Cat
Overview
The cat also known as the domestic cat or housecat to distinguish it from other felids
Felidae
Felidae is the biological family of the cats; a member of this family is called a felid. Felids are the strictest carnivores of the thirteen terrestrial families in the order Carnivora, although the three families of marine mammals comprising the superfamily pinnipedia are as carnivorous as the...

 and felines
Felinae
Felinae is a subfamily of the family Felidae which includes the genera and species listed below. Most are small to medium-sized cats, although the group does include some larger animals, such as the Cougar and Cheetah....

, is a small, usually furry, domesticated
Domestication
Domestication or taming is the process whereby a population of animals or plants, through a process of selection, becomes accustomed to human provision and control. In the Convention on Biological Diversity a domesticated species is defined as a 'species in which the evolutionary process has been...

, carnivorous
Carnivore
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging...

 mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

 that is valued by human
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

s for its companionship and for its ability to hunt vermin
Vermin
Vermin is a term applied to various animal species regarded by some as pests or nuisances and especially to those associated with the carrying of disease. Since the term is defined in relation to human activities, which species are included will vary from area to area and even person to person...

 and household pests. Cats have been associated with humans for at least 9,500 years, and are currently the most popular pet in the world. Owing to their close association with humans, cats are now found almost everywhere in the world.

Cats are similar in anatomy
Anatomy
Anatomy is a branch of biology and medicine that is the consideration of the structure of living things. It is a general term that includes human anatomy, animal anatomy , and plant anatomy...

 to the other felids, with strong, flexible bodies, quick reflexes, sharp retractable claws, and teeth adapted to killing small prey.
Encyclopedia
The cat also known as the domestic cat or housecat to distinguish it from other felids
Felidae
Felidae is the biological family of the cats; a member of this family is called a felid. Felids are the strictest carnivores of the thirteen terrestrial families in the order Carnivora, although the three families of marine mammals comprising the superfamily pinnipedia are as carnivorous as the...

 and felines
Felinae
Felinae is a subfamily of the family Felidae which includes the genera and species listed below. Most are small to medium-sized cats, although the group does include some larger animals, such as the Cougar and Cheetah....

, is a small, usually furry, domesticated
Domestication
Domestication or taming is the process whereby a population of animals or plants, through a process of selection, becomes accustomed to human provision and control. In the Convention on Biological Diversity a domesticated species is defined as a 'species in which the evolutionary process has been...

, carnivorous
Carnivore
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging...

 mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

 that is valued by human
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

s for its companionship and for its ability to hunt vermin
Vermin
Vermin is a term applied to various animal species regarded by some as pests or nuisances and especially to those associated with the carrying of disease. Since the term is defined in relation to human activities, which species are included will vary from area to area and even person to person...

 and household pests. Cats have been associated with humans for at least 9,500 years, and are currently the most popular pet in the world. Owing to their close association with humans, cats are now found almost everywhere in the world.

Cats are similar in anatomy
Anatomy
Anatomy is a branch of biology and medicine that is the consideration of the structure of living things. It is a general term that includes human anatomy, animal anatomy , and plant anatomy...

 to the other felids, with strong, flexible bodies, quick reflexes, sharp retractable claws, and teeth adapted to killing small prey. As crepuscular
Crepuscular
Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight, that is during dawn and dusk. The word is derived from the Latin word crepusculum, meaning "twilight." Crepuscular is, thus, in contrast with diurnal and nocturnal behavior. Crepuscular animals may also be active on a bright...

 predators, cats use their acute hearing and ability to see in near darkness to locate prey. Not only can cats hear sounds too faint for human ears, they can also hear sounds higher in frequency
Frequency
Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit time. It is also referred to as temporal frequency.The period is the duration of one cycle in a repeating event, so the period is the reciprocal of the frequency...

 than humans can perceive. This is because the usual prey of cats (particularly rodents such as mice) make high frequency noises, so the hearing of the cat has evolved
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 to pinpoint these faint high-pitched sounds. Cats also have a much better sense of smell than humans.

Despite being solitary hunters, cats are a social species and use a variety of vocalization
Animal communication
Animal communication is any behavior on the part of one animal that has an effect on the current or future behaviour of another animal. The study of animal communication, is sometimes called Zoosemiotics has played an important part in the...

s, pheromone
Pheromone
A pheromone is a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in members of the same species. Pheromones are chemicals capable of acting outside the body of the secreting individual to impact the behavior of the receiving individual...

s and types of body language for communication
Cat communication
Cat communication is the range of methods by which cats communicate with other cats, humans, and other animals. Communication methods include postures, movement , and auditory and chemical signals.The communication methods used by cats have been affected by the domestication process.-Auditory...

. These include meowing, purr
Purr
A purr is a sound made by all species of felids and is a part of cat communication. It varies between cats , and from species to species, but can be characterized as a tonal buzzing. Domestic cats purr in a frequency of 25 to 150 vibrations per second...

ing, trilling
Trill consonant
In phonetics, a trill is a consonantal sound produced by vibrations between the articulator and the place of articulation. Standard Spanish <rr> as in perro is an alveolar trill, while in Parisian French it is almost always uvular....

, hissing, growling
Growling
Growling or growl is a low, guttural vocalization produced by predatory animals as a warning to others, as a sign of aggression, or to express anger. Low or dull rumbling noises may also be emitted by human beings when discontent with something or angry...

, and grunting.

Cats have a rapid breeding rate. Under controlled breeding, they can be bred and shown as registered
Cat registry
A cat registry is an organisation that registers cats for exhibition and breeding purposes. A cat registry stores the pedigrees of cats, prefixes or affixes of catteries, studbooks , breed descriptions and the standards of points for those breeds; lists of judges qualified to judge at shows run...

 pedigree pets, a hobby known as cat fancy
Animal fancy
Animal fancy is a hobby involving the appreciation, promotion, or breeding of pet or domestic animals.Fancy may include ownership, showing, trialling and other competitions, breeding and judging. Hobbyists may simply collect specimens of the animal in appropriate enclosures, such as aquaria and...

. Failure to control the breeding of pet cats by spaying and neutering and the abandonment of former household pets has resulted in large numbers of feral cat
Feral cat
A feral cat is a descendant of a domesticated cat that has returned to the wild. It is distinguished from a stray cat, which is a pet cat that has been lost or abandoned, while feral cats are born in the wild; the offspring of a stray cat can be considered feral if born in the wild.In many parts of...

s worldwide, with a population of up to 60 million of these animals in the United States alone.

As The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

wrote in 2007, "Until recently the cat was commonly believed to have been domesticated in ancient Egypt, where it was a cult animal", but a study that year revealed that the lines of descent of all house cats probably run through as few as five self-domesticating African Wildcats (Felis silvestris lybica) c. 8000 BC, in the Near East
Near East
The Near East is a geographical term that covers different countries for geographers, archeologists, and historians, on the one hand, and for political scientists, economists, and journalists, on the other...

. The earliest direct evidence of cat domestication is a kitten
Kitten
A kitten is a juvenile domesticated cat.The young of big cats are called cubs rather than kittens. Either term may be used for the young of smaller wild felids such as ocelots, caracals, and lynx, but "kitten" is usually more common for these species....

 that was buried alongside a human 9,500 years ago in Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

.

Nomenclature and etymology

The word cat derives from Old English catt, which belongs to a group of related words in European languages
Languages of Europe
Most of the languages of Europe belong to Indo-European language family. These are divided into a number of branches, including Romance, Germanic, Balto-Slavic, Greek, and others. The Uralic languages also have a significant presence in Europe, including the national languages Hungarian, Finnish,...

, including Welsh cath, Spanish gato, French chat (ʃa), Basque katu, Byzantine Greek κάτια kátia, Old Irish cat, Frisian and Dutch kat, German Katze, Lithuanian
Lithuanian language
Lithuanian is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they...

 katė, Finnish
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

 Kissa, Armenian
Armenian language
The Armenian language is an Indo-European language spoken by the Armenian people. It is the official language of the Republic of Armenia as well as in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The language is also widely spoken by Armenian communities in the Armenian diaspora...

 katu, and Old Church Slavonic
Old Church Slavonic
Old Church Slavonic or Old Church Slavic was the first literary Slavic language, first developed by the 9th century Byzantine Greek missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius who were credited with standardizing the language and using it for translating the Bible and other Ancient Greek...

 kotka. The ultimate source of all these terms is Late Latin
Late Latin
Late Latin is the scholarly name for the written Latin of Late Antiquity. The English dictionary definition of Late Latin dates this period from the 3rd to the 6th centuries AD extending in Spain to the 7th. This somewhat ambiguously defined period fits between Classical Latin and Medieval Latin...

 catus, cattus, catta "domestic cat", as opposed to feles 'European wildcat'. It is unclear whether the Greek or the Latin came first, but, like Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 qiṭṭ and Nubian
Nobiin language
Nobiin is a Northern Nubian language of the Nilo-Saharan phylum. ‘Nobiin’ is the genitive form of Nòòbíí ‘Nubian" and literally means ‘ of the Nubians"...

 kàdíís, they were undoubtedly borrowed from a word in an Afro-Asiatic
Afro-Asiatic languages
The Afroasiatic languages , also known as Hamito-Semitic, constitute one of the world's largest language families, with about 375 living languages...

 language akin to Berber
Berber languages
The Berber languages are a family of languages indigenous to North Africa, spoken from Siwa Oasis in Egypt to Morocco , and south to the countries of the Sahara Desert...

 kaddîska, meaning 'wildcat'. The term puss (as in pussycat) may come from Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 poes or from Low German
Low German
Low German or Low Saxon is an Ingvaeonic West Germanic language spoken mainly in northern Germany and the eastern part of the Netherlands...

 Puuskatte, dialectal Swedish
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

 kattepus, or Norwegian
Norwegian language
Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway, where it is the official language. Together with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants .These Scandinavian languages together with the Faroese language...

 pus, pusekatt, all of which primarily denote a woman and, by extension, a female cat.
Classification based on human interaction
Population Food source Shelter Socialized
Pedigree Fed by owner Human homes Yes
Pet Fed by owner Human homes Yes
Semi-feral General feeding Buildings Yes
Feral General feeding/foraging Buildings No
Pseudo-wildcat Foraging/hunting None No


While wildcat
Wildcat
Wildcat is a small felid native to Europe, the western part of Asia, and Africa.-Animals:Wildcat may also refer to members of the genus Lynx:...

s
are the ancestral species from which domestic cats are descended, there are several intermediate stages between domestic pet and pedigree cats and these entirely wild cats. The semi-feral cat is a cat that is not owned by any one individual, but is generally friendly to people and may be fed by several households. Feral cat
Feral cat
A feral cat is a descendant of a domesticated cat that has returned to the wild. It is distinguished from a stray cat, which is a pet cat that has been lost or abandoned, while feral cats are born in the wild; the offspring of a stray cat can be considered feral if born in the wild.In many parts of...

s are associated with human habitations and may be fed by people or forage in rubbish, but are wary of human interaction. Pseudo-wildcats are descended from domestic cats, but now tend to live entirely independently from people.

A group of cats is referred to as a "clowder", a male cat is called a "tom" (or a "gib", if neutered), and a female is called a "molly" or "queen". The male progenitor of a cat, especially a pedigreed cat, is its "sire", and its female progenitor is its "dam". An immature cat is called a "kitten
Kitten
A kitten is a juvenile domesticated cat.The young of big cats are called cubs rather than kittens. Either term may be used for the young of smaller wild felids such as ocelots, caracals, and lynx, but "kitten" is usually more common for these species....

" (which is also an alternative name for young rats, rabbits, hedgehog
Hedgehog
A hedgehog is any of the spiny mammals of the subfamily Erinaceinae and the order Erinaceomorpha. There are 17 species of hedgehog in five genera, found through parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, and New Zealand . There are no hedgehogs native to Australia, and no living species native to the Americas...

s, beaver
Beaver
The beaver is a primarily nocturnal, large, semi-aquatic rodent. Castor includes two extant species, North American Beaver and Eurasian Beaver . Beavers are known for building dams, canals, and lodges . They are the second-largest rodent in the world...

s, squirrel
Squirrel
Squirrels belong to a large family of small or medium-sized rodents called the Sciuridae. The family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots , flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa and have been introduced to Australia...

s and skunk
Skunk
Skunks are mammals best known for their ability to secrete a liquid with a strong, foul odor. General appearance varies from species to species, from black-and-white to brown or cream colored. Skunks belong to the family Mephitidae and to the order Carnivora...

s). In medieval Britain
England in the Middle Ages
England in the Middle Ages concerns the history of England during the Medieval period — from the end of Roman rule in Britain through to the Early Modern period...

, the word kitten was interchangeable with the word catling.

A cat whose ancestry
Genealogy
Genealogy is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history. Genealogists use oral traditions, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records to obtain information about a family and to demonstrate kinship and pedigrees of its members...

 is formally registered is called a pedigreed cat, purebred cat, or a show cat
Show cat
A show cat is one that has been judged to be close to the physical ideal for its breed standard at a cat show...

. In strict terms, a pure-bred cat is one whose ancestry contains only individuals of the same breed. A pedigreed cat is one whose ancestry is recorded, but may have ancestors of different breeds. Cats of unrecorded mixed ancestry are referred to as domestic longhairs and domestic shorthairs or commonly as random-bred, moggies, mongrels, or mutt-cats.

Taxonomy and evolution

Main article: Cat evolution

The Felids are a rapidly evolving family of mammals that share a common ancestor only 10–15 million years ago, and include, in addition to the domestic cat, lions, tigers, cougars, and many others. Within this family, domestic cats (Felis catus) are part of the genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 Felis
Felis
Felis is a genus of cats in the family Felidae, including the familiar domestic cat and its closest wild relatives. The wild species are distributed widely across Europe, southern and central Asia, and Africa; the domestic cat has been introduced worldwide.Members of the genus Felis are all small...

, which is a group of small cats containing seven species. Members of the genus are found worldwide and include the Jungle Cat
Jungle Cat
The jungle cat is a medium-sized cat and considered the largest remaining species of the wild cat genus Felis. The species is also called the swamp lynx but is not closely related to the lynxes....

 (Felis chaus) of southeast Asia, the African Wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica), the Chinese Mountain Cat (Felis bieti) and the Arabian Sand Cat
Sand Cat
The sand cat , also referred to as the "sand dune cat", is a small wild cat distributed over African and Asian deserts. The Sand cat lives in arid areas that are too hot and dry even for the African Wildcat: the Sahara, the Arabian Desert, and the deserts of Iran and...

 (Felis margarita).

All the cats in this genus share a common ancestor that probably lived around 6–7 million years ago in Asia. Although the exact relationships within the Felidae are still uncertain, both the Chinese Mountain Cat and the African Wildcat are close relations of the domestic cat and are both classed as subspecies
Subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

 of the Wildcat
Wildcat
Wildcat is a small felid native to Europe, the western part of Asia, and Africa.-Animals:Wildcat may also refer to members of the genus Lynx:...

 Felis silvestris. As domestic cats are little altered from wildcats, they can readily interbreed. This hybridization may pose a danger to the genetic distinctiveness of wildcat populations, particularly in Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 and Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

.

The domestic cat was first classified as Felis catus by Carolus Linnaeus
Carolus Linnaeus
Carl Linnaeus , also known after his ennoblement as , was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology...

 in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae
Systema Naturae
The book was one of the major works of the Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician Carolus Linnaeus. The first edition was published in 1735...

of 1758. However, because of modern phylogenetics
Phylogenetics
In biology, phylogenetics is the study of evolutionary relatedness among groups of organisms , which is discovered through molecular sequencing data and morphological data matrices...

, domestic cats are now usually regarded as another subspecies of the Wildcat Felis 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
International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature is an organization dedicated to "achieving stability and sense in the scientific naming of animals". Founded in 1895, it currently comprises 28 members from 20 countries, mainly practicing zoological taxonomists...

 fixed the name for wildcats as F. silvestris. The most common name in use for the domestic cat remains F. catus, following a convention
Convention (norm)
A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms or criteria, often taking the form of a custom....

 for domesticated animals of using the earliest (the senior) synonym
Synonym (taxonomy)
In scientific nomenclature, a synonym is a scientific name that is or was used for a taxon of organisms that also goes by a different scientific name. For example, Linnaeus was the first to give a scientific name to the Norway spruce, which he called Pinus abies...

 proposed. Sometimes the domestic cat is called Felis domesticus or Felis domestica, the term coined by German naturalist Johann Christian Polycarp Erxleben
Johann Christian Polycarp Erxleben
Johann Christian Polycarp Erxleben was a German naturalist from Quedlinburg.Erxleben was Professor of physics and veterinary medicine at the University of Göttingen. He wrote Anfangsgründe der Naturlehre and Systema regni animalis...

 in 1777. These are not valid taxonomic names, and Linnaeus' binomial takes precedence.

Cats have either a mutualistic or commensal
Commensalism
In ecology, commensalism is a class of relationship between two organisms where one organism benefits but the other is neutral...

 relationship with humans. However, in comparison to dog
Dog
The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The dog may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and companion animal in...

s, cats have not undergone major changes during the domestication process, as the form and behavior of the domestic cat are not radically different from those of wildcats, and domestic cats are perfectly capable of surviving in the wild. This limited evolution during domestication means that domestic cats tend to interbreed freely with feral cats, which distinguishes them from other domesticated animals. However, several natural behaviors and characteristics of wildcats may have preadapted
Preadaptation
In evolutionary biology, preadaptation describes a situation where a species evolves to use a preexisting structure or trait inherited from an ancestor for a potentially unrelated function...

 them for domestication as pets. These traits include their small size, social nature, obvious body language, love of play and relatively high intelligence; they may also have an inborn tendency towards tameness.

There are two main theories about how cats were domesticated. In one, people deliberately tamed cats in a process of artificial selection
Artificial selection
Artificial selection describes intentional breeding for certain traits, or combination of traits. The term was utilized by Charles Darwin in contrast to natural selection, in which the differential reproduction of organisms with certain traits is attributed to improved survival or reproductive...

, as they were useful predators of vermin. However, this has been criticized as implausible, because there may have been little reward for such an effort: cats generally do not carry out commands and, although they do eat rodents, other species such as ferret
Ferret
The ferret is a domesticated mammal of the type Mustela putorius furo. Ferrets are sexually dimorphic predators with males being substantially larger than females. They typically have brown, black, white, or mixed fur...

s or terrier
Terrier
A terrier is a dog of any one of many breeds or landraces of terrier type, which are typically small, wiry, very active and fearless dogs. Terrier breeds vary greatly in size from just a couple of pounds to over 70 pounds and are usually categorized by size or function...

s 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
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

, as they adapted to hunting the vermin found around humans in towns and villages.

Genetics

The domesticated cat and its closest wild ancestor are both diploid organisms that possess 38 chromosome
Chromosome
A chromosome is an organized structure of DNA and protein found in cells. It is a single piece of coiled DNA containing many genes, regulatory elements and other nucleotide sequences. Chromosomes also contain DNA-bound proteins, which serve to package the DNA and control its functions.Chromosomes...

s and roughly 20,000 genes. About 250 heritable genetic disorder
Genetic disorder
A genetic disorder is an illness caused by abnormalities in genes or chromosomes, especially a condition that is present from before birth. Most genetic disorders are quite rare and affect one person in every several thousands or millions....

s have been identified in cats, many similar to human inborn errors
Inborn error of metabolism
Inborn errors of metabolism comprise a large class of genetic diseases involving disorders of metabolism. The majority are due to defects of single genes that code for enzymes that facilitate conversion of various substances into others...

. The high level of similarity among the metabolism
Metabolism
Metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that happen in the cells of living organisms to sustain life. These processes allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. Metabolism is usually divided into two categories...

s of mammals allows many of these feline diseases to be diagnosed using genetic tests
Genetic testing
Genetic testing is among the newest and most sophisticated of techniques used to test for genetic disorders which involves direct examination of the DNA molecule itself. Other genetic tests include biochemical tests for such gene products as enzymes and other proteins and for microscopic...

 that were originally developed for use in humans, as well as the use of cats in the study of the human diseases.

An example of a mutation
Mutation
In molecular biology and genetics, mutations are changes in a genomic sequence: the DNA sequence of a cell's genome or the DNA or RNA sequence of a virus. They can be defined as sudden and spontaneous changes in the cell. Mutations are caused by radiation, viruses, transposons and mutagenic...

 that is shared among all felines, including the big cats, is a mutant chemosensor
Chemosensor
A chemoreceptor, also known as chemosensor, is a sensory receptor that transduces a chemical signal into an action potential. In more general terms, a chemosensor detects certain chemical stimuli in the environment.- Classes :...

 in their taste bud
Taste bud
Taste buds contain the receptors for taste. They are located around the small structures on the upper surface of the tongue, soft palate, upper esophagus and epiglottis, which are called papillae. These structures are involved in detecting the five elements of taste perception: salty, sour,...

s that prevents them from tasting sweetness, which may explain their indifference to fruits, berries, and other sugary foods. In some breeds of cats congenital deafness is very common, with most white cats
Deaf white cat
Some white cats suffer from congenital deafness caused by degeneration of the inner ear. This condition is associated with blue irises. In white cats with mixed-coloured eyes , it has been found that deafness is more likely to affect the ear on the blue-eyed side...

 (but not albinos) being affected, particularly if they also have blue eyes. The genes responsible for this defect are unknown, but the disease is studied in the hope that it may shed light on the causes of hereditary deafness in humans.

Since a large variety of coat patterns exist within the various cat breeds, the cat is an excellent animal to study the coat genetics
Cat coat genetics
The genetics of cat coat coloration, pattern, length, and texture is a complex subject, and many different genes are involved.- Genes involved in albinism, dominant white, and white spotting :...

 of hair growth and coloration. Several gene
Gene
A gene is a molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. It is a name given to some stretches of DNA and RNA that code for a type of protein or for an RNA chain that has a function in the organism. Living beings depend on genes, as they specify all proteins and functional RNA chains...

s interact to produce cats' hair color and coat patterns. Different combinations of these genes give different phenotype
Phenotype
A phenotype is an organism's observable characteristics or traits: such as its morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, behavior, and products of behavior...

s. For example, the enzyme
Enzyme
Enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process, called substrates, are converted into different molecules, called products. Almost all chemical reactions in a biological cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates...

 tyrosinase
Tyrosinase
Tyrosinase also known as monophenol monooxygenase is an enzyme that catalyses the oxidation of phenols and is widespread in plants and animals...

 is needed to produce the dark pigment melanin
Melanin
Melanin is a pigment that is ubiquitous in nature, being found in most organisms . In animals melanin pigments are derivatives of the amino acid tyrosine. The most common form of biological melanin is eumelanin, a brown-black polymer of dihydroxyindole carboxylic acids, and their reduced forms...

 and Burmese cats have a mutant form that is only active at low temperatures, resulting in color appearing only on the cooler ears, tail and paws. A completely inactive gene for tyrosinase is found in albino cats, which therefore lack all pigment. Hair length is determined by the gene for fibroblast growth factor 5
FGF5
Fibroblast growth factor 5 is a protein that in humans is encoded by the FGF5 gene.-Further reading:...

, with inactive copies of this gene causing long hair.

The Cat Genome Project, sponsored by the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity at the U.S. National Cancer Institute
National Cancer Institute
The National Cancer Institute is part of the National Institutes of Health , which is one of 11 agencies that are part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NCI coordinates the U.S...

 Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center in Frederick
Frederick, Maryland
Frederick is a city in north-central Maryland. It is the county seat of Frederick County, the largest county by area in the state of Maryland. Frederick is an outlying community of the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is part of a greater...

, Maryland, aims to help the development of the cat as an animal model
Animal model
An animal model is a living, non-human animal used during the research and investigation of human disease, for the purpose of better understanding the disease without the added risk of causing harm to an actual human being during the process...

 for human hereditary and infectious disease
Infectious disease
Infectious diseases, also known as communicable diseases, contagious diseases or transmissible diseases comprise clinically evident illness resulting from the infection, presence and growth of pathogenic biological agents in an individual host organism...

s, as well as contributing to the understanding of the evolution of mammals. This effort led to the publication in 2007 of an initial draft of the genome of an Abyssinian
Abyssinian (cat)
The Abyssinian is a breed of domesticated cat with a distinctive ticked coat. There are many stories about its origins, often revolving around Ethiopia, but the actual origins are uncertain...

 cat called Cinnamon. The existence of a draft genome has led to the discovery of several cat disease genes, and even allowed the development of cat genetic fingerprinting
Genetic fingerprinting
DNA profiling is a technique employed by forensic scientists to assist in the identification of individuals by their respective DNA profiles. DNA profiles are encrypted sets of numbers that reflect a person's DNA makeup, which can also be used as the person's identifier...

 for use in forensics
Forensics
Forensic science is the application of a broad spectrum of sciences to answer questions of interest to a legal system. This may be in relation to a crime or a civil action...

.

Anatomy

Domestic cats are similar in size to the other members of the genus Felis, typically weighing between 4 kilogram and 5 kilogram. However, some breeds, such as the Maine Coon
Maine Coon
The Maine Coon is a breed of domestic cat with a distinctive physical appearance and valuable hunting skills. It is one of the oldest natural breeds in North America, specifically native to the state of Maine, where it is the official State Cat....

, can exceed 11 kilograms (25 lb). Conversely, very small cats (less than 1.8 kilogram) have been reported. The world record for the largest cat is 21.297 kilogram. The smallest adult cat ever officially recorded weighed around 1.36 kilograms (3 lb). Cats average about 23–25 centimeters (9–10 in) in height and 46 centimeters (18.1 in) in head/body length (males being larger than females), with tails averaging 30 centimeters (11.8 in) in length.

Cats have 7 cervical vertebrae
Cervical vertebrae
In vertebrates, cervical vertebrae are those vertebrae immediately inferior to the skull.Thoracic vertebrae in all mammalian species are defined as those vertebrae that also carry a pair of ribs, and lie caudal to the cervical vertebrae. Further caudally follow the lumbar vertebrae, which also...

 like almost all mammals, 13 thoracic vertebrae
Thoracic vertebrae
In human anatomy, twelve thoracic vertebrae compose the middle segment of the vertebral column, between the cervical vertebrae and the lumbar vertebrae. They are intermediate in size between those of the cervical and lumbar regions; they increase in size as one proceeds down the spine, the upper...

 (humans have 12), 7 lumbar vertebrae
Lumbar vertebrae
The lumbar vertebrae are the largest segments of the movable part of the vertebral column, and are characterized by the absence of the foramen transversarium within the transverse process, and by the absence of facets on the sides of the body...

 (humans have 5), 3 sacral vertebrae
Sacrum
In vertebrate anatomy the sacrum is a large, triangular bone at the base of the spine and at the upper and back part of the pelvic cavity, where it is inserted like a wedge between the two hip bones. Its upper part connects with the last lumbar vertebra, and bottom part with the coccyx...

 like most mammals (humans have 5 because of their bipedal posture), and a variable number of caudal vertebrae in the tail (humans retain 3 to 5 caudal vertebrae, fused into an internal coccyx
Coccyx
The coccyx , commonly referred to as the tailbone, is the final segment of the vertebral column. Comprising three to five separate or fused vertebrae below the sacrum, it is attached to the sacrum by a fibrocartilaginous joint, the sacrococcygeal symphysis, which permits limited movement between...

). 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
Pelvis
In human anatomy, the pelvis is the lower part of the trunk, between the abdomen and the lower limbs .The pelvis includes several structures:...

. Unlike human arms, cat forelimbs are attached to the shoulder by free-floating clavicle bones
Clavicle
In human anatomy, the clavicle or collar bone is a long bone of short length that serves as a strut between the scapula and the sternum. It is the only long bone in body that lies horizontally...

, which allow them to pass their body through any space into which they can fit their heads.
The cat skull is unusual among mammals in having very large eye sockets and a powerful and specialized jaw. 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
Canine tooth
In mammalian oral anatomy, the canine teeth, also called cuspids, dogteeth, fangs, or eye teeth, are relatively long, pointed teeth...

, inserting them between two of the prey's vertebrae and severing its spinal cord
Spinal cord
The spinal cord is a long, thin, tubular bundle of nervous tissue and support cells that extends from the brain . The brain and spinal cord together make up the central nervous system...

, causing irreversible paralysis
Paralysis
Paralysis is loss of muscle function for one or more muscles. Paralysis can be accompanied by a loss of feeling in the affected area if there is sensory damage as well as motor. A study conducted by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, suggests that about 1 in 50 people have been diagnosed...

 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
Premolar
The premolar teeth or bicuspids are transitional teeth located between the canine and molar teeth. In humans, there are two premolars per quadrant, making eight premolars total in the mouth. They have at least two cusps. Premolars can be considered as a 'transitional tooth' during chewing, or...

 and first molar
Molar (tooth)
Molars are the rearmost and most complicated kind of tooth in most mammals. In many mammals they grind food; hence the Latin name mola, "millstone"....

 together compose the carnassial
Carnassial
Carnassials are large teeth found in many carnivorous mammals, used for shearing flesh and bone in a scissor- or shear-like way. In the Carnivora, the carnassials are the modified last upper premolar and the first molar, but in the prehistoric creodonts, the carnassials were further back in the...

 pair on each side of the mouth, which efficiently shears meat into small pieces, like a pair of scissors
Scissors
Scissors are hand-operated cutting instruments. They consist of a pair of metal blades pivoted so that the sharpened edges slide against each other when the handles opposite to the pivot are closed. Scissors are used for cutting various thin materials, such as paper, cardboard, metal foil, thin...

. These are vital in feeding, since cats' small molars
Molar (tooth)
Molars are the rearmost and most complicated kind of tooth in most mammals. In many mammals they grind food; hence the Latin name mola, "millstone"....

 cannot chew food effectively.

Cats, like dogs, are digitigrade
Digitigrade
A digitigrade is an animal that stands or walks on its digits, or toes. Digitigrades include walking birds , cats, dogs, and many other mammals, but not plantigrades or unguligrades...

s. 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
Felinae
Felinae is a subfamily of the family Felidae which includes the genera and species listed below. Most are small to medium-sized cats, although the group does include some larger animals, such as the Cougar and Cheetah....

 they directly register; that is, they place each hind paw (almost) directly in the print of the corresponding forepaw, 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
Gait
Gait is the pattern of movement of the limbs of animals, including humans, during locomotion over a solid substrate. Most animals use a variety of gaits, selecting gait based on speed, terrain, the need to maneuver, and energetic efficiency...

; 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 camel
Camel
A camel is an even-toed ungulate within the genus Camelus, bearing distinctive fatty deposits known as humps on its back. There are two species of camels: the dromedary or Arabian camel has a single hump, and the bactrian has two humps. Dromedaries are native to the dry desert areas of West Asia,...

s and giraffe
Giraffe
The giraffe is an African even-toed ungulate mammal, the tallest of all extant land-living animal species, and the largest ruminant...

s. As a walk speeds up into a trot, a cat's gait will change to be a "diagonal" gait, similar to other mammals: the diagonally opposite hind and forelegs will move simultaneously.

Like almost all members of the Felidae
Felidae
Felidae is the biological family of the cats; a member of this family is called a felid. Felids are the strictest carnivores of the thirteen terrestrial families in the order Carnivora, although the three families of marine mammals comprising the superfamily pinnipedia are as carnivorous as the...

 family
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

, cats have protractable claw
Claw
A claw is a curved, pointed appendage, found at the end of a toe or finger in most mammals, birds, and some reptiles. However, the word "claw" is also often used in reference to an invertebrate. Somewhat similar fine hooked structures are found in arthropods such as beetles and spiders, at the end...

s. In their normal, relaxed position the claws are sheathed with the skin
Skin
-Dermis:The dermis is the layer of skin beneath the epidermis that consists of connective tissue and cushions the body from stress and strain. The dermis is tightly connected to the epidermis by a basement membrane. It also harbors many Mechanoreceptors that provide the sense of touch and heat...

 and fur
Fur
Fur is a synonym for hair, used more in reference to non-human animals, usually mammals; particularly those with extensives body hair coverage. The term is sometimes used to refer to the body hair of an animal as a complete coat, also known as the "pelage". Fur is also used to refer to animal...

 around the toe pads
Paw
A paw is the soft foot of a mammal, generally a quadruped, that has claws or nails. A hard foot is called a hoof. Paws are used to pad feet for walking and increase friction.- Common characteristics :...

. This keeps the claws sharp by preventing wear from contact with the ground and allows the silent stalking of prey. The claws on the forefeet 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
Dewclaw
A dewclaw is a vestigial digit on the foot of many mammals, birds, and reptiles . It commonly grows high on the leg so that in digitigrade species, when the animal is standing, it does not make contact with the ground...

) is proximal to the other claws. More proximally, there 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 cat
Big cat
The term big cat – which is not a biological classification – is used informally to distinguish the larger felid species from smaller ones. One definition of "big cat" includes the four members of the genus Panthera: the tiger, lion, jaguar, and leopard. Members of this genus are the only cats able...

s and dogs. It has no function in normal walking, but is thought to be an anti-skidding device used while jumping. Some breeds of cats are prone to polydactylyism
Polydactyl cat
A polydactyl cat is a cat with a congenital physical anomaly called polydactyly , a type of cat body type genetic mutation that causes the cat to be born with more than the usual number of toes on one or more of its paws...

, and may have eight or even ten toes. These are particularly common along the North-East coast of North America.

Physiology

Normal physiological values
Body temperature 38.6 °C (101.5 °F)
Heart rate
Heart rate
Heart rate is the number of heartbeats per unit of time, typically expressed as beats per minute . Heart rate can vary as the body's need to absorb oxygen and excrete carbon dioxide changes, such as during exercise or sleep....

120–140 beats per minute
Breathing rate 16–40 breaths per minute


As cats are familiar and easily kept animals, their physiology has been particularly well studied; it generally resembles that 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 44.5 °C (112 °F), but cats show no discomfort until their skin reaches around 52 °C (126 °F), and can tolerate temperatures of up to 56 °C (133 °F) if they have access to water.

Cats conserve heat by reducing the flow of blood to their skin and lose heat by evaporation through their mouth. They do not sweat, and pant only at very high temperatures. Unusually, a cat's body temperature does not vary throughout the day; this is part of cats' general lack of circadian rhythm
Circadian rhythm
A circadian rhythm, popularly referred to as body clock, is an endogenously driven , roughly 24-hour cycle in biochemical, physiological, or behavioural processes. Circadian rhythms have been widely observed in plants, animals, fungi and cyanobacteria...

s and may reflect their tendency to be active both during the day and at night. Cats' feces are usually dry and their urine is also highly concentrated, both of which are adaptations that allow cats to retain as much fluid as possible. Their kidneys are so efficient that cats can survive on a diet consisting only of meat, with no additional water, and can even rehydrate by drinking seawater
Seawater
Seawater is water from a sea or ocean. On average, seawater in the world's oceans has a salinity of about 3.5% . This means that every kilogram of seawater has approximately of dissolved salts . The average density of seawater at the ocean surface is 1.025 g/ml...

.

Cats are obligate carnivores: their physiology
Physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

 has evolved to efficiently process meat, and they have difficulty digesting plant matter. In contrast to omnivore
Omnivore
Omnivores are species that eat both plants and animals as their primary food source...

s such as rat
Rat
Rats are various medium-sized, long-tailed rodents of the superfamily Muroidea. "True rats" are members of the genus Rattus, the most important of which to humans are the black rat, Rattus rattus, and the brown rat, Rattus norvegicus...

s, which only require about 4% protein in their diet, about 20% of a cat's diet must be protein. Cats are unusually dependent on a constant supply of the amino acid
Amino acid
Amino acids are molecules containing an amine group, a carboxylic acid group and a side-chain that varies between different amino acids. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen...

 arginine
Arginine
Arginine is an α-amino acid. The L-form is one of the 20 most common natural amino acids. At the level of molecular genetics, in the structure of the messenger ribonucleic acid mRNA, CGU, CGC, CGA, CGG, AGA, and AGG, are the triplets of nucleotide bases or codons that codify for arginine during...

, and a diet lacking arginine causes marked weight loss and can be rapidly fatal. Another unusual feature is that the cat also cannot produce the amino acid taurine, with taurine deficiency causing macular degeneration
Macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration is a medical condition which usually affects older adults and results in a loss of vision in the center of the visual field because of damage to the retina. It occurs in “dry” and “wet” forms. It is a major cause of blindness and visual impairment in older adults...

, where the cat's retina slowly degenerates, causing irreversible blindness. Since cats tend to eat all of their prey, they obtain minerals by digesting animal bones, and a diet composed only of meat may cause calcium
Calcium
Calcium is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078 amu. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth-most-abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust...

 deficiency.

A cat's digestive tract
Gastrointestinal tract
The human gastrointestinal tract refers to the stomach and intestine, and sometimes to all the structures from the mouth to the anus. ....

 is also adapted to meat eating, being much shorter than that of omnivores and having low levels of several of the digestive enzyme
Digestive enzyme
'Digestive enzymes' are enzymes that break down polymeric macromolecules into their smaller building blocks, in order to facilitate their absorption by the body. Digestive enzymes are found in the digestive tract of animals where they aid in the digestion of food as well as inside the cells,...

s that are needed to digest carbohydrates. These traits severely limit the cat's ability to digest and use plant-derived nutrients, as well as certain fatty acid
Fatty acid
In chemistry, especially biochemistry, a fatty acid is a carboxylic acid with a long unbranched aliphatic tail , which is either saturated or unsaturated. Most naturally occurring fatty acids have a chain of an even number of carbon atoms, from 4 to 28. Fatty acids are usually derived from...

s. Despite the cat's meat-oriented physiology, several vegetarian or vegan cat foods have been marketed that are supplemented with chemically synthesized
Chemical synthesis
In chemistry, chemical synthesis is purposeful execution of chemical reactions to get a product, or several products. This happens by physical and chemical manipulations usually involving one or more reactions...

 taurine and other nutrients, in attempts to produce a complete diet. However, some of these products still fail to provide all the nutrients that cats require, and diets containing no animal products pose the risk of causing severe nutritional deficiencies.

Senses

Cats have excellent night vision
Night vision
Night vision is the ability to see in low light conditions. Whether by biological or technological means, night vision is made possible by a combination of two approaches: sufficient spectral range, and sufficient intensity range...

 and can see at only one-sixth the light level required for human vision. This is partly the result of cat eyes having a tapetum lucidum
Tapetum lucidum
The tapetum lucidum is a layer of tissue in the eye of many vertebrate animals....

, which reflects any light that passes through the retina
Retina
The vertebrate retina is a light-sensitive tissue lining the inner surface of the eye. The optics of the eye create an image of the visual world on the retina, which serves much the same function as the film in a camera. Light striking the retina initiates a cascade of chemical and electrical...

 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 pupil
Pupil
The pupil is a hole located in the center of the iris of the eye that allows light to enter the retina. It appears black because most of the light entering the pupil is absorbed by the tissues inside the eye. In humans the pupil is round, but other species, such as some cats, have slit pupils. In...

s. These slit pupils can focus bright light without chromatic aberration
Chromatic aberration
In optics, chromatic aberration is a type of distortion in which there is a failure of a lens to focus all colors to the same convergence point. It occurs because lenses have a different refractive index for different wavelengths of light...

, and are needed since the domestic cat's pupils are much larger, relative to their eyes, than the pupils of the big cats. Indeed, 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
Color vision
Color vision is the capacity of an organism or machine to distinguish objects based on the wavelengths of the light they reflect, emit, or transmit...

 and (like most non-primate mammals) have only two types of cones
Cone cell
Cone cells, or cones, are photoreceptor cells in the retina of the eye that are responsible for color vision; they function best in relatively bright light, as opposed to rod cells that work better in dim light. If the retina is exposed to an intense visual stimulus, a negative afterimage will be...

, optimized for sensitivity to blue and yellowish green; they have limited ability to distinguish between red and green, although they can achieve this in some conditions.
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
Hertz
The hertz is the SI unit of frequency defined as the number of cycles per second of a periodic phenomenon. One of its most common uses is the description of the sine wave, particularly those used in radio and audio applications....

 up to 79 kHz
Hertz
The hertz is the SI unit of frequency defined as the number of cycles per second of a periodic phenomenon. One of its most common uses is the description of the sine wave, particularly those used in radio and audio applications....

, a range of 10.5 octave
Octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

s; while humans can only hear from 31 Hz up to 18 kHz, and dogs hear from 67 Hz to 44 kHz, which are both ranges of about 9 octaves. Cats do not use this ability to hear ultrasound
Ultrasound
Ultrasound is cyclic sound pressure with a frequency greater than the upper limit of human hearing. Ultrasound is thus not separated from "normal" sound based on differences in physical properties, only the fact that humans cannot hear it. Although this limit varies from person to person, it is...

 for communication but it is probably important in hunting, since many species of rodents make ultrasonic calls. Cats' hearing is also extremely sensitive and is 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 a cat sense the direction from which a noise is coming.

Cats have an acute sense of smell, which is due in part to their well-developed olfactory bulb
Olfactory bulb
The olfactory bulb is a structure of the vertebrate forebrain involved in olfaction, the perception of odors.-Anatomy:In most vertebrates, the olfactory bulb is the most rostral part of the brain. In humans, however, the olfactory bulb is on the inferior side of the brain...

 and also to a large surface of olfactory mucosa
Olfactory mucosa
The olfactory mucosa is located in the upper region of the nasal cavity and is made up of the olfactory epithelium and the underlying lamina propria, connective tissue containing fibroblasts, blood vessels, Bowman's glands and bundles of fine axons from the olfactory neurons.The mucus protects the...

, in cats this mucosa is about 5.8 cm2 in area, which is about twice that of humans and only 1.7-fold less than the average dog. Cats are very sensitive to pheromones
Cat pheromone
Cat pheromones are pheromones that are used by cats and other felids for cat communication.- Feline facial pheromone :Feline facial pheromone is a hypothetical pheromone used by cats to mark places, objects, and persons as familiar by rubbing their face on surfaces...

 such as 3-mercapto-3-methylbutan-1-ol
3-Mercapto-3-methylbutan-1-ol
3-Mercapto-3-methylbutan-1-ol, abbreviated as MMB, is a thiol and an alcohol. MMB is a degradation product of felinine in cat urine and is a putative cat pheromone....

, which they use to communicate through urine spraying and marking with scent glands. Cats also respond strongly to plants such as catnip which contains nepetalactone
Nepetalactone
Nepetalactone is an organic compound, first isolated from the plant catnip , which acts as a cat attractant. Nepetalactone is bicyclic terpenoid, i.e., it is a ten-carbon compound derived from isoprene with two fused rings, a cyclopentane and a lactone. The structure and the effects of the compound...

, as they can detect this substance at less than one part per billion. This response is also produced by other plants, such as Silver Vine
Actinidia polygama
Actinidia polygama is a non-toxic plant in the Actinidiaceae family. It grows in the mountainous areas of Japan and China at elevations between 500–1900 meters....

 and valerian
Valerian (herb)
Valerian is a hardy perennial flowering plant, with heads of sweetly scented pink or white flowers which bloom in the summer months. Valerian flower extracts were used as a perfume in the sixteenth century....

, and 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. Owing to a mutation in an early cat ancestor, one of two genes necessary to taste sweetness
Sweetness
Sweetness is one of the five basic tastes and is almost universally regarded as a pleasurable experience. Foods rich in simple carbohydrates such as sugar are those most commonly associated with sweetness, although there are other natural and artificial compounds that are sweet at much lower...

 may have been lost by the cat family. Their taste bud
Taste bud
Taste buds contain the receptors for taste. They are located around the small structures on the upper surface of the tongue, soft palate, upper esophagus and epiglottis, which are called papillae. These structures are involved in detecting the five elements of taste perception: salty, sour,...

s instead respond to amino acids, bitter tastes and acids. To aid with navigation and sensation, cats have dozens of movable vibrissae (whiskers) over their body, especially their face. 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.

Health

In captivity, an average life expectancy for male indoor cats at birth is 12 to 14 years, with females usually living a year or two longer. However, there have been records of cats reaching into their 20s and 30s, with the oldest known cat, Creme Puff, dying at a verified age of 38. Having a cat neutered
Neutering
Neutering, from the Latin neuter , is the removal of an animal's reproductive organ, either all of it or a considerably large part. The process is often used in reference to males whereas spaying is often reserved for females. Colloquially, both terms are often referred to as fixing...

 or spayed confers some health benefits, since castrated males cannot develop testicular cancer
Testicular cancer
Testicular cancer is cancer that develops in the testicles, a part of the male reproductive system.In the United States, between 7,500 and 8,000 diagnoses of testicular cancer are made each year. In the UK, approximately 2,000 men are diagnosed each year. Over his lifetime, a man's risk of...

, spayed females cannot develop uterine
Uterine cancer
The term uterine cancer may refer to any of several different types of cancer which occur in the uterus, namely:*Uterine sarcomas: sarcomas of the myometrium, or muscular layer of the uterus, are most commonly leiomyosarcomas.*Endometrial cancer:...

 or ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer is a cancerous growth arising from the ovary. Symptoms are frequently very subtle early on and may include: bloating, pelvic pain, difficulty eating and frequent urination, and are easily confused with other illnesses....

, and both have a reduced risk of mammary cancer
Mammary tumor
A mammary tumor is a tumor originating in the mammary gland. It is a common finding in older female dogs and cats that are not spayed, but they are found in other animals as well. The mammary glands in dogs and cats are associated with their nipples and extend from the underside of the chest to...

. The lifespan of feral cats is hard to determine accurately, although one study reported a median
Median
In probability theory and statistics, a median is described as the numerical value separating the higher half of a sample, a population, or a probability distribution, from the lower half. The median of a finite list of numbers can be found by arranging all the observations from lowest value to...

 age of 4.7 years, with a range between 0 to 8.3 years.

Diseases

Cats can suffer from a wide range of health problems, including infectious diseases, parasites, injuries and chronic disease. Vaccinations
Feline vaccination
Feline vaccination is the administration of antigenic material in cats to produce immunity to a feline disease. Vaccines can prevent or ameliorate the effects of infection by a pathogen. Currently, there are geographically defined core vaccines and individually chosen non-core vaccine...

 are available for many of these diseases, and domestic cats are regularly given treatments to eliminate parasites such as worms and fleas.

Poisoning

In addition to obvious dangers such as rodenticides, insecticide
Insecticide
An insecticide is a pesticide used against insects. They include ovicides and larvicides used against the eggs and larvae of insects respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry and the household. The use of insecticides is believed to be one of the major factors behind...

s and weed killer
Herbicide
Herbicides, also commonly known as weedkillers, are pesticides used to kill unwanted plants. Selective herbicides kill specific targets while leaving the desired crop relatively unharmed. Some of these act by interfering with the growth of the weed and are often synthetic "imitations" of plant...

s, cats may be poisoned by many chemicals that are usually considered safe. This is because their livers are less effective at some forms of detoxification than those of other animals, including humans and dogs. Some of the most common causes of poisoning in cats are antifreeze and rodent baits. It has also been suggested that cats may be particularly sensitive to environmental pollutants. When a cat has a sudden or prolonged serious illness without any obvious cause, it is possible that it has been exposed to a toxin.

Human medicines should never be given to cats. For example, the painkiller paracetamol
Paracetamol
Paracetamol INN , or acetaminophen USAN , is a widely used over-the-counter analgesic and antipyretic . It is commonly used for the relief of headaches and other minor aches and pains and is a major ingredient in numerous cold and flu remedies...

 (also called acetaminophen, sold as Tylenol
Tylenol
Tylenol is a North American brand of drugs advertised for reducing pain, reducing fever, and relieving the symptoms of allergies, cold, cough, and flu. The active ingredient of its original, flagship product, paracetamol , is marketed as an analgesic and antipyretic...

 and Panadol
Panadol
Panadol is the GlaxoSmithKline trade name for paracetamol or acetaminophen , which is an over the counter pharmaceutical analgesic and antipyretic ....

) is extremely toxic to cats: even very small doses need immediate treatment and can be fatal. Even aspirin
Aspirin
Aspirin , also known as acetylsalicylic acid , is a salicylate drug, often used as an analgesic to relieve minor aches and pains, as an antipyretic to reduce fever, and as an anti-inflammatory medication. It was discovered by Arthur Eichengrun, a chemist with the German company Bayer...

, which is sometimes used to treat arthritis
Arthritis
Arthritis is a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation of one or more joints....

 in cats, is much more toxic to them than to humans and must be administered cautiously. Similarly, application of minoxidil
Minoxidil
Minoxidil is an antihypertensive vasodilator medication which also slows or stops hair loss and promotes hair regrowth. Now off-patent, it is available over-the-counter for the treatment of androgenic alopecia. Minoxidil must be used indefinitely for continued support of existing hair follicles and...

 (Rogaine) to the skin of cats, either accidentally or by well-meaning owners attempting to counter loss of fur, has sometimes been fatal. Essential oil
Essential oil
An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils or aetherolea, or simply as the "oil of" the plant from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove...

s can be toxic to cats and there have been reported cases of serious illnesses caused by tea tree oil
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil, or melaleuca oil, is a pale yellow colour to nearly clear essential oil with a fresh camphoraceous odor. It is taken from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia, which is native to the northeast coast of New South Wales, Australia...

, and tea tree oil-based flea treatments and shampoos.

Other common household substances that should be used with caution around cats include mothball
Mothball
Mothballs are small balls of chemical pesticide and deodorant used when storing clothing and other articles susceptible to damage from mold or moth larvae ....

s and other naphthalene
Naphthalene
Naphthalene is an organic compound with formula . It is a white crystalline solid with a characteristic odor that is detectable at concentrations as low as 0.08 ppm by mass. As an aromatic hydrocarbon, naphthalene's structure consists of a fused pair of benzene rings...

 products. Phenol
Phenol
Phenol, also known as carbolic acid, phenic acid, is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5OH. It is a white crystalline solid. The molecule consists of a phenyl , bonded to a hydroxyl group. It is produced on a large scale as a precursor to many materials and useful compounds...

-based products (Pine-Sol
Pine-Sol
Pine-Sol is a registered trade name of Clorox for a line of household cleaning products. Although the original Pine-Sol formulation is pine oil based, all other cleaners sold under the Pine-Sol brand do not contain pine oil at all...

, Dettol
Dettol
Dettol is the trade name for a line of liquid and solid antiseptic cleansing products manufactured by Reckitt Benckiser.It is ranked as the 48th most trust brand in India by The Brand Trust Report 2011...

 (Lysol) or hexachlorophene
Hexachlorophene
Hexachlorophene, also known as Nabac, is a disinfectant. The compound occurs as a white to light-tan crystalline powder, which either is odorless or produces a slightly phenolic odor. In medicine, hexachlorophene is very useful as a topical anti-infective, anti-bacterial agent, often used in soaps...

) are often used for cleaning and disinfecting near cats' feeding areas or litter boxes but these can sometimes be fatal. Ethylene glycol
Ethylene glycol
Ethylene glycol is an organic compound widely used as an automotive antifreeze and a precursor to polymers. In its pure form, it is an odorless, colorless, syrupy, sweet-tasting liquid...

, often used as an automotive antifreeze
Antifreeze
Antifreeze is a freeze preventive used in internal combustion engines and other heat transfer applications, such as HVAC chillers and solar water heaters....

, is particularly appealing to cats, and as little as a teaspoonful can be fatal. Some human foods are toxic to cats; for example theobromine
Theobromine
Theobromine , also known as xantheose, is a bitter alkaloid of the cacao plant, with the chemical formula C7H8N4O2. It is found in chocolate, as well as in a number of other foods, including the leaves of the tea plant, and the kola nut...

 in chocolate
Chocolate
Chocolate is a raw or processed food produced from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. Cacao has been cultivated for at least three millennia in Mexico, Central and South America. Its earliest documented use is around 1100 BC...

 can cause theobromine poisoning
Theobromine poisoning
Theobromine poisoning or chocolate poisoning is an adverse reaction to the alkaloid theobromine, found in chocolate, tea, cola beverages, açaí berries, and some other foods. Cacao beans contain about 1.2% theobromine by weight, while processed chocolate, in general, has smaller amounts...

, although few cats will eat chocolate. Large amounts of onions or garlic
Garlic
Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and rakkyo. Dating back over 6,000 years, garlic is native to central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent...

 are also poisonous to cats. Many houseplant
Houseplant
A houseplant is a plant that is grown indoors in places such as residences and offices. Houseplants are commonly grown for decorative purposes, positive psychological effects, or health reasons such as indoor air purification...

s are also dangerous, such as Philodendron
Philodendron
Philodendron is a large genus of flowering plants in the Araceae family, consisting of close to 900 or more species according to TROPICOS . Other sources quote different numbers of species. According to S.J. Mayo there are about 350-400 formally recognized species whereas according to Croat there...

species and the leaves of the Easter Lily
Lilium longiflorum
Lilium longiflorum, often called the Easter lily or November lily, is a plant native to the Ryukyu Islands and Taiwan. It is a stem rooting lily, growing up to 1 m high. It bears a number of trumpet shaped, white, fragrant, and outward facing flowers.-Cultivation:A variety of it, L. longiflorum var...

, which can cause permanent and life-threatening kidney damage.

Behavior

Free-ranging 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 that house cats may be more active in the morning and evening (crepuscular
Crepuscular
Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight, that is during dawn and dusk. The word is derived from the Latin word crepusculum, meaning "twilight." Crepuscular is, thus, in contrast with diurnal and nocturnal behavior. Crepuscular animals may also be active on a bright...

 behavior), as a response to greater human activity at these times. House cats have territories that vary considerably in size, in one study ranging from seven to 28 hectares (69.2 acre). Although they spend the majority of their time in the vicinity of their home, they can range many hundreds of meters from this central point.
Cats conserve energy by sleeping more than most animals, especially as they grow older. The daily duration of sleep varies, usually 12–16 hours, with 13–14 being the average. Some cats can sleep as much as 20 hours in a 24-hour period. The term cat nap refers to the cat's ability to fall asleep (lightly) for a brief period and has entered the English lexicon—someone who nods off for a few minutes is said to be "taking a cat nap". During sleep cats experience short periods of rapid eye movement sleep accompanied by muscle twitches, which suggests that they are dream
Dream
Dreams are successions of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. The content and purpose of dreams are not definitively understood, though they have been a topic of scientific speculation, philosophical intrigue and religious...

ing.

Sociability

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 form 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 ten 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, cats do not have a social survival strategy, or a pack mentality
Herd behavior
Herd behavior describes how individuals in a group can act together without planned direction. The term pertains to the behavior of animals in herds, flocks and schools, and to human conduct during activities such as stock market bubbles and crashes, street demonstrations, sporting events,...

 and always hunt alone.

Domestic cats use many vocalizations for communication
Cat communication
Cat communication is the range of methods by which cats communicate with other cats, humans, and other animals. Communication methods include postures, movement , and auditory and chemical signals.The communication methods used by cats have been affected by the domestication process.-Auditory...

, including purr
Purr
A purr is a sound made by all species of felids and is a part of cat communication. It varies between cats , and from species to species, but can be characterized as a tonal buzzing. Domestic cats purr in a frequency of 25 to 150 vibrations per second...

ing, trilling
Trill consonant
In phonetics, a trill is a consonantal sound produced by vibrations between the articulator and the place of articulation. Standard Spanish <rr> as in perro is an alveolar trill, while in Parisian French it is almost always uvular....

, hissing, growling
Growling
Growling or growl is a low, guttural vocalization produced by predatory animals as a warning to others, as a sign of aggression, or to express anger. Low or dull rumbling noises may also be emitted by human beings when discontent with something or angry...

, snarling and several different forms of meowing. In contrast, feral cats are generally silent. Their types of body language, including position of ears and tail, relaxation of whole body, and kneading of paws, are all indicators of mood. The tail and ears are particularly important social signal in cats, with a raised tail acting as a friendly greeting. 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-touching is also a common greeting and may be followed by social grooming
Social grooming
In social animals, including humans, social grooming or allogrooming is an activity in which individuals in a group clean or maintain one another's body or appearance. It is a major social activity, and a means by which animals who live in proximity can bond and reinforce social structures, family...

, which is solicited by one of the cats raising and tilting its head. 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.

For cats, life in proximity with humans (and other animals kept by humans) amounts to a "symbiotic social adaptation". They may express great affection towards their human companions, especially if they imprint
Imprinting (psychology)
Imprinting is the term used in psychology and ethology to describe any kind of phase-sensitive learning that is rapid and apparently independent of the consequences of behavior...

 on them at a very young age and are treated with consistent affection. It has been suggested that, ethologically
Ethology
Ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior, and a sub-topic of zoology....

, the human keeper of a cat functions as a sort of surrogate for the cat's mother, and that adult domestic cats live their lives in a kind of extended kittenhood, a form of behavioral neoteny
Neoteny
Neoteny , also called juvenilization , is one of the two ways by which paedomorphism can arise. Paedomorphism is the retention by adults of traits previously seen only in juveniles, and is a subject studied in the field of developmental biology. In neoteny, the physiological development of an...

. Conversely, the high-pitched purrs cats make to solicit food may mimic the cries of a hungry human infant, making them particularly hard for humans to ignore.

Grooming

Cats are known for their cleanliness, spending many hours licking their coats. The cat's tongue
Tongue
The tongue is a muscular hydrostat on the floors of the mouths of most vertebrates which manipulates food for mastication. It is the primary organ of taste , as much of the upper surface of the tongue is covered in papillae and taste buds. It is sensitive and kept moist by saliva, and is richly...

 has backwards-facing spines about 500 micrometer
Micrometre
A micrometer , is by definition 1×10-6 of a meter .In plain English, it means one-millionth of a meter . Its unit symbol in the International System of Units is μm...

s long, which are called papillae
Filiform papilla
The filiform papillae are one of the four types of lingual papillae, small prominences on the surface of the tongue. The filiform papillae are thin, long "V"-shaped cones that don't contain taste buds but are the most numerous, covering most of the dorsum...

. These are quite rigid, as they contain keratin
Keratin
Keratin refers to a family of fibrous structural proteins. Keratin is the key of structural material making up the outer layer of human skin. It is also the key structural component of hair and nails...

. These spines allow cats to groom themselves by licking their fur, with the rows of papillae acting like a hairbrush. Some cats, particularly longhaired cats, occasionally regurgitate hairball
Hairball
A hairball is a small collection of hair or fur formed in the stomach of animals that is occasionally vomited up when it becomes too big. Hairballs are primarily a tight elongated cylinder of packed fur, but may include bits of other elements such as swallowed food. Cats are especially prone to...

s of fur that have collected in their stomachs from grooming. These clumps of fur are usually sausage-shaped and about two to three centimeters 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 brush.

Fighting

With domestic cats, males are more likely to fight than females. With feral cats, the most common reason for cat fighting is competition between two males to mate with a female: here most fights will be won by the heavier male. Another possible reason for fighting in domestic cats is when the cats have difficulties in establishing a territory within a small home. Female cats will also fight over territory or to defend their kittens. Spaying females and neutering males will decrease or eliminate this behavior in many cases, suggesting that the behavior is linked to sex hormones.

When fighting, cats make themselves appear more impressive and threatening by raising their fur and arching their backs, thus increasing their apparent size. 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. Attacks usually comprise powerful slaps to the face and body with the forepaws as well as bites, but serious damage is rare; usually the loser runs away with little more than a few scratches to the face, and sometimes the ears. Cats will also throw themselves to the ground in a defensive posture to rake their opponent's belly with their powerful hind legs.

Normally, serious injuries from fighting will be 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
Feline immunodeficiency virus
Feline immunodeficiency virus is a lentivirus that affects domesticated housecats worldwide and is the causative agent of feline AIDS. From 2.5% up to 4.4% of cats worldwide are infected with FIV...

 (FIV). Sexually active males will usually be involved in many fights during their lives, and often have decidedly battered faces with obvious scars and cuts to the ears and nose.

Hunting and feeding

Cats feed on small prey, primarily birds and rodents. Feral cats and house cats that are free-fed 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 type of strategy used may depend on the prey species in the area, with for example, cats waiting in ambush outside burrows, but tending to actively stalk birds.

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 such a perch as a tree branch, as does a leopard
Leopard
The leopard , Panthera pardus, is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion, and jaguar. The leopard was once distributed across eastern and southern Asia and Africa, from Siberia to South Africa, but its...

. Other possible explanations include 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
Equilibrioception
Equilibrioception or sense of balance is one of the physiological senses. It helps prevent humans and animals from falling over when walking or standing still. Balance is the result of a number of body systems working together: the eyes , ears and the body's sense of where it is in space ideally...

 and flexibility. This is known as the cat's "righting reflex
Cat righting reflex
The cat righting reflex is a cat's innate ability to orient itself as it falls in order to land on its feet. The righting reflex begins to appear at 3-4 weeks of age, and is perfected at 7 weeks. They are able to do this as they have an unusually flexible backbone and no functional clavicle...

". It 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 feet). Cats without a tail also have this ability, since a cat mostly moves its hind legs and relies on conservation of angular momentum
Angular momentum
In physics, angular momentum, moment of momentum, or rotational momentum is a conserved vector quantity that can be used to describe the overall state of a physical system...

 to set up for landing, and the tail is in fact little used for this feat. This leads to the proverb "a cat always lands on its feet."

One poorly understood element of cat hunting behavior is the presentation of prey to human owners. Ethologist
Ethology
Ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior, and a sub-topic of zoology....

 Paul Leyhausen proposed that cats adopt humans into their social group, and share excess kill with others in the group according to the local pecking order
Pecking order
Pecking order or just peck order is the colloquial term for a hierarchical system of social organization in chickens. It was first described from the behaviour of poultry by Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe in 1921 under the German terms Hackordnung or Hackliste' ...

, in which humans are placed at or near the top. Anthropologist and animal scientist Desmond Morris
Desmond Morris
Desmond John Morris, born 24 January 1928 in Purton, north Wiltshire, is a British zoologist and ethologist, as well as a popular anthropologist. He is also known as a painter, television presenter and popular author.-Life:...

, in his 1986 book Catwatching, suggests that when cats bring home mice or birds, they are teaching their human to hunt, or helping their human as if feeding "an elderly cat, or an inept kitten". Morris's theory is inconsistent with the fact that male cats also bring home prey, despite males having no involvement with raising kittens.

Domestic cats select food based on its temperature, smell and texture, strongly disliking chilled foods and responding most strongly to moist foods rich in amino acids, which are similar to meat. Cats may reject novel flavors (a response termed neophobia
Neophobia
Neophobia is the fear of new things or experiences. It is also called cainotophobia.In psychology, neophobia is defined as the persistent and abnormal fear of anything new. In its milder form, it can manifest as the unwillingness to try new things or break from routine...

) and learn quickly to avoid foods that have tasted unpleasant
Taste aversion
Conditioned taste aversion, also known as Garcia effect , and as "Sauce-Bearnaise Syndrome", a term coined by Seligman and Hager, is an example of classical conditioning or Pavlovian conditioning...

 in the past. They may also avoid sugary foods and milk; since they are lactose intolerant, these sugars are not easily digested and may cause soft stools or diarrhea
Diarrhea
Diarrhea , also spelled diarrhoea, is the condition of having three or more loose or liquid bowel movements per day. It is a common cause of death in developing countries and the second most common cause of infant deaths worldwide. The loss of fluids through diarrhea can cause dehydration and...

. They can also develop odd eating habits. Some cats like to eat or chew on other things, most commonly wool, but also plastic, paper, string, aluminum foil/Christmas tree tinsel, or even coal. This condition is called pica
Pica (disorder)
Pica is characterized by an appetite for substances largely non-nutritive . For these actions to be considered pica, they must persist for more than one month at an age where eating such objects is considered developmentally inappropriate...

 and can threaten their health, depending on the amount and toxicity of the items eaten.

Since cats cannot fully close their mouths 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, drawing water upwards.

Play

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
Predation
In ecology, predation describes a biological interaction where a predator feeds on its prey . Predators may or may not kill their prey prior to feeding on them, but the act of predation always results in the death of its prey and the eventual absorption of the prey's tissue through consumption...

 prey. Cats will 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 animals.

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
Habituation
Habituation can be defined as a process or as a procedure. As a process it is defined as a decrease in an elicited behavior resulting from the repeated presentation of an eliciting stimulus...

) 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 intestine
Intestine
In human anatomy, the intestine is the segment of the alimentary canal extending from the pyloric sphincter of the stomach to the anus and, in humans and other mammals, consists of two segments, the small intestine and the large intestine...

s, a medical emergency which can cause serious illness and death. Owing to the risks posed by cats eating string, it is sometimes replaced with a laser pointer
Laser pointer
A laser pointer or laser pen is a small portable device with a power source and a laser emitting a very narrow coherent low-powered beam of visible light, intended to be used to highlight something of interest by illuminating it with a small bright spot of colored light...

's dot, which cats may chase. While concerns have been raised about the safety of these lasers, Professor John Marshall, an ophthalmologist at St Thomas' Hospital
St Thomas' Hospital
St Thomas' Hospital is a large NHS hospital in London, England. It is administratively a part of Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust. It has provided health care freely or under charitable auspices since the 12th century and was originally located in Southwark.St Thomas' Hospital is accessible...

, has stated that it would be "virtually impossible" to blind a cat with a laser pointer.

Reproduction

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 will reject the male, but eventually the female will allow the male to mate. The female will utter a loud yowl as the male pulls out of her. This is because a male cat's penis
Penis
The penis is a biological feature of male animals including both vertebrates and invertebrates...

 has a band of about 120–150 backwards-pointing spines, which are about one millimeter long; upon withdrawal of the penis, the spines rake the walls of the female's vagina
Vagina
The vagina is a fibromuscular tubular tract leading from the uterus to the exterior of the body in female placental mammals and marsupials, or to the cloaca in female birds, monotremes, and some reptiles. Female insects and other invertebrates also have a vagina, which is the terminal part of the...

, which is a trigger for ovulation
Ovulation
Ovulation is the process in a female's menstrual cycle by which a mature ovarian follicle ruptures and discharges an ovum . Ovulation also occurs in the estrous cycle of other female mammals, which differs in many fundamental ways from the menstrual cycle...

. 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 of conception.

After mating, the female will wash her vulva
Vulva
The vulva consists of the external genital organs of the female mammal. This article deals with the vulva of the human being, although the structures are similar for other mammals....

 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
Superfecundation
Superfecundation is the fertilization of two or more ova from the same cycle by sperm from separate acts of sexual intercourse. The term superfecundation is derived from fecund, meaning the ability to produce offspring....

; 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.

The gestation
Gestation
Gestation is the carrying of an embryo or fetus inside a female viviparous animal. Mammals during pregnancy can have one or more gestations at the same time ....

 period for cats is between 64–67 days, with an average length of 66 days. The size of a litter
Litter (animal)
A litter is the offspring at one birth of animals from the same mother and usually from one set of parents. The word is most often used for the offspring of mammals, but can be used for any animal that gives birth to multiple young. In comparison, a group of eggs and the offspring that hatch from...

 averages three to five kittens, with the first litter usually smaller than subsequent litters. Kittens are weaned at between six and seven weeks, 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 old, or when they are ready to leave their mother. Cats can be surgically sterilized
Neutering
Neutering, from the Latin neuter , is the removal of an animal's reproductive organ, either all of it or a considerably large part. The process is often used in reference to males whereas spaying is often reserved for females. Colloquially, both terms are often referred to as fixing...

 (spayed or castrated
Castration
Castration is any action, surgical, chemical, or otherwise, by which a male loses the functions of the testicles or a female loses the functions of the ovaries.-Humans:...

) 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
Puberty
Puberty is the process of physical changes by which a child's body matures into an adult body capable of reproduction, as initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads; the ovaries in a girl, the testes in a boy...

, at about three to six months. In the USA approximately 80% of household cats are neutered.

Habitats

Cats are a cosmopolitan species and are found across much of the world. 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
Kerguelen Islands
The Kerguelen Islands , also known as the Desolation Islands, are a group of islands in the southern Indian Ocean constituting the emerged part of the otherwise submerged Kerguelen Plateau. The islands, along with Adélie Land, the Crozet Islands and the Amsterdam and Saint Paul Islands are part of...

. 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. 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
Invasive species
"Invasive species", or invasive exotics, is a nomenclature term and categorization phrase used for flora and fauna, and for specific restoration-preservation processes in native habitats, with several definitions....

. Despite this general adaptability, the close relatives of domestic cats, the African Wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica) and the Arabian Sand Cat
Sand Cat
The sand cat , also referred to as the "sand dune cat", is a small wild cat distributed over African and Asian deserts. The Sand cat lives in arid areas that are too hot and dry even for the African Wildcat: the Sahara, the Arabian Desert, and the deserts of Iran and...

 (Felis margarita) both inhabit desert environments, and domestic cats still show similar adaptations and behaviors.

Impact on prey species

To date, there are few scientific data available to assess the impact of cat predation on prey populations. 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 in some cases eliminating a cat population can actually accelerate the decline of an endangered bird species in the presence of a mesopredator, controlled by cats.

In the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

, cats are a particular problem in landmasses such as Australasia, where cat species have never been native and there were few equivalent native medium-sized mammalian predators. Native species such as the New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 Kakapo
Kakapo
The Kakapo , Strigops habroptila , also called owl parrot, is a species of large, flightless nocturnal parrot endemic to New Zealand...

 and the Australian Bettong
Bettong
The bettongs are species of the genus Bettongia, sometimes referred to as rat-kangaroos. Five species are recognised:* Eastern Bettong, Bettongia gaimardi* Boodie, Bettongia lesueur...

, for example, tend to be more ecologically vulnerable and behaviorally "naive" to predation by feral cats. Feral cats have had a major impact on these native species and have played a leading role in the endangerment and extinction of many animals.

Cat numbers in the UK are growing annually and their abundance is far above the ‘natural’ carrying capacity
Carrying capacity
The carrying capacity of a biological species in an environment is the maximum population size of the species that the environment can sustain indefinitely, given the food, habitat, water and other necessities available in the environment...

, because their population sizes are independent of their prey’s dynamics: i.e. cats are ‘recreational’ hunters. Population densities can be as high as 2000 individuals per km2 and the current trend is an increase of 0.5 million cats annually.

Impact on birds

The domestic cat is probably a significant predator of birds. Current UK assessments indicate that they may be accountable for an estimated 64.8 million bird deaths each year. Certain species appear more susceptible than others; for example, 30% of house sparrow
House Sparrow
The House Sparrow is a bird of the sparrow family Passeridae, found in most parts of the world. One of about 25 species in the genus Passer, the House Sparrow occurs naturally in most of Europe, the Mediterranean region, and much of Asia...

 mortality is linked to the domestic cat. In the recovery of ringed robins and dunnocks, it was also concluded that 31% of deaths were a result of cat predation. The presence of larger carnivores such as coyote
Coyote
The coyote , also known as the American jackal or the prairie wolf, is a species of canine found throughout North and Central America, ranging from Panama in the south, north through Mexico, the United States and Canada...

s which prey on cats and other small predators reduces the effect of predation by cats and other small predators such as opossums and raccoon
Raccoon
Procyon is a genus of nocturnal mammals, comprising three species commonly known as raccoons, in the family Procyonidae. The most familiar species, the common raccoon , is often known simply as "the" raccoon, as the two other raccoon species in the genus are native only to the tropics and are...

s 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
Mesopredator release hypothesis
The mesopredator release hypothesis is a relatively new hypothesis from 1988 which describes the phenomenon of trophic cascade in certain terrestrial communities. It states that as top predators decline in an ecosystem, an increase in the populations of mesopredators occurs...

.

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 Islands Rail, the Auckland Islands Merganser, and the common diving petrel are a few from a long list, with the most extreme case being the flightless Stephens Island Wren
Stephens Island Wren
The Stephens Island Wren or Lyall's Wren was a nocturnal, flightless, insectivorous passerine.-Habitat:...

, which was driven to extinction only a few years after its discovery.

Some of the same factors that have promoted adaptive radiation
Adaptive radiation
In evolutionary biology, adaptive radiation is the evolution of ecological and phenotypic diversity within a rapidly multiplying lineage. Starting with a recent single ancestor, this process results in the speciation and phenotypic adaptation of an array of species exhibiting different...

 of island avifauna
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

 over evolutionary time appear to promote vulnerability to non-native species in modern time. The susceptibility inherent 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, behavioural traits exhibited by island species, such as ‘predatory naivety’ and ground-nesting, have also contributed to their susceptibility.

Cats and humans

Cats are a common companion animal in Europe and North America, and their worldwide population exceeds 500 million. In 1998 there were around 43 million cats in Western Europe, 33 million in Eastern Europe, seven million in Japan and three million in Australia. A 2007 report stated that about 37 million US households owned cats, with an average of 2.2 cats per household giving a total population of around 82 million. In contrast, there are about 72 million pet dogs in that country. Although cat ownership has commonly been associated with women, a 2007 Gallup poll reported that men and women were equally likely to own a cat. The ratio of pedigree/purebred cats to random-bred cats varies from country to country. However, generally speaking, purebreds are less than 10% of the total population.

According to the Humane Society of the United States
Humane Society of the United States
The Humane Society of the United States , based in Washington, D.C., is the largest animal advocacy organization in the world. In 2009, HSUS reported assets of over US$160 million....

, as well as being kept as pets, cats are also used in the international fur trade
Fur trade
The fur trade is a worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of animal fur. Since the establishment of world market for in the early modern period furs of boreal, polar and cold temperate mammalian animals have been the most valued...

. Cat fur is used in coats, gloves, hats, shoes, blankets and stuffed toys. About 24 cats are needed to make a cat fur coat. This use has now been outlawed in several countries, including the United States, Australia and the European Union. However, some cat furs are still made into blankets in Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 as folk remedies
Traditional medicine
Traditional medicine comprises unscientific knowledge systems that developed over generations within various societies before the era of modern medicine...

 that are believed to help rheumatism
Rheumatism
Rheumatism or rheumatic disorder is a non-specific term for medical problems affecting the joints and connective tissue. The study of, and therapeutic interventions in, such disorders is called rheumatology.-Terminology:...

.

It has long been common for cats to be eaten in some parts of China and in some other Asian countries and it is estimated that in southern China's Guangdong
Guangdong
Guangdong is a province on the South China Sea coast of the People's Republic of China. The province was previously often written with the alternative English name Kwangtung Province...

 province people eat 10,000 cats a day. Animal People estimates that 4 million cats are killed and consumed in Asia every year.

Domesticated varieties

The concept of a cat breed appeared in Britain during the late 19th century. The current list of cat breeds is quite large: with the Cat Fanciers' Association
Cat Fanciers' Association
The Cat Fanciers' Association was established in the United States in 1906 and is the world's largest registry of pedigreed cats and the predominant pedigreed cat registering association in North America...

 recognizing 41 breeds, of which 16 are "natural breeds" that probably emerged before humans began breeding pedigree cats, while the others were developed over the latter half of the 20th century. The owners and breeders of show cats compete to see whose animal bears the closest resemblance to the "ideal" definition and standard of the breed (see selective breeding
Selective breeding
Selective breeding is the process of breeding plants and animals for particular genetic traits. Typically, strains that are selectively bred are domesticated, and the breeding is sometimes done by a professional breeder. Bred animals are known as breeds, while bred plants are known as varieties,...

). Because of common crossbreeding in populated areas, many cats are simply identified as belonging to the homogeneous breeds of domestic longhair
Domestic longhaired cat
A domestic longhaired cat is a cat fancy term used to describe a cat with medium or long fur that is not a pedigreed member of a recognized breed. Domestic longhairs come in all the standard cat colours including tabby, tortie, bi-colored, smoke etc...

 and domestic shorthair
Domestic shorthaired cat
A domestic shorthaired cat is a cat fancy term used to describe a shorthaired cat that does not have a pedigree or belong to a recognized cat breed...

, depending on their type of fur. In the United Kingdom and Australasia, non-purebred cats are referred in slang as moggies (derived from "Maggie", short for Margaret, reputed to have been a common name for cows and calves in 18th century England and latter applied to housecats during the Victorian era
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

). In the United States, a non-purebred cat is sometimes referred to in slang as a barn or alley cat, even if it is not a stray
Feral cat
A feral cat is a descendant of a domesticated cat that has returned to the wild. It is distinguished from a stray cat, which is a pet cat that has been lost or abandoned, while feral cats are born in the wild; the offspring of a stray cat can be considered feral if born in the wild.In many parts of...

.

Cats come in a variety of colors and patterns. These are physical properties and should not be confused with a breed of cat. Furthermore, cats may show the color and/or pattern particular to a certain breed without actually being of that breed. For example, cats may have seal point coloration, but not be Siamese
Siamese (cat)
The Siamese is one of the first distinctly recognized breeds of Oriental cat. The origins of the breed are unknown, but it is believed to be from Thailand. In Thailand, where they are one of several native breeds, they are called Wichian Mat...

.

Some original cat breeds that have a distinct phenotype that is the main type occurring naturally as the dominant domesticated cat type in their region of origin are sometimes considered as subspecies and also have received names as such in nomenclature, although this is not supported by feline biologists. Some of these cat breeds are:
  • F. catus anura – the Manx – The Manx is a stocky, solid cat with a dense double coat
    Coat (animal)
    Coat, or the nature and quality of a show mammal's pelage, is important to the animal fancy in the judging of the animal, particularly at conformation dog shows, cat shows and horse shows...

     (long or short), a compact body, very short back, hind legs that are visibly longer than the front legs, big bones, a wide chest, and greater depth of flank (sides of the cat nearest the rear) than other cats. A female Manx would not weigh more than 10 pounds (4.5 kg) and a male does not weigh over 12 pounds (5.4 kg). Specific to this breed is the way their ears appear as a "cradle" when looked at from behind. A Manx cat is mainly recognized by its appearance as it does not have a tail. Although some of them may have a small tail, most Manx cats are tailless. Because of the genetic deformation of these cats they are susceptible of developing what is called Manx Syndrome, a condition that could be fatal for a kitten. Although the gene normally affects only the tail, there is the risk of causing damage to the spine such as fused vertebrae.
  • F. catus siamensis – the Siamese – Siamese cats are amongst the firstly recognized Oriental cats, a type of cat with a long body but an elegant posture. The length is the main characteristic based on which these cats are distinguished. Their body, legs and tail are all long and still Siamese cats are known for their grace. Also, they are famous because of their blue almond eyes and they are also called "people cats" because of the affection they show to their owners.
  • F. catus cartusenensis – the Chartreux – The Chartreux is a natural French breed, which is easily recognized by its size, grayish color and double coat. These cats are also famous because of the paradox coming from the combination between a massively build body and smiling expression and sweet voice
    Voice
    Voice may refer to:* Human voice* Voice control or voice activation* Writer's voice* Voice acting* Voice vote* Voice message-In film:* Voice , a 2005 South Korean film* The Voice , a 2010 Turkish horror film directed by Ümit Ünal...

    .
  • F. catus angorensis – the Turkish Angora

Coat patterns

Cat coat genetics
Cat coat genetics
The genetics of cat coat coloration, pattern, length, and texture is a complex subject, and many different genes are involved.- Genes involved in albinism, dominant white, and white spotting :...

 can produce a variety of coat patterns. Some of the most common are:
Bicolor, Tuxedo and Van
Bicolor cat
A bicolor cat has white fur combined with fur of some other color, for example black or tabby. There are various patterns of bicolor cat. These range from Van pattern through to solid color with a throat locket...

 :This pattern varies between the tuxedo cat which is mostly black with a white chest, and possibly markings on the face and paws/legs, all the way to the Van pattern (so named after the Lake Van
Lake Van
Lake Van is the largest lake in Turkey, located in the far east of the country in Van district. It is a saline and soda lake, receiving water from numerous small streams that descend from the surrounding mountains. Lake Van is one of the world's largest endorheic lakes . The original outlet from...

 area in Turkey, which gave rise to the Turkish Van
Turkish Van
The Turkish Van is a recognized cat breed that is known for its unusual love of water and swimming. They were created from the cats native to the Lake Van area of Turkey. The cats of this type are named in Turkish Van Kedisi , in Armenian vana katou or vana gadou and in Kurdish...

 breed), where the only colored parts of the cat are the tail (usually including the base of the tail proper), and the top of the head (often including the ears). There are several other terms for amounts of white between these two extremes, such as Harlequin or jellicle cat. Bicolor cats can have as their primary (non-white) color black, red, any dilution thereof, and tortoiseshell (see below for definition).

Tabby :Striped, with a variety of patterns. The classic blotched tabby (or marbled) pattern is the most common and consists of butterflies and bullseyes. The mackerel or striped tabby is a series of vertical stripes down the cat's side (resembling the fish). This pattern broken into spots is referred to as a spotted tabby. Finally, the tabby markings may look like a series of ticks on the fur, thus the ticked tabby, which is almost exclusively associated with the Abyssinian breed of cats. The worldwide evolution of the cat means that certain types of tabby are associated with certain countries; for instance, blotched tabbies are quite rare outside NW Europe, where they are the most common type.

Tortoiseshell and calico
Tortoiseshell cat
Tortoiseshell describes a coat coloring found mostly in female cats. Cats of this color are mottled, with patches of orange or cream and chocolate, black or blue. They are sometimes called torties...

This cat is also known as a calimanco cat or clouded tiger cat, and by the abbreviation 'tortie'. In the cat fancy, a tortoiseshell cat is patched over with red (or its dilute form, cream) and black (or its dilute blue) mottled throughout the coat. Additionally, the cat may have white spots in its fur, which make it a 'tortoiseshell and white' cat; if there is a significant amount of white in the fur and the red and black colors form a patchwork rather than a mottled aspect, in North America the cat will be called a calico. All calicos are tortoiseshell (as they carry both black and red), but not all tortoiseshells are calicos (which requires a significant amount of white in the fur and patching rather than mottling of the colors). The calico is also sometimes called a tricolor cat. The Japanese refer to this pattern as mi-ke (meaning "triple fur"), while the Dutch call these cats lapjeskat (meaning "patches cat"). A true tricolor must consist of three colors: a reddish color, dark or light; white; and one other color, typically a brown, black, or blue. Both tortoiseshell and calico cats are typically female because the coat pattern is the result of differential X chromosome
X chromosome
The X chromosome is one of the two sex-determining chromosomes in many animal species, including mammals and is common in both males and females. It is a part of the XY sex-determination system and X0 sex-determination system...

 inactivation
X-inactivation
X-inactivation is a process by which one of the two copies of the X chromosome present in female mammals is inactivated. The inactive X chromosome is silenced by packaging into transcriptionally inactive heterochromatin...

 in females (which, as with all normal female mammals, have two X chromosomes). Conversely, cats where the overall color is ginger (orange) are commonly male (roughly in a 3:1 ratio). In a litter sired by a ginger tom, the females will be tortoiseshell or ginger. Male tortoiseshells can occur as a result of chromosomal abnormalities (often linked to sterility) or by a phenomenon known as mosaicism
Mosaic (genetics)
In genetic medicine, a mosaic or mosaicism denotes the presence of two populations of cells with different genotypes in one individual who has developed from a single fertilized egg...

, where two early stage embryos are merged into a single kitten.


Colorpoint
Point (coat color)
Point coloration refers to animal coat coloration with a pale body and relatively darker extremities, i.e. the face, ears, feet, tail, and scrotum...

The colorpoint pattern is most commonly associated with Siamese cats, but may also appear in any domesticated cat. A colorpointed cat has dark colors on the face, ears, feet, and tail, with a lighter version of the same color on the rest of the body, and possibly some white. The exact name of the colorpoint pattern depends on the actual color, so there are seal points (dark brown), chocolate points (warm lighter brown), blue points (dark gray), lilac or frost points (silvery gray-pink), red or flame points (orange), and tortie (tortoiseshell mottling) points, among others. This pattern is the result of a temperature sensitive mutation in one of the enzyme
Enzyme
Enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process, called substrates, are converted into different molecules, called products. Almost all chemical reactions in a biological cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates...

s in the metabolic pathway
Metabolic pathway
In biochemistry, metabolic pathways are series of chemical reactions occurring within a cell. In each pathway, a principal chemical is modified by a series of chemical reactions. Enzymes catalyze these reactions, and often require dietary minerals, vitamins, and other cofactors in order to function...

 from tyrosine
Tyrosine
Tyrosine or 4-hydroxyphenylalanine, is one of the 22 amino acids that are used by cells to synthesize proteins. Its codons are UAC and UAU. It is a non-essential amino acid with a polar side group...

 to pigment, such as melanin
Melanin
Melanin is a pigment that is ubiquitous in nature, being found in most organisms . In animals melanin pigments are derivatives of the amino acid tyrosine. The most common form of biological melanin is eumelanin, a brown-black polymer of dihydroxyindole carboxylic acids, and their reduced forms...

; thus, little or no pigment is produced except in the extremities or points where the skin is slightly cooler. For this reason, colorpointed cats tend to darken with age as bodily temperature drops; also, the fur over a significant injury may sometimes darken or lighten as a result of temperature change.

The tyrosine pathway also produces neurotransmitter
Neurotransmitter
Neurotransmitters are endogenous chemicals that transmit signals from a neuron to a target cell across a synapse. Neurotransmitters are packaged into synaptic vesicles clustered beneath the membrane on the presynaptic side of a synapse, and are released into the synaptic cleft, where they bind to...

s, thus mutations in the early parts of that pathway may affect not only pigment, but also neurological development. This results in a higher frequency of cross-eyes
Strabismus
Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes are not properly aligned with each other. It typically involves a lack of coordination between the extraocular muscles, which prevents bringing the gaze of each eye to the same point in space and preventing proper binocular vision, which may adversely...

 among colorpointed cats, as well as the high frequency of cross-eyes in white tigers.


White cats
True albinism (a mutation of the tyrosinase gene) is quite rare in cats. Much more common is the appearance of white coat color that is caused by a lack of melanocyte
Melanocyte
-External links: - "Eye: fovea, RPE" - "Integument: pigmented skin"...

s in the skin. A higher frequency of deafness in white cats is due to a reduction in the population and survival of melanoblast stem cells, which in addition to creating pigment-producing cells, develop into a variety of neurological cell types. White cats with one or two blue eyes have a particularly high likelihood of being deaf.


Smoke cats
The bottom eighth of each hair is white or creamy-white, with the rest of the hair being a solid color. Genetically this color is a non-agouti
Agouti signalling peptide
Agouti signalling peptide, a product of the Agouti gene, is a peptide consisting of 131 amino acids. Its discovery was published in 1994 in the scientific journal Nature where its functional properties were described...

 cat with the dominant inhibitor gene; a non-agouti version of the silver tabby
Tabby cat
A tabby is any cat that has a distinctive coat that features stripes, dots, lines or swirling patterns, usually together with an "M" mark on its forehead. Tabbies are sometimes erroneously assumed to be a cat breed. In fact, the tabby pattern is found in many breeds of cat, as well as among the...

. Smoke cats will look solid colored until they move, when the white undercoat becomes apparent. It is mostly found in pedigreed cats (especially longhair breeds) but also present in some domestic longhaired cat
Domestic longhaired cat
A domestic longhaired cat is a cat fancy term used to describe a cat with medium or long fur that is not a pedigreed member of a recognized breed. Domestic longhairs come in all the standard cat colours including tabby, tortie, bi-colored, smoke etc...

s.

Body types

Cats can also come in several body types, ranging between two extremes:

Oriental: Not a specific breed, but any cat with an elongated slender build, almond-shaped eyes, long nose, large ears (the Siamese and Oriental Shorthair
Oriental Shorthair
The Siamese cat was imported to Britain from Siam in the later half of the 1800s. According to reports, both pointed and solid colors were imported. The gene that causes the color to be restricted to the points is a recessive gene, therefore the general population of the cats of Siam were largely...

 breeds are examples of this).
Foreign: Less slender than the oriental type, but nevertheless a cat with a slight build and generally athletic look. Typical example breeds would be the Abyssinian cat
Abyssinian (cat)
The Abyssinian is a breed of domesticated cat with a distinctive ticked coat. There are many stories about its origins, often revolving around Ethiopia, but the actual origins are uncertain...

 and the Turkish Angora
Turkish Angora
The Turkish Angora is a breed of domestic cat. Turkish Angoras are one of the ancient, naturally occurring cat breeds, having originated in central Turkey, in the Ankara region...

. Some people consider the foreign and oriental body types as being the same, however.
Semi-Foreign: More or less the middle range of body conformation types, this type of cat is less slender without being stocky. Example breeds would be the Devon Rex
Devon Rex
The Devon Rex is a breed of intelligent, short-haired cat that emerged in England during the 1960s. They are known for their slender bodies, wavy coat, and large ears, similar to the Cornish Rex.-Discovery and relations:...

 and the Egyptian Mau
Egyptian Mau
Egyptian Maus are a small-medium sized short-haired cat breed. Along with the Bahraini Dilmun Cat, they are one of the few naturally spotted breeds of domesticated cat. The spots on an Egyptian Mau are not only on the coat; a shaved Mau has spots on its skin...

.
Semi-Cobby: These cats look more rounded without looking too stocky. Example breeds would be the American Shorthair
American Shorthair
The American Shorthair is a breed of cat believed to be descended from European domestic cats brought to North America by early settlers to protect valuable cargo from mice and rats...

 and British Shorthair
British Shorthair
The British Shorthair is a domesticated cat whose features make it a popular breed in cat shows. It has been the most popular breed of cat registered by the UK's Governing Council of the Cat Fancy since 2001, when it overtook the Persian breed....

.
Cobby: Any cat with a short, muscular, compact build, roundish eyes, short nose, and small ears. Persian cats and Exotic cats are two prime examples of such a body type.

Effects on human health

Because of their small size, domesticated house cats pose little physical danger to adult humans. However, in the USA cats inflict about 400,000 bites per year. This number represents about one in ten of all animal bites. Many cat bites will become infected, sometimes with serious consequences such as cat-scratch disease, or, more rarely, rabies
Rabies
Rabies is a viral disease that causes acute encephalitis in warm-blooded animals. It is zoonotic , most commonly by a bite from an infected animal. For a human, rabies is almost invariably fatal if post-exposure prophylaxis is not administered prior to the onset of severe symptoms...

. Cats may also pose a danger to pregnant women and immunosuppressed
Immunosuppression
Immunosuppression involves an act that reduces the activation or efficacy of the immune system. Some portions of the immune system itself have immuno-suppressive effects on other parts of the immune system, and immunosuppression may occur as an adverse reaction to treatment of other...

 individuals, since their feces can transmit toxoplasmosis
Toxoplasmosis
Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease caused by the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii. The parasite infects most genera of warm-blooded animals, including humans, but the primary host is the felid family. Animals are infected by eating infected meat, by ingestion of feces of a cat that has itself...

. A large percentage of cats are infected with this parasite, with infection rates ranging from around 40 to 60% in both domestic and stray cats worldwide.

Allergic
Allergy
An Allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system. Allergic reactions occur when a person's immune system reacts to normally harmless substances in the environment. A substance that causes a reaction is called an allergen. These reactions are acquired, predictable, and rapid...

 reactions to cat dander
Dander
Dander is an informal term for a material shed from the body of various animals, similar to dandruff. It may contain scales of dried skin and hair, or feathers. It is a cause of allergies in humans....

 and/or cat saliva are common. Some humans who are allergic to cats—typically manifested by hay fever
Allergic rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis, also known as pollenosis or hay fever, is an allergic inflammation of the nasal airways.It occurs when an allergen, such as pollen, dust or animal dander is inhaled by an individual with a sensitized immune system...

, asthma
Asthma
Asthma is the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath...

, or a skin rash
Rash
A rash is a change of the skin which affects its color, appearance or texture. A rash may be localized in one part of the body, or affect all the skin. Rashes may cause the skin to change color, itch, become warm, bumpy, chapped, dry, cracked or blistered, swell and may be painful. The causes, and...

—quickly acclimate themselves to a particular animal and live comfortably in the same house with it, while retaining an allergy to cats in general. Whether the risk of developing allergic diseases such as asthma is increased or decreased by cat ownership is uncertain. Some owners cope with this problem by taking allergy medicine, along with bathing their cats frequently, since weekly bathing will reduce the amount of dander shed by a cat. There have also been attempts to breed hypoallergenic cats, which would be less likely to provoke an allergic reaction.

As well as posing health risks, interactions with cats may improve health and reduce physical responses to stress: for example the presence of cats may moderate increased blood pressure
Blood pressure
Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by circulating blood upon the walls of blood vessels, and is one of the principal vital signs. When used without further specification, "blood pressure" usually refers to the arterial pressure of the systemic circulation. During each heartbeat, BP varies...

. Cat ownership may also improve psychological health by providing emotional support and dispelling feelings of depression, anxiety and loneliness. Their ability to provide companionship and friendship are common reasons given for owning a cat.

From another point of view, cats are thought to be able to improve the general mood
Mood (psychology)
A mood is a relatively long lasting emotional state. Moods differ from emotions in that they are less specific, less intense, and less likely to be triggered by a particular stimulus or event....

 of their owners by alleviating negative attitudes. According to a Swiss study carried out in 2003, cats may change the overall psychological state of their owner as their company's effect appears to be comparable to that of a human partner. The researchers concluded that, while cats were not shown to promote positive moods, they do alleviate negative ones.

One study found that cat ownership is associated with a reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes at the 95% confidence interval.

Several studies have shown that cats develop affection towards their owners. However, the effect of these pets on human health is closely related to the time and effort the cat owner is able to invest in it, in terms of bonding and playing.

Indoor scratching

A natural behavior in cats is to periodically hook their front claws into suitable surfaces and pull backwards. This marks their territory and exercises their legs, in addition to cleaning and sharpening their claws. Indoor cats benefit from being provided with a scratching post
Scratching post
A scratching post is a wooden post covered in rough material that cat owners provide so their pets have an acceptable place to scratch. Cats have a natural urge to scratch: the action helps them remove old material from their claws, and they mark territory with scent glands in their paws...

 so that they are less likely to use carpet or furniture which they can easily ruin. Commercial scratching posts typically are covered in carpeting or upholstery, but some authorities advise against this practice, as not making it clear to the cat which surfaces are permissible and which are not; they suggest using a plain wooden surface, or reversing the carpeting on the posts so that the rougher texture of the carpet backing is a more attractive alternative to the cat than the floor covering. Scratching posts made of sisal
Sisal
Sisal is an agave that yields a stiff fibre traditionally used in making twine, rope and also dartboards. The term may refer either to the plant or the fibre, depending on context...

 rope or corrugated cardboard are also common.

Although scratching can serve cats to keep their claws from growing excessively long, their nails can be trimmed if necessary. Another response to indoor scratching is onychectomy
Onychectomy
Onychectomy, popularly known as declawing, is an operation to surgically remove an animal's claws by means of amputating all or part of the distal phalanx, or end bones, of the animal's toes. It is performed most often on household cats, though occasionally on other animals such as circus lions or...

, commonly known as declawing. This is a surgical procedure to remove the claw and first bone of each digit of a cat's paws. Declawing is most commonly only performed on the front feet. A related procedure is tendonectomy
Tendonectomy
Tendonectomy is the surgical cutting of tendons, and is generally only practiced in veterinary medicine.- Tendonectomy in cats :Performing a tendonectomy on a cat is an alternative to onychectomy which severs the end of the digit...

, which involves cutting a tendon needed for cats to extend their claws. Declawing is a major surgical procedure and can produce pain, infections and permanent lameness.

Since this surgery is almost always performed for the benefit of owners, it is controversial and remains uncommon outside of North America. In many countries, declawing is prohibited by animal welfare
Animal welfare
Animal welfare is the physical and psychological well-being of animals.The term animal welfare can also mean human concern for animal welfare or a position in a debate on animal ethics and animal rights...

 laws and it is ethically controversial within the veterinary community. While both the Humane Society of the United States
Humane Society of the United States
The Humane Society of the United States , based in Washington, D.C., is the largest animal advocacy organization in the world. In 2009, HSUS reported assets of over US$160 million....

 and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing cruelty towards animals...

 strongly discourage or condemn the procedure, the American Veterinary Medical Association
American Veterinary Medical Association
The American Veterinary Medical Association , founded in 1863, is a not-for-profit association representing more than 81,500 U.S. veterinarians working in private and corporate practice, government, industry, academia, and uniformed services....

 supports the procedure under certain guidelines and finds "no scientific evidence that declawing leads to behavioral abnormalities when the behavior of declawed cats is compared with that of cats in control groups." They further argue that many cats would be given up and euthanized were declawing not performed. Nevertheless, many veterinarians refuse to perform the procedure.

Waste

Cats bury their urine and feces. Indoor cats are usually provided with a box containing litter, typically bentonite
Bentonite
Bentonite is an absorbent aluminium phyllosilicate, essentially impure clay consisting mostly of montmorillonite. There are different types of bentonite, each named after the respective dominant element, such as potassium , sodium , calcium , and aluminum . Experts debate a number of nomenclatorial...

, but sometimes other absorbent material such as shredded paper or wood chips, or sometimes sand
Sand
Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles.The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal...

 or similar material. It should be cleaned daily and changed often, depending on the number of cats in a household and the type of litter; if it is not kept clean, a cat may be fastidious enough to find other locations in the house for urination or defecation. This may also happen for other reasons; for instance, if a cat becomes constipated
Constipation
Constipation refers to bowel movements that are infrequent or hard to pass. Constipation is a common cause of painful defecation...

 and defecation is uncomfortable, it may associate the discomfort with the litter box and avoid it in favor of another location.

Daily attention to the litter box also serves as a monitor of the cat's health. Bentonite or clumping litter is a variation which absorbs urine into clumps which can be sifted out along with feces, and thus stays cleaner longer with regular sifting, but has sometimes been reported to cause health problems in some cats.

Some cats can be trained to use the human toilet, eliminating the litter box and its attendant expense, unpleasant odor, and the need to use landfill space for disposal. Training may involve four to six weeks of incremental moves, such as moving and elevating the litter box until it is near the toilet, as well as employing an adapter such as a bowl or small box to suspend the litter above the toilet bowl. When training is complete, the cat uses the toilet by squatting on the toilet seat over the bowl.

Feral cats

Feral cat
Feral cat
A feral cat is a descendant of a domesticated cat that has returned to the wild. It is distinguished from a stray cat, which is a pet cat that has been lost or abandoned, while feral cats are born in the wild; the offspring of a stray cat can be considered feral if born in the wild.In many parts of...

s are wild cats that are unfamiliar with humans and roam freely in urban or rural areas. The numbers of feral cats are not known, but estimates of the US feral population range from 25 to 60 million. Feral cats may live alone, but most are found in large groups called feral 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
Colosseum
The Colosseum, or the Coliseum, originally the Flavian Amphitheatre , is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire...

 and Forum Romanum, with cats at some of these sites being fed and vetted by volunteers.

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
Neutering
Neutering, from the Latin neuter , is the removal of an animal's reproductive organ, either all of it or a considerably large part. The process is often used in reference to males whereas spaying is often reserved for females. Colloquially, both terms are often referred to as fixing...

, immunized
Immunization
Immunization, or immunisation, is the process by which an individual's immune system becomes fortified against an agent ....

 against rabies and the feline leukemia virus
Feline leukemia virus
Feline leukemia virus is a retrovirus that infects cats. FeLV can be transmitted between infected cats when the transfer of saliva or nasal secretions is involved. If not defeated by the animal’s immune system, the virus can be lethal...

, and then released. Before releasing them back into their feral colonies, the attending veterinarian often nips the tip off one ear to mark the feral 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 lifespan is increased, and behavior and nuisance problems caused by competition for food are reduced.

History and mythology

Traditionally, historians tended to think that ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 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 was excavated in Shillourokambos
Shillourokambos
Shillourokambos is an aceramic Neolithic site near Parekklisha, 6 km east of Limassol in southern Cyprus. It is located on a low plateau. Excavations began in 1992...

, Cyprus, that 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 (Felis silvestris lybica), rather than present-day domestic cats. This discovery, combined with genetic studies, suggest that cats were probably domesticated in the Near East, in the Fertile Crescent
Fertile Crescent
The Fertile Crescent, nicknamed "The Cradle of Civilization" for the fact the first civilizations started there, is a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia. The term was first used by University of Chicago...

 around the time of the development of agriculture and then they were brought to Cyprus and Egypt.

In ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 cats were sacred animal
Animal worship
Animal worship refers to religious rituals involving animals, especially in pre-modern societies, such as the glorification of animal deities, or animal sacrifice....

s, with Bast often depicted in cat form, sometimes taking on the warlike aspect of a lioness. The Romans
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 are often credited with introducing the domestic cat from Egypt to Europe; in Roman Aquitaine
Gallia Aquitania
Gallia Aquitania was a province of the Roman Empire, bordered by the provinces of Gallia Lugdunensis, Gallia Narbonensis, and Hispania Tarraconensis...

, a 1st or 2nd century epitaph of a young girl holding a cat is one of two earliest depictions of the Roman domesticated cat. However, it is possible that cats were already kept in Europe prior to the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, as they may have already been present in Britain in the late Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

. Domestic cats were spread throughout much of the rest of the world during the Age of Discovery
Age of Discovery
The Age of Discovery, also known as the Age of Exploration and the Great Navigations , was a period in history starting in the early 15th century and continuing into the early 17th century during which Europeans engaged in intensive exploration of the world, establishing direct contacts with...

, as they were carried on sailing ship
Sailing ship
The term sailing ship is now used to refer to any large wind-powered vessel. In technical terms, a ship was a sailing vessel with a specific rig of at least three masts, square rigged on all of them, making the sailing adjective redundant. In popular usage "ship" became associated with all large...

s to control shipboard rodents and as good-luck charms.
Several ancient religions believed that cats are exalted souls, companions or guides for humans, that they are all-knowing but are mute so they cannot influence decisions made by humans. In Japan, the Maneki Neko
Maneki Neko
The is a common Japanese sculpture, often made of ceramic, which is believed to bring good luck to the owner. The sculpture depicts a cat beckoning with an upright paw, and is usually displayed—many times at the entrance—in shops, restaurants, pachinko parlors, and other businesses...

 is a cat that is a symbol of good fortune. Although there are no sacred species in Islam, some writers have stated that Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 had a favorite cat, Muezza
Muezza
Muezza is said to have been the Islamic prophet Muhammad's favorite cat. According to legend, Muhammad one day awoke at the sound of the call to prayer. Preparing to attend, he began to clothe himself; however, he soon discovered Muezza sleeping on the sleeve of his robe...

. He is reported to have loved cats so much that "he would do without his cloak rather than disturb one that was sleeping on it".

Freyja—the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility in Norse mythology
Norse mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...

—is depicted as riding a chariot drawn by cats.

Many cultures have negative superstition
Superstition
Superstition is a belief in supernatural causality: that one event leads to the cause of another without any process in the physical world linking the two events....

s about cats. An example would be the belief that a black cat
Black cat
A black cat is a feline with black fur. It is not a particular breed of cat and may be mixed or of a specific breed. The Bombay, known for its sleek black fur, is an example of a black cat. The all-black pigmentation is equally prevalent in both male and female cats...

 "crossing your path" leads to bad luck, or that cats are witches' familiar
Familiar spirit
In European folklore and folk-belief of the Medieval and Early Modern periods, familiar spirits were supernatural entities believed to assist witches and cunning folk in their practice of magic...

s used to augment a witch's powers and skills. This led to the widespread extermination of cats in Europe in medieval times. The Black Plague was spread by flea
Flea
Flea is the common name for insects of the order Siphonaptera which are wingless insects with mouthparts adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood...

s carried by infected rats, and the killing of cats ostensibly caused an increase in the rat population. The killing of cats in Medieval Ypres
Ypres
Ypres is a Belgian municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. The municipality comprises the city of Ypres and the villages of Boezinge, Brielen, Dikkebus, Elverdinge, Hollebeke, Sint-Jan, Vlamertinge, Voormezele, Zillebeke, and Zuidschote...

 is commemorated in the innocuous present-day Kattenstoet
Kattenstoet
The Kattenstoet, Festival of the Cats, is a parade in Ypres, Belgium, devoted to the cat. It is held every third year on the second Sunday of May. Most recently, the 42nd edition took place on May 10, 2009....

 (cat parade).

According to a myth in many cultures, cats have multiple lives. In many countries, they are believed to have nine lives, but in 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
Cat righting reflex
The cat righting reflex is a cat's innate ability to orient itself as it falls in order to land on its feet. The righting reflex begins to appear at 3-4 weeks of age, and is perfected at 7 weeks. They are able to do this as they have an unusually flexible backbone and no functional clavicle...

 to twist their bodies around. Nonetheless, cats can still be injured or killed by a high fall.

See also

  • Cat flap
    Cat flap
    A cat flap or cat door is a hinged flap set into a door, wall or window to allow cats to enter and exit a house on their own without needing a human to open the door, while offering a degree of protection against wind and rain entering the dwelling...

  • Cat intelligence
    Cat intelligence
    Cat intelligence is the considered capacity of learning, thinking, problem solving, reasoning, and adaptability possessed by the domestic cat. Intelligence in cats is demonstrated by the capacity to develop and use tools, learn new behavior techniques, apply previously acquired knowledge to new...

  • Cat lady
    Cat lady
    The term cat lady can refer to several things:* Cat lady, a woman who dotes upon her cat or cats. The term is commonly used in a pejorative sense to denote an animal hoarder who keeps large numbers of cats without having the ability to properly house or care for them.Fictional characters* Eleanor...

  • Cat meat
    Cat meat
    Cat meat or cat flesh, meat prepared from domestic cats for human consumption , is varied in its acceptability as a food source in different parts of the world...

  • Cat pheromone
    Cat pheromone
    Cat pheromones are pheromones that are used by cats and other felids for cat communication.- Feline facial pheromone :Feline facial pheromone is a hypothetical pheromone used by cats to mark places, objects, and persons as familiar by rubbing their face on surfaces...

  • List of cats
  • List of fictional cats
  • Lolcat
    Lolcat
    A lolcat is an image combining a photograph of a cat with text intended to contribute humour. The text is often idiosyncratic and grammatically incorrect, and its use in this way is known as "lolspeak" or "kitty pidgin"....

  • Pet first aid
    Pet First Aid
    First Aid is typically described as "Emergency treatment administered to an injured or sick person before professional medical care is available."Although usually referring to humans, the definition is still valid when it comes to pets...

  • Popular cat names


External links

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