the Atlantic coast of Africa. Between 70,000 and 100,000
years ago the animal gave rise to the genetic lineage that eventually
produced all domesticated cats, having diverged from the Near
Eastern wildcat around 8,000 BC in the Middle East.
The felids are a rapidly evolving family of mammals that share a
common ancestor only 10–15 million years ago and include
lions, tigers, cougars and many others. Within this family, domestic
Felis catus) are part of the genus Felis, which is a group of
small cats containing about seven species (depending upon
classification scheme). Members of the genus are found
worldwide and include the jungle cat (
Felis chaus) of southeast Asia,
European wildcat (F. silvestris silvestris),
African wildcat (F. s.
Chinese mountain cat
Chinese mountain cat (F. bieti), and the Arabian sand cat
(F. margarita), among others.
The domestic cat was first classified as
Felis catus by Carl Linnaeus
in the 10th edition of his Systema Naturae published in 1758.
Because of modern phylogenetics, domestic cats are usually regarded as
another subspecies of the wildcat, F. silvestris. This has
resulted in mixed usage of the terms, as the domestic cat can be
called by its subspecies name,
Felis silvestris catus.
Wildcats have also been referred to as various subspecies of F.
catus, but in 2003, the International Commission on Zoological
Nomenclature fixed the name for wildcats as F. silvestris. The
most common name in use for the domestic cat remains F. catus.
Sometimes, the domestic cat has been called
Felis domesticus as
proposed by German naturalist J.C.P. Erxleben in 1777, but these
are not valid taxonomic names and have been used only rarely in
scientific literature. A population of Transcaucasian black feral
cats was once classified as
Felis daemon (Satunin 1904) but now this
population is considered to be a part of domestic cat.
All the cats in this genus share a common ancestor that is believed to
have lived around 6–7 million years ago in the
Near East (the
Middle East). The exact relationships within the
Felidae are close
but still uncertain, e.g. the
Chinese mountain cat
Chinese mountain cat is
sometimes classified (under the name
Felis silvestris bieti) as a
subspecies of the wildcat, like the North African variety F. s.
Ancient Egyptian sculpture of the cat goddess Bastet. The earliest
evidence of felines as Egyptian deities comes from c. 3100 BC.
In comparison to dogs, cats have not undergone major changes during
the domestication process, as the form and behavior of the domestic
cat is not radically different from those of wildcats and domestic
cats are perfectly capable of surviving in the wild. Fully
domesticated house cats often interbreed with feral F. catus
populations, producing hybrids such as the Kellas cat. This
limited evolution during domestication means that hybridisation can
occur with many other felids, notably the Asian leopard cat.
Several natural behaviors and characteristics of wildcats may have
predisposed them for domestication as pets. These traits include
their small size, social nature, obvious body language, love of play
and relatively high intelligence.:12–17 Several small felid
species may have an inborn tendency towards tameness.
Cats have either a mutualistic or commensal relationship with humans.
Two main theories are given about how cats were domesticated. In one,
people deliberately tamed cats in a process of artificial selection as
they were useful predators of vermin. This has been criticized as
implausible, because the reward for such an effort may have been too
little; cats generally do not carry out commands and although they do
eat rodents, other species such as ferrets or terriers may be better
at controlling these pests. The alternative idea is that cats were
simply tolerated by people and gradually diverged from their wild
relatives through natural selection, as they adapted to hunting the
vermin found around humans in towns and villages.
Nomenclature and etymology
The origin of the English word cat (
Old English catt) and its
counterparts in other
Germanic languages (such as German Katze),
descended from Proto-Germanic *kattōn-, is controversial. It has
traditionally thought to be a borrowing from
Late Latin cattus
"domestic cat", from catta (used around 75 AD by Martial),
Byzantine Greek κάττα, Portuguese and Spanish gato,
French chat, Maltese qattus, Lithuanian katė, and Old Church Slavonic
kotъ (kotka), among others. The
Late Latin word is generally
thought to originate from an Afro-Asiatic language, but every proposed
source word has presented problems. Many references refer to "Berber"
(Kabyle) kaddîska "wildcat" and "Nubian kadīs" as possible sources
or cognates, but M.
Lionel Bender says the Nubian term is a loan from
Arabic قِطَّة qiṭṭa.
Jean-Paul Savignac suggests the
Latin word is from an Egyptian precursor of Coptic ϣⲁⲩ (šau)
"tomcat" or its feminine form suffixed with -t, but John
Huehnergard says "the source [...] was clearly not Egyptian itself,
where no analogous form is attested." Huehnergard opines it is
"equally likely that the forms might derive from an ancient Germanic
word, imported into Latin and thence to Greek and to Syriac and
Arabic". Guus Kroonen also considers the word to be native to Germanic
(due to morphological alternations) and Northern Europe, and suggests
that it might ultimately be borrowed from Uralic, cf. Northern Sami
gađfe "female stoat" and Hungarian hölgy "stoat; lady, bride" from
Proto-Uralic *käďwä "female (of a fur animal)". In any case,
cat is a classic case of a Wanderwort.
An alternative word is English puss (extended as pussy and pussycat).
Attested only from the 16th century, it may have been introduced from
Dutch poes or from
Low German puuskatte, related to Swedish kattepus,
or Norwegian pus, pusekatt. Similar forms exist in Lithuanian puižė
and Irish puisín or puiscín. The etymology of this word is unknown,
but it may have simply arisen from a sound used to attract a
A group of cats is referred to as a clowder or a glaring, a male
cat is called a tom or tomcat (or a gib, if neutered), an
unaltered female is called a queen, and a juvenile cat is referred
to as a kitten. The male progenitor of a cat, especially a pedigreed
cat, is its sire, and its female progenitor is its dam. In
Early Modern English, the word kitten was interchangeable with the now
obsolete word catling.
A pedigreed cat is one whose ancestry is recorded by a cat fancier
organization. A purebred cat is one whose ancestry contains only
individuals of the same breed. Many pedigreed and especially purebred
cats are exhibited as show cats. Cats of unrecorded, mixed ancestry
are referred to as domestic short-haired or domestic long-haired cats,
by coat type, or commonly as random-bred, moggies (chiefly British),
or (using terms borrowed from dog breeding) mongrels or mutt-cats.
African wildcat is the ancestral subspecies from which
domestic cats are descended, and wildcats and domestic cats can
completely interbreed (being subspecies of the same species), several
intermediate stages occur between domestic pet and pedigree cats on
one hand and entirely wild animals on the other. The semiferal cat, a
mostly outdoor cat, is not owned by any one individual, but is
generally friendly to people and may be fed by several households.
Feral cats are associated with human habitation areas and may be fed
by people or forage for food, but are typically wary of human
Diagram of the general anatomy of a male
Domestic cats are similar in size to the other members of the genus
Felis, typically weighing between 4 and 5 kg (9 and
10 lb). Some breeds, such as the Maine Coon, can occasionally
exceed 11 kg (24 lb). Conversely, very small cats, less than
2 kg (4 lb), have been reported. The world record for
the largest cat is 21 kg (50 lb). The smallest adult cat
ever officially recorded weighed around 1 kg (2 lb).
Feral cats tend to be lighter as they have more limited access to food
than house cats. In the
Boston area, the average feral adult male will
weigh 4 kg (9 lb) and average feral female 3 kg
(7 lb). Cats average about 23–25 cm (9–10 in)
in height and 46 cm (18 in) in head/body length (males being
larger than females), with tails averaging 30 cm (12 in) in
Cats have seven cervical vertebrae, as do almost all mammals; 13
thoracic vertebrae (humans have 12); seven lumbar vertebrae (humans
have five); three sacral vertebrae like most mammals (humans have
five); and a variable number of caudal vertebrae in the tail (humans
retain three to five caudal vertebrae, fused into an internal
coccyx).:11 The extra lumbar and thoracic vertebrae account for
the cat's spinal mobility and flexibility. Attached to the spine are
13 ribs, the shoulder, and the pelvis. :16 Unlike human arms, cat
forelimbs are attached to the shoulder by free-floating clavicle bones
which allow them to pass their body through any space into which they
can fit their head.
The cat skull is unusual among mammals in having very large eye
sockets and a powerful and specialized jaw.:35 Within the jaw,
cats have teeth adapted for killing prey and tearing meat. When it
overpowers its prey, a cat delivers a lethal neck bite with its two
long canine teeth, inserting them between two of the prey's vertebrae
and severing its spinal cord, causing irreversible paralysis and
death. Compared to other felines, domestic cats have narrowly
spaced canine teeth, which is an adaptation to their preferred prey of
small rodents, which have small vertebrae. The premolar and first
molar together compose the carnassial pair on each side of the mouth,
which efficiently shears meat into small pieces, like a pair of
scissors. These are vital in feeding, since cats' small molars cannot
chew food effectively, and cats are largely incapable of
mastication.:37 Although cats tend to have better teeth than most
humans, with decay generally less likely because of a thicker
protective layer of enamel, a less damaging saliva, less retention of
food particles between teeth, and a diet mostly devoid of sugar, they
are nonetheless subject to occasional tooth loss and infection.
Cats, like dogs, are digitigrades. They walk directly on their toes,
with the bones of their feet making up the lower part of the visible
leg. Cats are capable of walking very precisely because, like all
felines, they directly register; that is, they place each hind paw
(almost) directly in the print of the corresponding fore paw,
minimizing noise and visible tracks. This also provides sure footing
for their hind paws when they navigate rough terrain. Unlike most
mammals, when cats walk, they use a "pacing" gait; that is, they move
the two legs on one side of the body before the legs on the other
side. This trait is shared with camels and giraffes. As a walk speeds
up into a trot, a cat's gait changes to be a "diagonal" gait, similar
to that of most other mammals (and many other land animals, such as
lizards): the diagonally opposite hind and fore legs move
Like almost all members of the Felidae, cats have protractable and
retractable claws. In their normal, relaxed position, the claws
are sheathed with the skin and fur around the paw's toe pads. This
keeps the claws sharp by preventing wear from contact with the ground
and allows the silent stalking of prey. The claws on the fore feet are
typically sharper than those on the hind feet. Cats can
voluntarily extend their claws on one or more paws. They may extend
their claws in hunting or self-defense, climbing, kneading, or for
extra traction on soft surfaces. Most cats have five claws on their
front paws, and four on their rear paws. The fifth front claw (the
dewclaw) is proximal to the other claws. More proximally is a
protrusion which appears to be a sixth "finger". This special feature
of the front paws, on the inside of the wrists, is the carpal pad,
also found on the paws of big cats and dogs. It has no function in
normal walking, but is thought to be an antiskidding device used while
jumping. Some breeds of cats are prone to polydactyly (extra toes and
claws). These are particularly common along the northeast coast of
Cats are familiar and easily kept animals, and their physiology has
been particularly well studied; it generally resembles those of other
carnivorous mammals, but displays several unusual features probably
attributable to cats' descent from desert-dwelling species. For
instance, cats are able to tolerate quite high temperatures: Humans
generally start to feel uncomfortable when their skin temperature
passes about 38 °C (100 °F), but cats show no discomfort
until their skin reaches around 52 °C (126 °F),:46 and
can tolerate temperatures of up to 56 °C (133 °F) if they
have access to water.
Normal physiological values:330
38.6 °C (101.5 °F)
120–140 beats per minute
16–40 breaths per minute
Thermograph of various body parts of a cat
Cats conserve heat by reducing the flow of blood to their skin and
lose heat by evaporation through their mouths. Cats have minimal
ability to sweat, with glands located primarily in their paw pads,
and pant for heat relief only at very high temperatures (but may
also pant when stressed). A cat's body temperature does not vary
throughout the day; this is part of cats' general lack of circadian
rhythms and may reflect their tendency to be active both during the
day and at night.:1 Cats' feces are comparatively dry and their
urine is highly concentrated, both of which are adaptations to allow
cats to retain as much water as possible. Their kidneys are so
efficient, they can survive on a diet consisting only of meat, with no
additional water, and can even rehydrate by drinking
seawater.:29While domestic cats are able to swim, they are
generally reluctant to enter water as it quickly leads to
Cats are obligate carnivores: their physiology has evolved to
efficiently process meat, and they have difficulty digesting plant
matter. In contrast to omnivores such as rats, which only require
about 4% protein in their diet, about 20% of a cat's diet must be
protein. A cat's gastrointestinal tract is adapted to meat eating,
being much shorter than that of omnivores and having low levels of
several of the digestive enzymes needed to digest carbohydrates.
These traits severely limit the cat's ability to digest and use
plant-derived nutrients, as well as certain fatty acids. Despite
the cat's meat-oriented physiology, several vegetarian or vegan cat
foods have been marketed that are supplemented with chemically
synthesized taurine and other nutrients, in attempts to produce a
complete diet. However, some of these products still fail to provide
all the nutrients cats require, and diets containing no animal
products pose the risk of causing severe nutritional deficiencies.
However, veterinarians in the United States have expressed concern
that many domestic cats are overfed.
Cats do eat grass occasionally. A proposed explanation is that cats
use grass as a source of folic acid. Another is that it is used to
supply dietary fiber, helping the cat defecate more easily and expel
parasites and other harmful material through feces and vomit.
Cats are unusually dependent on a constant supply of the amino acid
arginine, and a diet lacking arginine causes marked weight loss and
can be rapidly fatal.
Arginine is an essential additive in cat
food because cats have low levels of the enzymes aminotransferase and
pyrroline-5-carboxylate which are responsible for the synthesis of
ornithine and citrulline in the small intestine.
typically go on to the kidneys to make arginine, but because cats have
a deficiency in the enzymes that make it, citrulline is not produced
in adequate quantities to make arginine.
Arginine is essential in the
urea cycle in order to convert the toxic component ammonia into urea
that can then be excreted in the urine. Because of its essential role,
deficiency in arginine results in a build up of toxic ammonia and
leads to hyperammonemia. The symptoms of hyperammonemia include
lethargy, vomiting, ataxia, hyperesthesia and can be serious enough to
induce death and coma in a matter of days if a cat is being fed a
arginine free diet. The quick onset of these symptoms is due to the
fact that diets devoid in arginine will typically still contain all of
the other amino acids, which will continue to be catabolized by the
body producing mass amounts of ammonia that very quickly build up with
no way of being excreted.
Another unusual feature is that the cat cannot produce taurine,[note
1] with a deficiency in this nutrient causing macular degeneration,
wherein the cat's retina slowly breaks down, causing irreversible
blindness. This is due to the hepatic activity of cystinesulfinic
acid decarboxylase being low in cats. This limits the ability of
cats to biosynthesize the taurine they need from its precursor, the
amino acid cysteine, which ultimately results in inadequate taurine
production needed for normal function. Deficiencies in taurine
result in compensated function of feline cardiovascular and
reproductive systems. These abnormalities can also be accompanied
by developmental issues in the central nervous system along with
degeneration of the retina.
In order to produce the essential vitamin niacin for use in the cat,
tryptophan is needed for conversion purposes. However, due to a
competing pathway with acetyl coenzyme A (acetyl-CoA), niacin can
become deficient and require supplementation. This process occurs
when an overactive enzyme, picolinic acid carboxylase, converts the
vitamin B6 precursor picolinic acid into the alternate compound
acetyl-CoA, instead of converting quinolinate into nictotinic acid
Niacin is required in cats as it
supports enzyme function. If niacin is deficient in the diet,
anorexia, weight loss and an increase in body temperature can
Preformed vitamin A is required in the cat for retinal and
Vitamin A is considered to be a fat-soluble
vitamin and is seen as essential in a cat's diet. Normally, the
conversion of beta-carotenes into vitamin A occurs in the intestine
(more specifically the mucosal layer) of species, however cats lack
the ability to undergo this process. Both the kidney and liver are
contributors to the use of vitamin A in the body of the majority of
species while the cats liver does not produce the enzyme Beta-carotene
15,15'-monooxygenase which converts the beta-carotene into retinol
(vitamin A). To summarize: cats do not have high levels of this
enzyme leading to the cleavage and oxidation of carotenoids not taking
Vitamin D3 is a dietary requirement for cats as they lack the ability
to synthesize vitamin D3 from sunlight. Cats obtain high levels of
the enzyme 7-dehydrocholestrol delta 7 reductase which causes
immediate conversion of vitamin D3 from sunlight to
7-dehydrocholesterol. This fat soluble vitamin is required in cats
for bone formation through the promotion of calcium retention, along
with nerve and muscle control through absorption of calcium and
Cats, like all mammals, need to get linoleic acid, an essential fatty
acid, from their diet. Most mammals can convert linoleic acid to
arachidonic acid, as well as the omega 3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic
acid and docosahexaenoic acid) through the activity of enzymes, but
this process is very limited in cats. The Δ6-desaturase enzyme
eventually converts linoleic acid, which is in its salt form
linoleate, to arachidonate (salt form of arachidonic acid) in the
liver, but this enzyme has very little activity in cats. This
means that arachidonic acid is an essential fatty acid for cats as
they lack the ability to create required amounts of linoleic acid.
Deficiency of arachidonic acid in cats is related to problems in
growth, can cause injury and inflammation to skin (e.g. around the
mouth) decreased platelet aggregation, fatty liver, increase in birth
defects of kittens whose queens were deficient during pregnancy, and
reproductive failure in queens.
Arachidonic acid can also be
metabolized to eicosanoids that create inflammatory responses which
are needed to stimulate proper growth and repair mechanisms in the
The nutrient chart provides a list of the many nutrients cats require
as well as the use of the nutrients in the body and the effects of the
Reflection of camera flash from the tapetum lucidum
Cats have excellent night vision and can see at only one-sixth the
light level required for human vision.:43 This is partly the
result of cat eyes having a tapetum lucidum, which reflects any light
that passes through the retina back into the eye, thereby increasing
the eye's sensitivity to dim light. Another adaptation to dim
light is the large pupils of cats' eyes. Unlike some big cats, such as
tigers, domestic cats have slit pupils. These slit pupils can
focus bright light without chromatic aberration, and are needed since
the domestic cat's pupils are much larger, relative to their eyes,
than the pupils of the big cats. At low light levels, a cat's
pupils will expand to cover most of the exposed surface of its
eyes. However, domestic cats have rather poor color vision and
(like most nonprimate mammals) have only two types of cones, optimized
for sensitivity to blue and yellowish green; they have limited ability
to distinguish between red and green. A 1993 paper reported a
response to middle wavelengths from a system other than the rods which
might be due to a third type of cone. However, this appears to be an
adaptation to low light levels rather than representing true
Cats have excellent hearing and can detect an extremely broad range of
frequencies. They can hear higher-pitched sounds than either dogs or
humans, detecting frequencies from 55 Hz to 79,000 Hz, a
range of 10.5 octaves, while humans and dogs both have ranges of
about 9 octaves. Cats can hear ultrasound, which is
important in hunting because many species of rodents make
ultrasonic calls. However, they do not communicate using
ultrasound like rodents do. Cats' hearing is also sensitive and among
the best of any mammal, being most acute in the range of
500 Hz to 32 kHz. This sensitivity is further enhanced
by the cat's large movable outer ears (their pinnae), which both
amplify sounds and help detect the direction of a noise.
Cats have an acute sense of smell, due in part to their well-developed
olfactory bulb and a large surface of olfactory mucosa, about
5.8 cm2 (0.90 in2) in area, which is about twice that of
humans. Cats are sensitive to pheromones such as
3-mercapto-3-methylbutan-1-ol, which they use to communicate
through urine spraying and marking with scent glands. Many cats
also respond strongly to plants that contain nepetalactone, especially
catnip, as they can detect that substance at less than one part per
billion. About 70–80% of cats are affected by
nepetalactone. This response is also produced by other plants,
such as silver vine (Actinidia polygama) and the herb valerian; it may
be caused by the smell of these plants mimicking a pheromone and
stimulating cats' social or sexual behaviors.
Cats have relatively few taste buds compared to humans (470 or so
versus more than 9,000 on the human tongue). Domestic and wild
cats share a gene mutation that keeps their sweet taste buds from
binding to sugary molecules, leaving them with no ability to taste
sweetness. Their taste buds instead respond to amino acids,
bitter tastes, and acids. Cats and many other animals have a
Jacobson's organ in their mouths that is used in the behavioral
process of flehmening. It allows them to sense certain aromas in a way
that humans cannot. Cats also have a distinct temperature preference
for their food, preferring food with a temperature around 38 °C
(100 °F) which is similar to that of a fresh kill and routinely
rejecting food presented cold or refrigerated (which would signal to
the cat that the "prey" item is long dead and therefore possibly toxic
The whiskers of a cat are highly sensitive to touch.
To aid with navigation and sensation, cats have dozens of movable
whiskers (vibrissae) over their body, especially their faces. These
provide information on the width of gaps and on the location of
objects in the dark, both by touching objects directly and by sensing
air currents; they also trigger protective blink reflexes to protect
the eyes from damage.:47
Comparison of cat righting reflexes in gravity versus zero gravity
Most breeds of cat have a noted fondness for settling in high places,
or perching. In the wild, a higher place may serve as a concealed site
from which to hunt; domestic cats may strike prey by pouncing from a
perch such as a tree branch, as does a leopard. Another possible
explanation is that height gives the cat a better observation point,
allowing it to survey its territory. During a fall from a high place,
a cat can reflexively twist its body and right itself using its acute
sense of balance and flexibility. This is known as the cat
righting reflex. An individual cat always rights itself in the same
way, provided it has the time to do so, during a fall. The height
required for this to occur is around 90 cm (3.0 ft). Cats
without a tail (e.g. Manx cats) also have this ability, since a cat
mostly moves its hind legs and relies on conservation of angular
momentum to set up for landing, and the tail is little used for this
feat. An excellent sense of balance allows cats to move with
great stability. A cat falling from heights of up to 3 meters can
right itself and land on its paws.
Cat health and Aging in cats
The average lifespan of pet cats has risen in recent years. In the
early 1980s, it was about seven years,:33 rising to 9.4
years in 1995:33 and 12–15 years in 2014.[unreliable
source?] However, cats have been reported as surviving into their
30s, with the oldest known cat, Creme Puff, dying at a verified
age of 38.
Spaying or neutering increases life expectancy: one study found
neutered male cats live twice as long as intact males, while spayed
female cats live 62% longer than intact females.:35 Having a cat
neutered confers health benefits, because castrated males cannot
develop testicular cancer, spayed females cannot develop uterine or
ovarian cancer, and both have a reduced risk of mammary cancer.
Despite widespread concern about the welfare of free-roaming cats, the
lifespans of neutered feral cats in managed colonies compare favorably
with those of pet cats.:45:1358 
Main article: Feline diseases
A wide range of health problems may affect cats, including infectious
diseases, parasites, injuries, and chronic disease. Vaccinations are
available for many of these diseases, and domestic cats are regularly
given treatments to eliminate parasites such as worms and fleas.
The domesticated cat and its closest wild ancestor are both diploid
organisms that possess 38 chromosomes and roughly 20,000
genes. About 250 heritable genetic disorders have been identified
in cats, many similar to human inborn errors. The high level of
similarity among the metabolism of mammals allows many of these feline
diseases to be diagnosed using genetic tests that were originally
developed for use in humans, as well as the use of cats as animal
models in the study of the human diseases.
Cat behavior and
A cat on a fence
Outdoor cats are active both day and night, although they tend to be
slightly more active at night. The timing of cats' activity
is quite flexible and varied, which means house cats may be more
active in the morning and evening, as a response to greater human
activity at these times. Although they spend the majority of
their time in the vicinity of their home, housecats can range many
hundreds of meters from this central point, and are known to establish
territories that vary considerably in size, in one study ranging from
7 to 28 hectares (17–69 acres).
Cats conserve energy by sleeping more than most animals, especially as
they grow older. The daily duration of sleep varies, usually between
12 and 16 hours, with 13 and 14 being the average. Some cats can sleep
as much as 20 hours. The term "cat nap" for a short rest refers to the
cat's tendency to fall asleep (lightly) for a brief period. While
asleep, cats experience short periods of rapid eye movement sleep
often accompanied by muscle twitches, which suggests they are
Although wildcats are solitary, the social behavior of domestic cats
is much more variable and ranges from widely dispersed individuals to
feral cat colonies that gather around a food source, based on groups
of co-operating females. Within such groups, one cat is
usually dominant over the others. Each cat in a colony holds a
distinct territory, with sexually active males having the largest
territories, which are about 10 times larger than those of female cats
and may overlap with several females' territories. These
territories are marked by urine spraying, by rubbing objects at head
height with secretions from facial glands, and by defecation.
Between these territories are neutral areas where cats watch and greet
one another without territorial conflicts. Outside these neutral
areas, territory holders usually chase away stranger cats, at first by
staring, hissing, and growling, and if that does not work, by short
but noisy and violent attacks. Despite some cats cohabiting in
colonies, they do not have a social survival strategy, or a pack
mentality, and always hunt alone.
Cat with an
Alaskan Malamute dog
However, some pet cats are poorly socialized. In particular, older
cats may show aggressiveness towards newly arrived kittens, which may
include biting and scratching; this type of behavior is known as
feline asocial aggression.
Though cats and dogs are often characterized as natural enemies, they
can live together if correctly socialized.
Life in proximity to humans and other domestic animals has led to a
symbiotic social adaptation in cats, and cats may express great
affection toward humans or other animals. Ethologically, the human
keeper of a cat may function as a sort of surrogate for the cat's
mother, and adult housecats live their lives in a kind of
extended kittenhood, a form of behavioral neoteny. The
high-pitched sounds housecats make to solicit food may mimic the cries
of a hungry human infant, making them particularly hard for humans to
Domestic cat's scent rubbing behaviour towards humans or other cats is
thought to be a feline means for social bonding.
Domestic cats use many vocalizations for communication, including
purring, trilling, hissing, growling/snarling, grunting, and several
different forms of meowing. (By contrast, feral cats are generally
silent.):208 Their types of body language, including position of
ears and tail, relaxation of the whole body, and kneading of the paws,
are all indicators of mood. The tail and ears are particularly
important social signal mechanisms in cats; for example, a
raised tail acts as a friendly greeting, and flattened ears indicates
hostility. Tail-raising also indicates the cat's position in the
group's social hierarchy, with dominant individuals raising their
tails less often than subordinate animals. Nose-to-nose touching
is also a common greeting and may be followed by social grooming,
which is solicited by one of the cats raising and tilting its
Purring may have developed as an evolutionary advantage as a
signalling mechanism of reassurance between mother cats and nursing
kittens. Post-nursing cats often purr as a sign of contentment: when
being petted, becoming relaxed, or eating. The mechanism by
which cats purr is elusive. The cat has no unique anatomical feature
that is clearly responsible for the sound. It was, until recent
times, believed that only the cats of the
Felis genus could purr.
However, felids of the
Panthera genus (tiger, lion, jaguar, and
leopard) also produce sounds similar to purring, but only when
The hooked papillae on a cat's tongue act like a hairbrush to help
clean and detangle fur.
A tabby housecat uses its brush-like tongue to groom itself, licking
its fur to straighten it.
Cats are known for spending considerable amounts of time licking their
coat to keep it clean. The cat's tongue has backwards-facing
spines about 500 μm long, which are called papillae. These
contain keratin which makes them rigid so the papillae act like a
hairbrush. Some cats, particularly longhaired cats, occasionally
regurgitate hairballs of fur that have collected in their stomachs
from grooming. These clumps of fur are usually sausage-shaped and
about 2–3 cm (0.8–1.2 in) long. Hairballs can be
prevented with remedies that ease elimination of the hair through the
gut, as well as regular grooming of the coat with a comb or stiff
Among domestic cats, males are more likely to fight than females.
Among feral cats, the most common reason for cat fighting is
competition between two males to mate with a female. In such cases,
most fights are won by the heavier male. Another common reason
for fighting in domestic cats is the difficulty of establishing
territories within a small home. Female cats also fight over
territory or to defend their kittens.
Neutering will decrease or
eliminate this behavior in many cases, suggesting that the behavior is
linked to sex hormones.
An arched back, raised fur and an open-mouthed hiss can all be signs
of aggression in a domestic cat.
When cats become aggressive, they try to make themselves appear larger
and more threatening by raising their fur, arching their backs,
turning sideways and hissing or spitting. Often, the ears are
pointed down and back to avoid damage to the inner ear and potentially
listen for any changes behind them while focused forward. They may
also vocalize loudly and bare their teeth in an effort to further
intimidate their opponent. Fights usually consist of grappling and
delivering powerful slaps to the face and body with the forepaws as
well as bites. Cats also throw themselves to the ground in a defensive
posture to rake their opponent's belly with their powerful hind
Serious damage is rare, as the fights are usually short in duration,
with the loser running away with little more than a few scratches to
the face and ears. However, fights for mating rights are typically
more severe and injuries may include deep puncture wounds and
lacerations. Normally, serious injuries from fighting are limited to
infections of scratches and bites, though these can occasionally kill
cats if untreated. In addition, bites are probably the main route of
transmission of feline immunodeficiency virus. Sexually active
males are usually involved in many fights during their lives, and
often have decidedly battered faces with obvious scars and cuts to
their ears and nose.
Hunting and feeding
A cat that is playing with a caught mouse. Cats play with their prey
to weaken or exhaust them before making a kill.
A domestic cat with its prey
Cats hunt small prey, primarily birds and rodents, and are often
used as a form of pest control. Domestic cats are a major
predator of wildlife in the United States, killing an estimated
1.4–3.7 billion birds and 6.9–20.7 billion mammals
annually. The bulk of predation in the United States is done
by 80 million feral and stray cats. Effective measures to reduce this
population are elusive, meeting opposition from cat
enthusiasts. In the case of free-ranging pets, equipping
cats with bells and not letting them out at night will reduce wildlife
Free-fed feral cats and house cats tend to consume many small meals in
a single day, although the frequency and size of meals varies between
individuals. Cats use two hunting strategies, either stalking
prey actively, or waiting in ambush until an animal comes close enough
to be captured. Although it is not certain, the strategy used may
depend on the prey species in the area, with cats waiting in ambush
outside burrows, but tending to actively stalk birds.:153
Perhaps the best known element of cats' hunting behavior, which is
commonly misunderstood and often appalls cat owners because it looks
like torture, is that cats often appear to "play" with prey by
releasing it after capture. This behavior is due to an instinctive
imperative to ensure that the prey is weak enough to be killed without
endangering the cat. This behavior is referred to in the idiom
"cat-and-mouse game" or simply "cat and mouse".
Another poorly understood element of cat hunting behavior is the
presentation of prey to human guardians. Ethologist Paul Leyhausen
proposed that cats adopt humans into their social group and share
excess kill with others in the group according to the dominance
hierarchy, in which humans are reacted to as if they are at, or near,
the top. Anthropologist and zoologist Desmond Morris, in his 1986
book Catwatching, suggests, when cats bring home mice or birds, they
are attempting to teach their human to hunt, or trying to help their
human as if feeding "an elderly cat, or an inept kitten".
Morris's hypothesis is inconsistent with the fact that male cats also
bring home prey, despite males having negligible involvement with
Domestic cats select food based on its temperature, smell and texture;
they dislike chilled foods and respond most strongly to moist foods
rich in amino acids, which are similar to meat. Cats may
reject novel flavors (a response termed neophobia) and learn quickly
to avoid foods that have tasted unpleasant in the past. They may
also avoid sugary foods and milk. Most adult cats are lactose
intolerant; the sugars in milk are not easily digested and may cause
soft stools or diarrhea. They can also develop odd eating
habits. Some cats like to eat or chew on other things, most commonly
wool, but also plastic, cables, paper, string, aluminum foil, or even
coal. This condition, pica, can threaten their health, depending on
the amount and toxicity of the items eaten.
Though cats usually prey on animals less than half their size, a feral
cat in Australia has been photographed killing an adult pademelon of
around the cat's weight at 4 kg (8.8 lb).
Since cats lack lips to create suction, they use a lapping method
with the tongue to draw liquid upwards into their mouths. Lapping at a
rate of four times a second, the cat touches the smooth tip of its
tongue to the surface of the water, and quickly retracts it like a
corkscrew, drawing water upwards.
Cat play and toys
Play fight between kittens, age 14 weeks
Domestic cats, especially young kittens, are known for their love of
play. This behavior mimics hunting and is important in helping kittens
learn to stalk, capture, and kill prey. Cats also engage in play
fighting, with each other and with humans. This behavior may be a way
for cats to practice the skills needed for real combat, and might also
reduce any fear they associate with launching attacks on other
Owing to the close similarity between play and hunting, cats prefer to
play with objects that resemble prey, such as small furry toys that
move rapidly, but rapidly lose interest (they become habituated) in a
toy they have played with before. Cats also tend to play with
toys more when they are hungry. String is often used as a toy,
but if it is eaten, it can become caught at the base of the cat's
tongue and then move into the intestines, a medical emergency which
can cause serious illness, even death. Owing to the risks posed
by cats eating string, it is sometimes replaced with a laser pointer's
dot, which cats may chase.
See also: Kitten
When cats mate, the tomcat (male) bites the scruff of the female's
neck as she assumes a position conducive to mating known as lordosis
Radiography of a pregnant cat (about one month and a half)
Female cats are seasonally polyestrous, which means they may have many
periods of heat over the course of a year, the season beginning in
spring and ending in late autumn. Heat periods occur about every two
weeks and last about 4 to 7 days. Multiple males will be
attracted to a female in heat. The males will fight over her, and the
victor wins the right to mate. At first, the female rejects the male,
but eventually the female allows the male to mate. The female utters a
loud yowl as the male pulls out of her because a male cat's penis has
a band of about 120–150 backwards-pointing penile spines, which are
about 1 mm long; upon withdrawal of the penis, the spines rake
the walls of the female's vagina, which acts to induce ovulation. This
act also occurs to clear the vagina of other sperm in the context of a
second (or more) mating, thus giving the later males a larger chance
After mating, the female washes her vulva thoroughly. If a male
attempts to mate with her at this point, the female will attack him.
After about 20 to 30 minutes, once the female is finished grooming,
the cycle will repeat.
Because ovulation is not always triggered by a single mating, females
may not be impregnated by the first male with which they mate.
Furthermore, cats are superfecund; that is, a female may mate with
more than one male when she is in heat, with the result that different
kittens in a litter may have different fathers.
A newborn kitten
At 124 hours after conception, the morula forms. At 148 hours, early
blastocysts form. At 10–12 days, implantation occurs.
The gestation period for cats is between 64 and 67 days, with an
average of 66 days. The size of a litter usually is three to five
kittens, with the first litter usually smaller than subsequent
litters. Kittens are weaned between six and seven weeks old, and cats
normally reach sexual maturity at 5–10 months (females) and to 5–7
months (males), although this can vary depending on breed.
Females can have two to three litters per year, so may produce up to
150 kittens in their breeding span of around ten years.
Cats are ready to go to new homes at about 12 weeks of age, when
they are ready to leave their mother. They can be surgically
sterilized (spayed or castrated) as early as 7 weeks to limit unwanted
reproduction. This surgery also prevents undesirable sex-related
behavior, such as aggression, territory marking (spraying urine) in
males and yowling (calling) in females. Traditionally, this surgery
was performed at around six to nine months of age, but it is
increasingly being performed prior to puberty, at about three to six
months. In the US, about 80% of household cats are neutered.
A cat in snowy weather
Cats are a cosmopolitan species and are found across much of the
world. 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." 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 isolated islands such as the
Feral cats can live in forests, grasslands, tundra, coastal areas,
agricultural land, scrublands, urban areas, and wetlands. Their
habitats even include small oceanic islands with no human
inhabitants. Further, the close relatives of domestic cats, the
African wildcat (
Felis silvestris lybica) and the Arabian sand cat
Felis margarita) both inhabit desert environments, and domestic
cats still show similar adaptations and behaviors. The cat's
ability to thrive in almost any terrestrial habitat has led to its
designation as one of the world's worst invasive species.
As domestic cats are little altered from wildcats, they can readily
interbreed. This hybridization poses a danger to the genetic
distinctiveness of some wildcat populations, particularly in Scotland
Hungary and possibly also the Iberian Peninsula.
Feral farm cat
Feral cats are domestic cats that were born in or have reverted to a
wild state. They are unfamiliar with and wary of humans and roam
freely in urban and rural areas. The numbers of feral cats is not
known, but estimates of the US feral population range from 25 to
Feral cats may live alone, but most are found in
large colonies, which occupy a specific territory and are usually
associated with a source of food. Famous feral cat colonies are
found in Rome around the
Colosseum and Forum Romanum, with cats at
some of these sites being fed and given medical attention by
Public attitudes towards feral cats vary widely, ranging from seeing
them as free-ranging pets, to regarding them as vermin. One
common approach to reducing the feral cat population is termed
'trap-neuter-return', where the cats are trapped, neutered, immunized
against diseases such as rabies and the feline Panleukopenia and
Leukemia viruses, and then released. Before releasing them back
into their feral colonies, the attending veterinarian often nips the
tip off one ear to mark it as neutered and inoculated, since these
cats may be trapped again. Volunteers continue to feed and give care
to these cats throughout their lives. Given this support, their
lifespans are increased, and behavior and nuisance problems caused by
competition for food are reduced.
Impact on prey species
Carrying half of a rabbit
To date, little scientific data is available to assess the impact of
cat predation on prey populations outside of agricultural situations.
Even well-fed domestic cats may hunt and kill, mainly catching small
mammals, but also birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, and
invertebrates. Hunting by domestic cats may be contributing
to the decline in the numbers of birds in urban areas, although the
importance of this effect remains controversial. In the wild, the
introduction of feral cats during human settlement can threaten native
species with extinction. In many cases, controlling or
eliminating the populations of non-native cats can produce a rapid
recovery in native animals. However, the ecological role of
introduced cats can be more complicated. For example, cats can control
the numbers of rats, which also prey on birds' eggs and young, so a
cat population can protect an endangered bird species by suppressing
In isolated landmasses, such as Australasia, there are often no other
native, medium-sized quadrupedal predators (including other feline
species); this tends to exacerbate the impact of feral cats on small
native animals. Native species such as the New Zealand kakapo and
the Australian bettong, for example, tend to be more ecologically
vulnerable and behaviorally "naive", when faced with predation by
Feral cats have had a major impact on these native species
and have played a leading role in the endangerment and extinction of
Even in places with ancient and numerous cat populations, such as
Western Europe, cats appear to be growing in number and independently
of their environments' carrying capacity (such as the numbers of prey
available). This may be explained, at least in part, by an
abundance of food, from sources including feeding by pet owners and
scavenging. For instance, research in Britain suggests that a high
proportion of cats hunt only "recreationally". And in South
Sweden, where research in 1982 found that the population density of
cats was as high as 2,000 per square kilometre
In agricultural settings, cats can be effective at keeping mouse and
rat populations low, but only if rodent harborage locations are kept
under control. While cats are effective at preventing rodent
population explosions, they are not effective for eliminating
pre-existing severe infestations.
Impact on birds
A black cat eating a house sparrow
The domestic cat is a significant predator of birds. UK assessments
indicate they may be accountable for an estimated 64.8 million
bird deaths each year. A 2012 study suggests feral cats may kill
several billion birds each year in the United States. Certain
species appear more susceptible than others; for example, 30% of house
sparrow mortality is linked to the domestic cat. In the recovery
of ringed robins (Erithacus rubecula) and dunnocks (Prunella
modularis), 31% of deaths were a result of cat predation. In
parts of North America, the presence of larger carnivores such as
coyotes which prey on cats and other small predators reduces the
effect of predation by cats and other small predators such as opossums
and raccoons on bird numbers and variety. The proposal that cat
populations will increase when the numbers of these top predators
decline is called the mesopredator release hypothesis.
On islands, birds can contribute as much as 60% of a cat's diet.
In nearly all cases, however, the cat cannot be identified as the sole
cause for reducing the numbers of island birds, and in some instances,
eradication of cats has caused a 'mesopredator release' effect;
where the suppression of top carnivores creates an abundance of
smaller predators that cause a severe decline in their shared prey.
Domestic cats are, however, known to be a contributing factor to the
decline of many species, a factor that has ultimately led, in some
cases, to extinction. The South Island piopio, Chatham rail, the
New Zealand merganser, and the common diving petrel are a
few from a long list, with the most extreme case being the flightless
Lyall's wren, which was driven to extinction only a few years after
Some of the same factors that have promoted adaptive radiation of
island avifauna over evolutionary time appear to promote vulnerability
to non-native species in modern time. The susceptibility of many
island birds is undoubtedly due to evolution in the absence of
mainland predators, competitors, diseases, and parasites, in addition
to lower reproductive rates and extended incubation periods. The
loss of flight, or reduced flying ability is also characteristic of
many island endemics. These biological aspects have increased
vulnerability to extinction in the presence of introduced species,
such as the domestic cat. Equally, behavioral traits exhibited by
island species, such as "predatory naivety" and
ground-nesting, have also contributed to their susceptibility.
Interaction with humans
Main article: Human interaction with cats
Cats and people
Cats are common pets throughout the world, and their worldwide
population exceeds 500 million. Although cat guardianship has
commonly been associated with women, a 2007
Gallup poll reported
that men and women in the United States of America were equally likely
to own a cat.
As well as being kept as pets, cats are also used in the international
fur and leather industries for making coats, hats, blankets and
stuffed toys; and shoes, gloves and musical instruments
respectively (about 24 cats are needed to make a cat fur
coat). This use has now been outlawed in the United States,
Australia, and the European Union.
Cat pelts have been used for
superstitious purposes as part of the practise of witchcraft, and
are still made into blankets in
Switzerland as folk remedies believed
to help rheumatism. In the Western intellectual tradition, the
idea of cats as everyday objects have served to illustrate problems of
quantum mechanics in the
Schrödinger's cat thought experiment.
A few attempts to build a cat census have been made over the years,
both through associations or national and international organizations
(such as the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies's one) and
over the Internet, but such a task does not seem simple to
achieve. General estimates for the global population of domestic cats
range widely from anywhere between 200 million to 600
A cat show is a judged event where the owners of cats compete to win
titles in various cat registering organizations by entering their cats
to be judged after a breed standard. Both pedigreed and companion (or
moggy) cats are admissible, although the rules differ from
organization to organization. Cats are compared to a breed standard,
and the owners of those judged to be closest to it are awarded a
prize. Moggies are judged based on their temperament. Often, at the
end of the year, all of the points accrued at various shows are added
up and more national and regional titles are awarded.
A cat café is a theme café whose attraction is cats that can be
watched and played with. Patrons pay a cover fee, generally hourly and
thus cat cafés can be seen as a form of supervised indoor pet rental.
Main article: Ailurophobia
Ailurophobia is a human phobia of cats; however, the term is often
associated with humans that have a hatred of cats.
Cats may bite humans when provoked, during play or when aggressive.
Complications from cat bites can develop. A cat bite differs from
the bites of other pets. This is because the teeth of a cat are sharp
and pointed causing deep punctures. Skin usually closes rapidly over
the bite and traps microorganisms that cause infection.
Infections transmitted from cats to humans
Main article: Feline zoonosis
Cats can be infected or infested with viruses, bacteria, fungus,
protozoans, arthropods or worms that can transmit diseases to
humans. In some cases, the cat exhibits no symptoms of the
disease, However, the same disease can then become evident in a
human. The likelihood that a person will become diseased depends on
the age and immune status of the person. Humans who have cats living
in their home or in close association are more likely to become
infected, however, those who do not keep cats as pets might also
acquire infections from cat feces and parasites exiting the cat's
body. Some of the infections of most concern include
salmonella, cat scratch disease and toxoplasmosis.
History and mythology
Cultural depictions of cats
Cultural depictions of cats and Cats in ancient Egypt
The ancient Egyptians mummified dead cats out of respect in the same
way that they mummified people.
Roman mosaic of a cat killing a partridge from the House of
the Faun in Pompeii
A 19th-century drawing of a tabby cat
Traditionally, historians tended to think ancient Egypt was the site
of cat domestication, owing to the clear depictions of house cats in
Egyptian paintings about 3,600 years old. However, in 2004, a
Neolithic grave excavated in Shillourokambos, Cyprus, contained the
skeletons, laid close to one another, of both a human and a cat. The
grave is estimated to be 9,500 years old, pushing back the earliest
known feline–human association significantly. The cat
specimen is large and closely resembles the African wildcat, rather
than present-day domestic cats. This discovery, combined with genetic
studies, suggests cats were probably domesticated in the Middle East,
Fertile Crescent around the time of the development of
agriculture, and then were brought to
Cyprus and Egypt. Direct
evidence for the domestication of cats 5,300 years ago in Quanhucun,
China has been published by archaeologists and paleontologists from
University of Washington
University of Washington and Chinese Academy of Sciences. The cats
are believed to have been attracted to the village by rodents, which
in turn were attracted by grain cultivated and stored by humans.
In ancient Egypt, cats were sacred animals, with the goddess Bastet
often depicted in cat form, sometimes taking on the war-like aspect of
a lioness.:220 Killing a cat was absolutely forbidden and
the Greek historian
Herodotus reports that, whenever a household cat
died, the entire family would mourn and shave their eyebrows.
Families took their dead cats to the sacred city of Bubastis,
where they were embalmed and buried in sacred repositories.
Domestic cats were probably first introduced to Greece and southern
Italy in the fifth century BC by the Phoenicians. The earliest
unmistakable evidence of the Greeks having domestic cats comes from
two coins from
Magna Graecia dating to the mid-fifth century BC
showing Iokastos and Phalanthos, the legendary founders of Rhegion and
Taras respectively, playing with their pet cats.:57–58
Housecats seem to have been extremely rare among the ancient Greeks
Herodotus expressed astonishment at the domestic cats
in Egypt, because he had only ever seen wildcats. Even during
later times, weasels were far more commonly kept as pets and
weasels, not cats, were seen as the ideal rodent-killers. The
usual ancient Greek word for "cat" was ailouros, meaning "thing with
the waving tail",:57 but this word could also be applied to
any of the "various long-tailed carnivores kept for catching
mice". Cats are rarely mentioned in ancient Greek
Aristotle does remark in his History of Animals
that "female cats are naturally lecherous.":74 The Greeks
later syncretized their own goddess
Artemis with the Egyptian goddess
Bastet, adopting Bastet's associations with cats and ascribing them to
Artemis.:77–79 In Ovid's Metamorphoses, when the gods flee to
Egypt and take animal forms, the goddess Diana (the Roman equivalent
of Artemis) turns into a cat.:79 Cats eventually displaced
ferrets as the pest control of choice because they were more pleasant
to have around the house and were more enthusiastic hunters of
mice. During the Middle Ages, many of Artemis's associations with
cats were grafted onto the Virgin Mary. Cats are often shown in
Annunciation and of the Holy Family and, according to
Italian folklore, on the same night that Mary gave birth to Jesus, a
virgin cat in
Bethlehem gave birth to a kitten. Domestic cats
were spread throughout much of the rest of the world during the Age of
Discovery, as ships' cats were carried on sailing ships to control
shipboard rodents and as good-luck charms.:223
Several ancient religions believed cats are exalted souls, companions
or guides for humans, that are all-knowing but mute so they cannot
influence decisions made by humans. In Japan, the maneki neko cat is a
symbol of good fortune. In Norse mythology, Freyja, the goddess
of love, beauty, and fertility, is depicted as riding a chariot drawn
by cats. In Jewish legend, the first cat was living in the house
of the first man
Adam as a pet that get rid of mice from the
house. The cat was once partnering with the first dog before the
latter broke an oath they had made which resulted in enmity between
the descendants of these two animals. It is also written that
neither cats nor foxes are represented in the water, while every other
animal has an incarnation species in the water. Although no
species are sacred in Islam, cats are revered by Muslims. Some Western
writers have stated
Muhammad had a favorite cat, Muezza. He is
reported to have loved cats so much, "he would do without his cloak
rather than disturb one that was sleeping on it". The story has
no origin in early Muslim writers, and seems to confuse a story of a
Sufi saint, Ahmed ar-Rifa'i, centuries after Muhammad. One
of the companions of
Muhammad was known as "Abu Hurayrah" (Father of
the Kitten), in reference to his documented affection to cats.
Superstitions and cat burning
Many cultures have negative superstitions about cats. An example would
be the belief that a black cat "crossing one's path" leads to bad
luck, or that cats are witches' familiars used to augment a witch's
powers and skills. The killing of cats in Medieval Ypres, Belgium, is
commemorated in the innocuous present-day
parade). In medieval France, cats would be burnt alive as a form
of entertainment. According to Norman Davies, the assembled people
"shrieked with laughter as the animals, howling with pain, were
singed, roasted, and finally carbonized".
"It was the custom to burn a basket, barrel, or sack full of live
cats, which was hung from a tall mast in the midst of the bonfire;
sometimes a fox was burned. The people collected the embers and ashes
of the fire and took them home, believing that they brought good luck.
The French kings often witnessed these spectacles and even lit the
bonfire with their own hands. In 1648 Louis XIV, crowned with a wreath
of roses and carrying a bunch of roses in his hand, kindled the fire,
danced at it and partook of the banquet afterwards in the town hall.
But this was the last occasion when a monarch presided at the
midsummer bonfire in Paris. At
Metz midsummer fires were lighted with
great pomp on the esplanade, and a dozen cats, enclosed in wicker
cages, were burned alive in them, to the amusement of the people.
Similarly at Gap, in the department of the Hautes-Alpes, cats used to
be roasted over the midsummer bonfire."
According to a myth in many cultures, cats have multiple lives. In
many countries, they are believed to have nine lives, but in Italy,
Germany, Greece, Brazil and some Spanish-speaking regions, they are
said to have seven lives, while in Turkish and Arabic
traditions, the number of lives is six. The myth is attributed to
the natural suppleness and swiftness cats exhibit to escape
life-threatening situations. Also lending credence to this myth is the
fact that falling cats often land on their feet, using an instinctive
righting reflex to twist their bodies around. Nonetheless, cats can
still be injured or killed by a high fall.
Aging in cats
Animal testing on cats
Cancer in cats
Cat and mouse (cat-and-mouse game)
Cats and the Internet
List of cat breeds
List of cat documentaries
List of cats
List of fictional cats and felines
Pet door including cat flap
Pet first aid
Popular cat names
Cats by location
Cats in ancient Egypt
Cats in Australia
Cats in New Zealand
Cats in the United States
Taurine is sometimes called an amino acid, and indeed is an acid
containing an amino group, it is not an amino acid in the usual
biochemical meaning of the term, which refers to compounds containing
both an amino and a carboxyl group.
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^ a b c Ginzberg, Louis (1909). The
Legends of the Jews Vol. I :
The Sixth Day (Translated by Henrietta Szold) Philadelphia: Jewish
^ Geyer, Georgie Anne (2004). When Cats Reigned Like Kings: On the
Trail of the Sacred Cats. Kansas City, Missouri: Andrews McMeel.
^ Minou Reeves (2000).
Muhammad in Europe. New York University (NYU)
Press. p. 52. ISBN 0-8147-7533-0.
^ Al-Thahabi, Shamsuddin. "Biography of al-Rifai". سير أعلام
النبلاء (in Arabic). Archived from the original on 25 October
2014. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
^ "Abu Hurairah and Cats". 13 January 2015.
^ "Are Black Cats Really Bad Luck? [Hoax]". SocialNewsDaily. Archived
from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 19 December
^ Davies, Norman (1996). Europe: A History. Oxford University Press.
p. 543. ISBN 0-198-20171-0.
^ Frazer, Sir James George. The Golden Bough, (1922). Online version.
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Comercio. Archived from the original on 27 January 2012. Retrieved 19
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Cat at Wikiquote
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Play and toys
Cats in ancient Egypt
Cats and Islam
Cat Fanciers Association
Associazione Nazionale Felina Italiana
Cat Aficionado Association
Cat Fanciers' Association
Fédération Internationale Féline
Governing Council of the
Chinese Li Hua
Congenital sensorineural deafness
Lower urinary tract disease
African palm civet
African palm civet (N. binotata)
Marsh mongoose (A. paludinosus)
Bushy-tailed mongoose (B. crassicauda)
Jackson's mongoose (B. jacksoni)
Black-footed mongoose (B. nigripes)
Alexander's kusimanse (C. alexandri)
Angolan kusimanse (C. ansorgei)
Common kusimanse (C. obscurus)
Flat-headed kusimanse (C. platycephalus)
Yellow mongoose (C. penicillata)
Pousargues's mongoose (D. dybowskii)
Angolan slender mongoose
Angolan slender mongoose (G. flavescens)
Black mongoose (G. nigrata)
Somalian slender mongoose
Somalian slender mongoose (G. ochracea)
Cape gray mongoose
Cape gray mongoose (G. pulverulenta)
Slender mongoose (G. sanguinea)
Ethiopian dwarf mongoose
Ethiopian dwarf mongoose (H. hirtula)
Common dwarf mongoose
Common dwarf mongoose (H. parvula)
Short-tailed mongoose (H. brachyurus)
Indian gray mongoose
Indian gray mongoose (H. edwardsii)
Indian brown mongoose
Indian brown mongoose (H. fuscus)
Egyptian mongoose (H. ichneumon)
Small Asian mongoose
Small Asian mongoose (H. javanicus)
Long-nosed mongoose (H. naso)
Collared mongoose (H. semitorquatus)
Ruddy mongoose (H. smithii)
Crab-eating mongoose (H. urva)
Stripe-necked mongoose (H. vitticollis)
White-tailed mongoose (I. albicauda)
Liberian mongoose (L. kuhni)
Gambian mongoose (M. gambianus)
Banded mongoose (M. mungo)
Selous' mongoose (P. selousi)
Meller's mongoose (R. melleri)
Meerkat (S. suricatta)
Spotted hyena (C. crocuta)
Brown hyena (H. brunnea)
Striped hyena (H. hyaena)
Aardwolf (P. cristatus)
Large family listed below
Large family listed below
Small family listed below
Cheetah (A. jubatus)
Caracal (C. caracal)
African golden cat
African golden cat (C. aurata)
Bay cat (C. badia)
Asian golden cat
Asian golden cat (C. temminckii)
European wildcat (F. silvestris)
African wildcat (F. lybica)
Jungle cat (F. chaus)
Black-footed cat (F. nigripes)
Sand cat (F. margarita)
Chinese mountain cat
Chinese mountain cat (F. bieti)
Domestic cat (F. catus)
Ocelot (L. pardalis)
Margay (L. wiedii)
Pampas cat (L. colocola)
Geoffroy's cat (L. geoffroyi)
Kodkod (L. guigna)
Andean mountain cat
Andean mountain cat (L. jacobita)
Oncilla (L. tigrinus)
Southern tigrina (L. guttulus)
Serval (L. serval)
Canadian lynx (L. canadensis)
Eurasian lynx (L. lynx)
Iberian lynx (L. pardinus)
Bobcat (L. rufus)
Pallas's cat (O. manul)
Marbled cat (P. marmorata)
Fishing cat (P. viverrinus)
Leopard cat (P. bengalensis)
Sundaland leopard cat (P. javanensis)
Flat-headed cat (P. planiceps)
Rusty-spotted cat (P. rubiginosus)
Cougar (P. concolor)
Jaguarundi (H. yagouaroundi)
Lion (P. leo)
Jaguar (P. onca)
Leopard (P. pardus)
Tiger (P. tigris)
Snow leopard (P. uncia)
Clouded leopard (N. nebulosa)
Sunda clouded leopard
Sunda clouded leopard (N. diardi)
Viverridae (includes Civets)
Binturong (A. binturong)
Small-toothed palm civet
Small-toothed palm civet (A. trivirgata)
Sulawesi palm civet
Sulawesi palm civet (M. musschenbroekii)
Masked palm civet
Masked palm civet (P. larvata)
Golden wet-zone palm civet (P. aureus)
Asian palm civet
Asian palm civet (P. hermaphroditus)
Jerdon's palm civet (P. jerdoni)
Golden palm civet
Golden palm civet (P. zeylonensis)
Owston's palm civet
Owston's palm civet (C. owstoni)
Otter civet (C. bennettii)
Hose's palm civet
Hose's palm civet (D. hosei)
Banded palm civet
Banded palm civet (H. derbyanus)
Banded linsang (P. linsang)
Spotted linsang (P. pardicolor)
African civet (C. civetta)
Abyssinian genet (G. abyssinica)
Angolan genet (G. angolensis)
Bourlon's genet (G. bourloni)
Crested servaline genet
Crested servaline genet (G. cristata)
Common genet (G. genetta)
Johnston's genet (G. johnstoni)
Rusty-spotted genet (G. maculata)
Pardine genet (G. pardina)
Aquatic genet (G. piscivora)
King genet (G. poensis)
Servaline genet (G. servalina)
Haussa genet (G. thierryi)
Cape genet (G. tigrina)
Giant forest genet
Giant forest genet (G. victoriae)
African linsang (P. richardsonii)
Leighton's linsang (P. leightoni)
Malabar large-spotted civet
Malabar large-spotted civet (V. civettina)
Large-spotted civet (V. megaspila)
Malayan civet (V. tangalunga)
Large Indian civet
Large Indian civet (V. zibetha)
Small Indian civet
Small Indian civet (V. indica)
Fossa (C. ferox)
Eastern falanouc (E. goudotii)
Western falanouc (E. major)
Malagasy civet (F. fossana)
Ring-tailed mongoose (G. elegans)
Broad-striped Malagasy mongoose
Broad-striped Malagasy mongoose (G. fasciata)
Grandidier's mongoose (G. grandidieri)
Narrow-striped mongoose (M. decemlineata)
Brown-tailed mongoose (S. concolor)
Durrell's vontsira (S. durrelli)
Caniformia (cont. below)
Giant panda (A. melanoleuca)
Sun bear (H. malayanus)
Sloth bear (M. ursinus)
Spectacled bear (T. ornatus)
American black bear
American black bear (U. americanus)
Brown bear (U. arctos)
Polar bear (U. maritimus)
Asian black bear
Asian black bear (U. thibetanus)
Molina's hog-nosed skunk
Molina's hog-nosed skunk (C. chinga)
Humboldt's hog-nosed skunk
Humboldt's hog-nosed skunk (C. humboldtii)
American hog-nosed skunk
American hog-nosed skunk (C. leuconotus)
Striped hog-nosed skunk
Striped hog-nosed skunk (C. semistriatus)
Hooded skunk (M. macroura)
Striped skunk (M. mephitis)
Sunda stink badger
Sunda stink badger (M. javanensis)
Palawan stink badger
Palawan stink badger (M. marchei)
Southern spotted skunk
Southern spotted skunk (S. angustifrons)
Western spotted skunk
Western spotted skunk (S. gracilis)
Eastern spotted skunk
Eastern spotted skunk (S. putorius)
Pygmy spotted skunk
Pygmy spotted skunk (S. pygmaea)
Eastern lowland olingo
Eastern lowland olingo (B. alleni)
Northern olingo (B. gabbii)
Western lowland olingo
Western lowland olingo (B. medius)
Olinguito (B. neblina)
Ring-tailed cat (B. astutus)
Cacomistle (B. sumichrasti)
White-nosed coati (N. narica)
South American coati
South American coati (N. nasua)
Western mountain coati (N. olivacea)
Eastern mountain coati (N. meridensis)
Kinkajou (P. flavus)
Crab-eating raccoon (P. cancrivorus)
Raccoon (P. lotor)
Cozumel raccoon (P. pygmaeus)
Red panda (A. fulgens)
Caniformia (cont. above)
(includes fur seals
and sea lions)
South American fur seal
South American fur seal (A. australis)
Australasian fur seal (A. forsteri)
Galápagos fur seal
Galápagos fur seal (A. galapagoensis)
Antarctic fur seal
Antarctic fur seal (A. gazella)
Juan Fernández fur seal
Juan Fernández fur seal (A. philippii)
Brown fur seal
Brown fur seal (A. pusillus)
Guadalupe fur seal
Guadalupe fur seal (A. townsendi)
Subantarctic fur seal
Subantarctic fur seal (A. tropicalis)
Northern fur seal
Northern fur seal (C. ursinus)
Steller sea lion
Steller sea lion (E. jubatus)
Australian sea lion
Australian sea lion (N. cinerea)
South American sea lion
South American sea lion (O. flavescens)
New Zealand sea lion
New Zealand sea lion (P. hookeri)
California sea lion
California sea lion (Z. californianus)
Galápagos sea lion
Galápagos sea lion (Z. wollebaeki)
Walrus (O. rosmarus)
Hooded seal (C. cristata)
Bearded seal (E. barbatus)
Gray seal (H. grypus)
Ribbon seal (H. fasciata)
Leopard seal (H. leptonyx)
Weddell seal (L. weddellii)
Crabeater seal (L. carcinophagus)
Northern elephant seal
Northern elephant seal (M. angustirostris)
Southern elephant seal
Southern elephant seal (M. leonina)
Mediterranean monk seal
Mediterranean monk seal (M. monachus)
Hawaiian monk seal
Hawaiian monk seal (M. schauinslandi)
Ross seal (O. rossi)
Harp seal (P. groenlandicus)
Spotted seal (P. largha)
Harbor seal (P. vitulina)
Caspian seal (P. caspica)
Ringed seal (P. hispida)
Baikal seal (P. sibirica)
Large family listed below
Large family listed below
Canidae (includes dogs)
Short-eared dog (A. microtis)
Side-striped jackal (C. adustus)
African golden wolf
African golden wolf (C. anthus)
Golden jackal (C. aureus)
Coyote (C. latrans)
Gray wolf (C. lupus)
Black-backed jackal (C. mesomelas)
Red wolf (C. rufus)
Ethiopian wolf (C. simensis)
Crab-eating fox (C. thous)
Maned wolf (C. brachyurus)
Dhole (C. alpinus)
Culpeo (L. culpaeus)
Darwin's fox (L. fulvipes)
South American gray fox
South American gray fox (L. griseus)
Pampas fox (L. gymnocercus)
Sechuran fox (L. sechurae)
Hoary fox (L. vetulus)
African wild dog
African wild dog (L. pictus)
Raccoon dog (N. procyonoides)
Bat-eared fox (O. megalotis)
Bush dog (S. venaticus)
Gray fox (U. cinereoargenteus)
Island fox (U. littoralis)
Bengal fox (V. bengalensis)
Blanford's fox (V. cana)
Cape fox (V. chama)
Corsac fox (V. corsac)
Tibetan sand fox
Tibetan sand fox (V. ferrilata)
Arctic fox (V. lagopus)
Kit fox (V. macrotis)
Pale fox (V. pallida)
Rüppell's fox (V. rueppelli)
Swift fox (V. velox)
Red fox (V. vulpes)
Fennec fox (V. zerda)
African clawless otter
African clawless otter (A. capensis)
Oriental small-clawed otter
Oriental small-clawed otter (A. cinerea)
Sea otter (E. lutris)
Spotted-necked otter (H. maculicollis)
North American river otter
North American river otter (L. canadensis)
Marine otter (L. felina)
Neotropical otter (L. longicaudis)
Southern river otter
Southern river otter (L. provocax)
Eurasian otter (L. lutra)
Hairy-nosed otter (L. sumatrana)
Smooth-coated otter (L. perspicillata)
Giant otter (P. brasiliensis)
Hog badger (A. collaris)
Tayra (E. barbara)
Lesser grison (G. cuja)
Greater grison (G. vittata)
Wolverine (G. gulo)
Saharan striped polecat
Saharan striped polecat (I. libyca)
Striped polecat (I. striatus)
Patagonian weasel (L. patagonicus)
American marten (M. americana)
Yellow-throated marten (M. flavigula)
Beech marten (M. foina)
Nilgiri marten (M. gwatkinsii)
European pine marten
European pine marten (M. martes)
Japanese marten (M. melampus)
Sable (M. zibellina)
Fisher (P. pennanti)
Japanese badger (M. anakuma)
Asian badger (M. leucurus)
European badger (M. meles)
Honey badger (M. capensis)
Bornean ferret-badger (M. everetti)
Chinese ferret-badger (M. moschata)
Javan ferret-badger (M. orientalis)
Burmese ferret-badger (M. personata)
(Weasels and Ferrets)
Amazon weasel (M. africana)
Mountain weasel (M. altaica)
Stoat (M. erminea)
Steppe polecat (M. eversmannii)
Colombian weasel (M. felipei)
Long-tailed weasel (M. frenata)
Japanese weasel (M. itatsi)
Yellow-bellied weasel (M. kathiah)
European mink (M. lutreola)
Indonesian mountain weasel
Indonesian mountain weasel (M. lutreolina)
Black-footed ferret (M. nigripes)
Least weasel (M. nivalis)
Malayan weasel (M. nudipes)
European polecat (M. putorius)
Siberian weasel (M. sibirica)
Back-striped weasel (M. strigidorsa)
Egyptian weasel (M. subpalmata)
American mink (N. vison)
African striped weasel
African striped weasel (P. albinucha)
American badger (T. taxus)
Marbled polecat (V. peregusna)