The domestic cat (Felis catus or Felis silvestris catus, previously Felis domesticus) is a small, usually furry, domesticated, carnivorous mammal. It is often called the housecat when kept as an indoor pet, or simply the cat when there is no need to distinguish it from other felids and felines.
Cats still have the effective predatory tools -- such as excellent eyesight and hearing, sharp claws and teeth, strength, agility -- that made its progenitor, F. lybica , so successful in the wild. In addition, cats are prey-generalists; they will eat almost any type of animal they encounter, if within their (wide) prey-size range. They will even eat insects.
The domestic cat is a close relative of both Felis silvestris, the European wild cat, and Felis lybica, the African wild cat. F.catus can interbreed with both to produce fertile hybrid offspring. Analysis of mitochondrial DNA has shown that F.catus and F.lybica are actually subspecies of F.silvestris.
The cat has proven to be a significant model organism for biomedical research, especially in infectious disease research. Numerous examples are found in the fields of neuroscience, behavioral biology, reproductive physiology and endocrinology where cat has aided human disease research.
The domestic cat is known to be derived from a wild relative of the 37 species of the Felidae family. Interestingly, the literature thoroughly documents cat domestication and is filled with many ancient accounts of the domesticated cat, such as the deification of cats in Egyptian culture.
Cats are above all opportunistic, taking available prey. In an overview of diet studies from the northern and southern hemispheres, Pearre and Maas found their main prey to be mammals, with birds secondary, and reptiles and insects more frequent at lower latitudes and during warm seasons. On islands, mammals were again most important, followed by birds, especially when seabirds are present.
Felis catus is a small-bodied felid that typically ranges from 2 to 7 kg as an adult. The combined length of the head and body ranges from 460 to 522 mm, and the tail is typically 280 to 350 mm in length. Females average about 70% or 80% of the mass of males.
The domestic cat has a 63-65 day gestation and produces litters of variable size, usually 4, but ranging from 1-8. Its placenta has often been investigated and a large literature exists on cat pregnancies, diseases, and genetics. The newborn weight is from 60-110 g, maternal weight (not pregnant and at term) is around 6,000 g, depending on the breed.
The cat, as the rabbit and some other species, is a "reflex ovulator"; i.e. she ovulates upon copulation. This allows good timing of early gestations.
Domestic cats are efficient and instinctive predators. All cat species are carnivorous, but hunting for
food is unnecessary for domesticated animals when properly cared for by humans. However, even when well-fed,
domestic cats continue to hunt.
The domestic cat (Felis catus) is the most popular pet in the United States, with numbers ranging between 148 and 188 million individuals. Originally bred from wild cats (Felis silvestris) in the Near East approximately 10,000 years ago,2 domestic cats are now considered a distinct species. As a domesticated animal, cats have no native range and, therefore, are a non-native species in natural systems worldwide.