Of all the carnivores, cats are the most exclusive flesh-eaters and are the most highly adapted for hunting and devouring their prey. All cats have rounded heads, short muzzles, large eyes, sensitive whiskers about the mouth, and erect pointed ears. They have short, wide jaws equipped with long canine teeth and strong molars with sharp cutting edges. Their tongues are coated with sharp recurved projections called papillae that aid in drinking and grooming.
Cats have five toes on the forefeet and four on the hind feet. The fifth toe is set high on the forefoot and does not touch the ground during walking, but it is used in grooming and capturing prey. The ends of the toes bear strong, sharp, curved claws. In all but the cheetah the claws are completely retractile, being withdrawn into protective sheaths when not in use. This mechanism is a distinguishing feature of the cat family, although it occurs in a less developed form in some civets.
All cats, with the exception of the lynx and related species, have long tails which they use for balance. The musculo-skeletal system is extremely flexible, allowing cats to arch and twist their bodies in a variety of ways. Most cats have good vision and are able to see well in very dim light; their color vision is weak. Their sense of hearing is excellent and, at least in the small cats, can detect frequencies of up to 40,000 Hz or higher. The sense of smell is not as highly developed as in the dog; its keenness may vary from one species to another.
Cats are extremely agile; they can run faster than any other mammal for short distances and are remarkable jumpers. They are also good swimmers and members of many species appear to enjoy bathing. All are able to climb trees, but they vary in their behavior from almost exclusively terrestrial (e.g., the lion) to largely arboreal (e.g., the clouded leopards). Most cats stalk their victims with great stealth and silence; even the lion, which lives in open country, usually lies in concealment until it can pounce on its victim. Only the cheetah, the swiftest of all mammals, runs down its prey.
Most are more or less solitary, but cheetahs live in family groups and lions live in groups, called prides, of up to 30 individuals. Cats live in a wide variety of habitats, although they are most numerous in warm climates. Even a single species, such as the tiger, may range from cold northern regions to the tropics. All continents except Australia and Antarctica have native species.
Cats have been domesticated since prehistoric times, perhaps for 10,000 years; there is evidence (from a Neolithic grave on Cyprus) of some sort of association with humans dating back to the 8th cent. B.C. Cats have been greatly valued as destroyers of vermin, as well as for their ornamental qualities. The ancient Egyptian domestic cat, which spread to Europe in historic times, was used as a retriever in hunting as well as for catching rats and mice. It and the modern domestic cat, F. catus, are descended from Felis sylvestris lybica, the Near Eastern subspecies of the wildcat. The domestic cat can and does interbreed with the five subspecies of wildcat found in Eurasia and Africa. Cats were venerated in the ancient Egyptian and Norse religions, and they have also been the object of superstitious fear, especially in the Middle Ages, when they were tortured and burned as witches.
Cats vary considerably in size; males commonly weigh 9 to 14 lb (4.1-6.4 kg) and females 6 to 10 lb (2.2-4.5 kg). They have coats of varying length and a wide variety of colors: black, white, and many shades of red, yellow, brown, and gray. A cat may be solid-colored or have patches or shadings of a second color. An extremely common pattern, probably derived from wild ancestors, is tabby: a red, brown, or gray background, striped with a lighter shade of the same color. The tortoiseshell pattern is a mixture of red, yellow, and black patches. The calico pattern is similar, but with large patches of white.Recognized Breeds
Besides the common house cat, with its natural variation, the species F. catus includes recognized breeds with characteristics maintained by breeders and fanciers through selective mating. Breeds are established when particular traits breed true for several generations; the known lineage of an animal is called its pedigree. Cat fanciers' associations set standards, establish pedigrees, and conduct cat shows. There are seven such associations in the United States, one in Canada, and one in Great Britain. The short-haired breeds are in general more slender and active than the long-haired.
The long-haired breeds are the Persian and Himalayan; angora is an old term denoting any long-haired cat. Persians may be black, white, or any of a great variety of colors, including calico, tortoiseshell, tabby, and cameo (cream with red shadings). The Himalayan breed resulted from the crossing of a Siamese with a Persian cat; Himalayans have the stocky bodies and long hair of Persians, with Siamese coloring.
All other breeds are short-haired. Abyssinians have long bodies and ruddy brown coats with ticking (marking on each hair) of darker brown or black. They are thought to be the most unchanged descendants of the ancient Egyptian domestic cat. Siamese are slender cats with almond-shaped blue eyes, and white, cream, or fawn-colored coats with brown or gray areas, called points, on the feet, tail, ears, and face. Show Siamese are divided according to color of their coats and markings into seal-, chocolate-, blue-, lilac-, and red-point types. Burmese are small, muscular, roundheaded cats with medium to dark brown coats. Manx are tailless cats of various colors; their hind legs are longer than their forelegs, so that the rump is elevated. They probably arose by mutation on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, although tailless cats also occur in the Orient. The Russian Blue has bright green eyes and an evenly blue-gray coat, distinguished for having two layers of short, thick fur. The Rex is a recent breed resulting from mutation and is the only curly-haired cat. Its short, woolly coat may be any color. Domestic shorthair is also a recognized category in American cat shows; cats of this group differ from the common household cat only in having known parentage for at least two generations.
The Maine coon cat is a non-pedigreed strain of large domestic cats found in Maine and believed to be descended from Persians; coon cats weigh up to 25 lb (11.3 kg). Maltese does not connote a breed but is a name applied indiscriminately to gray cats. In 2006 an American biotechnology firm began selling cats that did not have the glycoprotein that causes an allergic response in humans; the animals had been selectively bred from cats that naturally lacked the allergen.
Cats are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Felidae.
See M. Boorer, Wild Cats (1970); C. Necker, The Natural History of Cats (1970); G. N. Henderson and D. J. Coffey, ed., The International Encyclopedia of Cats (1973); R. Caras, ed., Harper's Illustrated Handbook of Cats (1985); D. Turner and P. Bateson, ed., The Domestic Cat (1988).
A skilled predator, the cat is known to hunt over 1,000 species for food. It can be trained to obey simple commands. Individual cats have also been known to learn on their own to manipulate simple mechanisms, such as doorknobs. Cats use a variety of vocalizations and types of body language for communication, including meowing, purring, hissing, growling, squeaking, chirping, clicking, and grunting. With 69 million of them present in American homes, cats are the most or the second most popular pets in that country. Cats also may be the most popular pet in the world, with over 600 million in homes all over the world. They are also bred and shown as registered pedigree pets. This hobby is known as the "Cat Fancy".
Until recently the cat was commonly believed to have been domesticated in ancient Egypt, where it was a cult animal. However a 2007 study found that all house cats are probably descended from a group of as few as five self-domesticating African Wildcats Felis silvestris lybica circa 8000 BC, in the Near East.
Cats typically weigh between 2.5 and 7 kg (5.5–16 pounds); however, some Cat breeds, such as the Maine Coon, can exceed . Some have been known to reach up to due to overfeeding. Conversely, very small cats (less than ) have been reported.
The largest cat ever was officially reported to have weighed in at about (46 lb 15.25 oz).
As facilitated by their oral structure, cats use a variety of vocalizations and types of body language for communication, including mewing ("meow" or "miaow"), purring, hissing, growling, squeaking, chirping, clicking, and grunting.
Like nearly all members of family Felidae, cats have retractable claws. In their normal, relaxed position the claws are sheathed with the skin and fur around the toe pads. This keeps the claws sharp by preventing wear from contact with the ground and allows the silent stalking of prey. The claws on the forefeet are typically sharper than those on the hind feet. Cats can extend their claws voluntarily on one or more paws at will. They may extend their claws in hunting or self-defense, climbing, "kneading", or for extra traction on soft surfaces (bedspreads, thick rugs, etc.). It is also possible to make a cooperative cat extend its claws by carefully pressing both the top and bottom of the paw. The curved claws may become entangled in carpet or thick fabric, which may cause injury if the cat is unable to free itself.
Most cats have five claws on their front paws, and four or five on their rear paws. Because of an ancient mutation, however, domestic cats are prone to polydactylyism, and may have six or seven toes. The fifth front claw (the dewclaw) 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 cats and dogs. It has no function in normal walking, but is thought to be an anti-skidding device used while jumping.
The particularly loose skin at the back of the neck is known as the scruff, and is the area by which a mother cat grips her kittens to carry them. As a result, cats tend to become quiet and passive when gripped there. This behavior also extends into adulthood, when a male will grab the female by the scruff to immobilize her while he mounts, and to prevent her from running away as the mating process takes place.
This technique can be useful when attempting to treat or move an uncooperative cat. However, since an adult cat is heavier than a kitten, a pet cat should never be carried by the scruff, but should instead have its weight supported at the rump and hind legs, and at the chest and front paws. Often (much like a small child) a cat will lie with its head and front paws over a person's shoulder, and its back legs and rump supported under the person's arm.
Cat senses are attuned for hunting. Cats have highly advanced hearing, eyesight, taste, and touch receptors, making the cat extremely sensitive among mammals. Cats' night vision is superior to humans although their vision in daylight is inferior.
Humans and cats have a similar range of hearing on the low end of the scale, but cats can hear much higher-pitched sounds, up to 64 kHz, which is 1.6 octaves above the range of a human, and even one octave above the range of a dog.
A domestic cat's sense of smell is about fourteen times as strong as a human's.
Due to a mutation in an early cat ancestor, one of two genes necessary to taste sweetness may have been lost by the cat family.
To aid with navigation and sensation, cats have dozens of movable vibrissae (whiskers) over their body, especially their face.
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".
Due to their crepuscular nature, cats are often known to enter a period of increased activity and playfulness during the evening and early morning, dubbed the "evening crazies", "night crazies", "elevenses" or "mad half-hour" by some.
The temperament of a cat can vary depending on the breed and socialization. Cats with oriental body types tend to be thinner and more active, while cats that have a cobby body type tend to be heavier and less active.
The normal body temperature of a cat is between 38 and 39 °C (101 and 102.2 °F). A cat is considered febrile (hyperthermic) if it has a temperature of 39.5 °C (103 °F) or greater, or hypothermic if less than 37.5 °C (100 °F). For comparison, humans have a normal temperature of approximately 36.8 °C (98.6 °F). A domestic cat's normal heart rate ranges from 140 to 220 beats per minute, and is largely dependent on how excited the cat is. For a cat at rest, the average heart rate should be between 150 and 180 bpm, about twice that of a human (average 80 bpm).
A 2007 study published in the journal Science asserts that all house cats are descended from a group of self-domesticating desert wildcats Felis silvestris lybica circa 10,000 years ago, in the Near East.
The domesticated cat and its closest wild ancestor are both diploid organisms that possess 38 chromosomes, in which over 200 heritable genetic defects have been identified, many homologous to human inborn errors. Specific metabolic defects have been identified underlying many of these feline diseases. There are several genes responsible for the hair color identified. The combination of them gives different phenotypes.
Features like hair length, lack of tail or presence of a very short tail (bobtail cat) are also determined by single alleles and modified by polygenes.
The Cat Genome Project, sponsored by the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity at the U.S. National Cancer Institute Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center in Frederick, Maryland, focuses on the development of the cat as an animal model for human hereditary disease, infectious disease, genome evolution, comparative research initiatives within the family Felidae, and forensic potential.
All felines, including the big cats, have a genetic anomaly that may prevent them from tasting sweetness, which is a likely factor for their indifference to or avoidance of fruits, berries, and other sugary foods.
Despite the cat's meat-oriented physiology, it is still quite common for a cat to supplement its carnivorous diet with small amounts of grass, leaves, shrubs, houseplants, or other plant matter. One theory suggests this behavior helps cats regurgitate if their digestion is upset; another is that it introduces fiber or trace minerals into the diet. In this context, caution is recommended for cat owners because some houseplants are harmful to cats. For example, the leaves of the Easter Lily can cause permanent and life-threatening kidney damage to cats, and Philodendron are also poisonous to cats. The Cat Fanciers' Association has a full list of plants harmful to cats.
Cats can be selective eaters (which may be due in some way to the aforementioned mutation which caused their species to lose sugar-tasting ability). Unlike most mammals, cats can voluntarily starve themselves indefinitely despite being presented with palatable food, even a food which they had previously readily consumed.
For instance, the common painkiller paracetamol or acetaminophen, sold under brand names such as Tylenol and Panadol, is extremely toxic to cats; because they naturally lack enzymes needed to digest it, even minute portions of doses safe for humans can be fatal and any suspected ingestion warrants immediate veterinary attention. Even aspirin, which is sometimes used to treat arthritis in cats, is much more toxic to them than to humans and must be administered cautiously. Similarly, application of minoxidil (Rogaine) to the skin of cats, either accidental or by well-meaning owners attempting to counter loss of fur, has sometimes proved fatal.
In addition to such obvious dangers as insecticides and weed killers, other common household substances that should be used with caution in areas where cats may be exposed to them include mothballs and other naphthalene products, as well as phenol based products often used for cleaning and disinfecting near cats' feeding areas or litter boxes, such as Pine-Sol, Dettol (Lysol), hexachlorophene, etc. which, although they are widely used without problem, have been sometimes seen to be fatal. Ethylene glycol, often used as an automotive antifreeze, is particularly appealing to cats, and as little as a teaspoonful can be fatal.
Many human foods are somewhat toxic to cats; theobromine in chocolate can cause theobromine poisoning, for instance, although few cats will eat chocolate. Toxicity in cats ingesting relatively large amounts of onions or garlic has also been reported. Even such seemingly safe items as cat food packaged in pull tab tin cans have been statistically linked to hyperthyroidism; although the connection is far from proven, suspicion has fallen on the use of bisphenol A-based plastics, another phenol based product as discussed above, to seal such cans.
Many houseplants are at least somewhat toxic to many species, cats included and the consumption of such plants by cats is to be avoided.
For cats, life in close proximity with humans (and other animals kept by humans) amounts to a "symbiotic social adaptation" which has developed over thousands of years. It has been suggested that, ethologically, 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.
Cats may express affection towards their human companions, especially if they imprint on them at a very young age and are treated with consistent affection.
Regardless of the average sociability of any given cat or of cats in general, there are still any number of cats who meet or exceed the negative feline stereotype insofar as being poorly socialized. Older cats have also been reported to sometimes develop aggressiveness towards kittens, which may include biting and scratching; this type of behavior is known as Feline Asocial Aggression.
Despite cohabitation in colonies, cats do not have a social survival strategy, or a pack mentality. This mainly means that an individual cat takes care of all basic needs on its own (e.g., finding food, and defending itself), and thus cats are always lone hunters; they do not hunt in groups as dogs or lions do.
Cats frequently tonguebathe themselves (see Hygiene). The chemistry of their saliva, expended during their frequent grooming, appears to be a natural deodorant. Thus, a cat's cleanliness would aid in decreasing the chance a prey animal could notice the cat's presence. By contrast, dog odor is an advantage in hunting, for a dog is a pack hunter; part of the pack stations itself upwind, and its odor drives prey towards the rest of the pack stationed downwind. This requires a cooperative effort, which in turn requires communication skills. No such communication skills are required of a lone hunter.
When engaged in feline-to-feline combat for self-defense, territory, reproduction, or dominance, fighting cats make themselves appear more impressive and threatening by raising their fur and arching their backs, thus increasing their apparent size. Cats also behave this way while playing. 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 perhaps the ears. Cats will also throw themselves to the ground in a defensive posture to rake with their powerful hind legs. Normally, serious negative effects will be limited to possible infections of the scratches and bites; though these have been known to sometimes kill cats if untreated. In addition, such fighting is believed to be the primary route of transmission of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Sexually active males will usually be in many fights during their lives, and often have decidedly battered faces with obvious scars and cuts to the ears and nose. Not only males will fight; females will also fight over territory or to defend their kittens, and even neutered cats will defend their (smaller) territories aggressively.
Cats will also engage in play fighting, with each other and with human partners. Humans "wrestling" with a supine cat, however, should be wary: if the cat is overstimulated or startled it may decide that the play has turned serious and cease to pull its punches; this can lead to serious scratches and occasionally even bites.
One poorly-understood element of cat hunting behavior is the presentation of prey to human owners. Ethologist 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, in which humans are placed at or near the top. However, anthropologist and animal scientist Desmond Morris in his 1986 book Catwatching suggests that when cats bring home mice or birds they have caught, they are teaching their human to hunt, or helping their human as if feeding (his words) "an elderly, inept kitten". Another possibility is that presenting the kill might be a relic of a kitten's behavior of demonstrating for its mother's approval that it has developed the necessary skill for hunting. Indoor cats will often retain their hunting instinct and deliver small household items to their owners, such as watches, pens, pencils, and other objects they can carry in their mouths.
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 give a loud yowl as the male pulls out of her. After mating, the female will give herself a thorough wash. If a male attempts to breed with her at this point, the female will attack him. Once the female is done grooming, the cycle will repeat.
The male cat's penis has spines which point backwards. Upon withdrawal of the penis, the spines rake the walls of the female's vagina, which may cause ovulation. Because this does not always occur, females are rarely impregnated by the first male with which they mate. Furthermore, cats are superfecund; that is, a female may mate with more than one male when she is in heat, meaning different kittens in a litter may have different fathers.
The gestation period for cats is approximately 63–65 days. The size of a litter 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 4–10 months (females) and to 5–7 months (males).
Cats are ready to go to new homes at about 12 weeks old (the recommended minimum age by Fédération Internationale Féline), or when they are ready to leave their mother. Cats can be surgically sterilized (spayed or castrated) as early as 6–8 weeks to limit unwanted reproduction. This surgery also prevents undesirable sex-related behavior, such as territory marking (spraying urine) in males and yowling (calling) in females. If a cat is neutered after such behavior has been learned, however, then the behavior may persist.
Some cats occasionally regurgitate hairballs of fur that have collected in their stomachs as a result of their grooming. Longhaired cats are more prone to this than shorthaired cats. Hairballs can be prevented with certain cat foods and remedies that ease elimination of the hair and regular grooming of the coat with a comb or stiff brush.
Most breeds of cat have a noted fondness for settling in high places, or perching. Animal behaviorists have posited a number of explanations, the most common being that height gives the cat a better observation point, allowing it to survey its territory and become aware of activities of people and other pets in the area. In the wild, a higher place may serve as a concealed site from which to hunt; domestic cats are known to strike prey by pouncing from such a perch as a tree branch, as does a leopard. Height, therefore, can also give cats a sense of security and prestige.
During a fall from a high place, a cat can reflexively twist its body and right itself using its acute sense of balance and flexibility. This is known as the cat's "righting reflex". 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 in most cats (safely) 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 to set up for landing, and the tail is in fact little used for this feat.
However, cats' fondness for high spaces can dangerously test the righting reflex. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals warns owners to safeguard the more dangerous perches in their homes, to avoid "high-rise syndrome", where an overconfident cat falls from an extreme height.
Being closely related to desert animals, cats enjoy heat and solar exposure, often sleeping in a sunny area during the heat of the day, as part of a general preference for warm temperatures. Where humans typically start to feel uncomfortable when their skin temperature gets higher than about 44.5 °C (112 °F), by contrast cats do not start to show signs of discomfort until their skin reaches about 52 °C (126 °F).
Overall, cats can easily withstand the heat and cold of a temperate climate, so long as the cold is not for extended periods. Although certain breeds such as the Norwegian Forest Cat and Maine Coon have developed heavier coats of fur than other cats, they have little resistance against moist cold (e.g., fog, rain and snow) and struggle to maintain their 39 °C (102 °F) body temperature when wet. In direct relation to that fact, most cats dislike immersion in water. One major exception is the Turkish Van breed which has an unusual fondness for water. Abyssinians and Bengals are also reported to be more tolerant of water than most cats.
As a consequence of their exceptional hunting ability, cats can be quite destructive to ecosystems in which they are not native, where local species have not had time to adapt to feline introduction. In some cases, cats have contributed to or caused extinctions — for example, see the case of the Stephens Island Wren. Due to their hunting behavior, in many countries feral cats are considered pests. Domestic cats are occasionally also required to have contained cat runs or to be kept inside entirely, as they can be hazardous to locally endangered bird species. For instance, various municipalities in Australia have enacted such legislation. In some localities, owners fit their cat with a bell in order to warn prey of its approach (although some cats may figure out how and when the bell works, thereby learning more careful movements to avoid the ringing).
In captivity, indoor cats typically live 14 to 20 years, though the oldest-known cat lived to age 36. Domesticated cats tend to live longer if they are not permitted to go outdoors (reducing the risk of injury from fights or accidents and exposure to diseases) and if they are neutered. Some such benefits are: castrated male cats cannot develop testicular cancer, spayed female cats cannot develop ovarian cancer, and both have a reduced risk of mammary cancer.
Like some other domesticated animals, cats live in a mutualistic arrangement with humans. It is believed that the benefit of removing rats and mice from humans' food stores outweighed the trouble of extending the protection of a human settlement to a formerly wild animal, almost certainly for humans who had adopted a farming economy. Unlike the dog, which also hunts and kills rodents, the cat does not eat grains, fruits, or vegetables.
In modern rural areas, farms often have dozens of semi-feral cats. Hunting in the barns and the fields, they kill and eat rodents that would otherwise spoil large parts of the grain crop. Many pet cats successfully hunt and kill rabbits, rodents, birds, lizards, frogs, fish, and large insects by instinct, but might not eat their prey.
In modern urban areas, some people find feral and free-roaming pet cats annoying and intrusive. Unaltered cats can engage in persistent nighttime calling (termed caterwauling) and defecation or "marking" of private property. Indoor confinement of pets and TNR programs for feral cats can help; some people also use cat deterrents to discourage cats from entering their property.
Because of their small size, domesticated house cats pose almost no danger to adult humans — the main hazard is the possibility of infection (e.g., cat scratch disease, or, rarely, rabies) from a cat bite or scratch. Cats can also potentially inflict severe scratches or puncture an eye, though this is quite rare (although dogs have been known to be blinded by cats in fights, where the cat specifically and accurately targeted the eyes of the larger animal).
Many humans find the rewards of cat companionship outweigh the discomfort and problems associated with these allergens. Some cope with the problem by taking prescription allergy medicine, along with bathing their cats frequently (weekly bathing will eliminate about 90% of the cat dander present in the environment). There are also attempts to breed cats that are less likely to provoke an allergic reaction.
Although scratching can serve cats to keep their claws from growing excessively long, their nails can be trimmed if necessary with a small nail trimmer designed for humans, or a small pair of electrician's diagonal cutting pliers, or a guillotine type cutter specifically designed for animal nail trimming. Care must always be taken to avoid cutting the quick#Noun of the claw, analogous to cutting into the tip of a finger and equally painful and bloody. The position of the quick can be easily seen through the translucent nail of a cat with light colored claws but not in cats with dark colored nails, who therefore require carefully trimming of only small amounts from the nails.
Scratching can be reduced and even eliminated by disciplining the cat with a quick spritz from a water bottle when the cat is scratching or by applying a product called Sticky Paws (similar to double-sided tape) to the surface the cat is prone to scratch. Cats are also repelled by citrus scents, and a citrus-scented product may also help stop unwanted furniture destruction. Pet supply stores also sell bitter apple spray, which cats do not like and will generally avoid.
Declawing may be performed to prevent the cat from damaging furniture. Additionally, declawing may be performed on vicious cats, cats that frequently fight with other pets, or cats that are too efficient at predation of animals. In the United States, landlords sometimes require that tenants' cats be declawed.
Declawing is controversial and is uncommon outside of North America. It is sometimes prohibited by animal cruelty laws.
Daily attention to the litter box also serves as a monitor of the cat's health. Numerous variations on litter and litter box design exist, including some which automatically sift the litter after each use. 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. Those with toxoplasmosis-infected cats living in habitat areas of sea otters may wish to dispose of droppings in the trash, rather than flushing them down the toilet.
Litterboxes may pose a risk of toxoplasmosis transmission to susceptible pregnant women and immuno-compromised individuals. Most indoor-only cats are not normally exposed to the disease and are not carriers. Transmission risk may be reduced by daily litterbox cleaning by someone other than the susceptible individual.
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. Several kits and other aids are marketed to help toilet-train cats. When training is complete, the cat uses the toilet by squatting on the toilet seat over the bowl.
Tabby cat :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.
Feral cats may live alone, but most are found in large groups called feral colonies with communal nurseries, depending on resource availability. Most abandoned cats probably have little alternative to joining a feral colony. Some feral cat colonies are found in large cities such as around the Colosseum and Forum Romanum in Rome. The Roman cats are not truly feral because they are partly fed and vetted by the local authority. Because cats are adaptable, those in residential areas know that if they are friendly to humans they need not worry about food or shelter. Some urban "stray" cats have many houses/humans to support them.
Although cats are adaptable, feral felines are unable to thrive in extreme cold and heat, and with a very high protein requirement, few find adequate nutrition on their own in cities. They are often killed by dogs, coyotes, and automobiles. However, there are thousands of volunteers and organizations that trap these unadoptable feral felines, neutering them, immunize the cats against rabies and feline leukemia, and treat them with long-lasting flea products. Before release 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 will more than likely find themselves trapped again. Volunteers continue to feed and give care to these cats throughout their lives, and not only is their lifespan greatly increased, but behavior and nuisance problems, due to competition for food, are also greatly reduced.
Feral cats are thought to be a major predator of Hawaiian coastal and forest habitats, and are one species among many responsible for the decline of endemic forest bird species as well as seabirds like the Wedge-tailed Shearwater. In one study of 56 cats' feces, the remains of 44 birds were found, 40 of which were endemic species.
In the Southern Hemisphere there are many landmasses including Australia where cat species have never been native, and other placental mammalian predators were rare or absent. Native species there tend to be more ecologically vulnerable and behaviorally "naive" to predation by feral cats. Feral cats have had serious effects on these wildlife species and have played a leading role in the endangerment and extinction of many of them. In Australia a large quantity of native birds, lizards and small marsupials are taken every year by feral cats, and feral cats have played a role in driving some small marsupial species to extinction. Some organizations in Australia are now going to effort of creating fenced islands of habitat for endangered species that are free of feral cats and foxes.
Cats present a risk of overpopulation, as well. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 3–4 million cats and dogs are euthanized each year in the United States and many more are confined to cages in shelters because there are significantly more animals being born than there are homes. Neutering pets helps keep the overpopulation down. A study in 1992 found that in the USA, 12,893 (29.4%) of pets, 26.9% of dogs and 32.6% of cats were sterilized. Local humane societies, SPCAs, and other animal protection organizations urge people to neuter their pets and to adopt from shelters instead of purchasing elsewhere.
Johann Christian Polycarp Erxleben classified the domesticated cat as Felis domesticus in his Anfangsgründe der Naturlehre and Systema regni animalis of 1777. This name, and its variants Felis catus domesticus and Felis silvestris domesticus, are often seen, but they are not valid scientific names under the rules of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.
The term puss (as in pussycat) may come from Dutch poes or from Low German Puuskatte, dialectal Swedish kattepus, or Norwegian pus, pusekatt, all of which primarily denote a woman and, by extension, a female cat.
Cats have been kept by humans since at least ancient Egypt, where Bast in cat form was goddess of the home, the domesticated cat, protector of the fields and home from vermin infestations, and sometimes took on the warlike aspect of a lioness. The first domesticated cats may have saved early Egyptians from many rodent infestations and likewise, Bast developed from the adoration for her feline companions. She was the daughter of the sun god Ra and played significant role in Ancient Egyptian religion. It has been speculated that cats resident in Kenya's Islands in the Lamu Archipelago may be the last living direct descendants of the cats of ancient Egypt.
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 is a cat that is a symbol of "good fortune". While in Islam there is not a sacred species, it is said by some writers that Muhammad had a favorite cat, Muezza. It is said he loved cats so much that "he would do without his cloak rather than disturb one that was sleeping on it".
There are also negative superstitions about cats in many cultures. An example would be the belief that a black cat "crossing your path" leads to bad luck, or that cats are witches' familiars used to augment a witch's powers and skills. This belief led to the widespread extermination of cats in Europe in medieval times. Killing the cats aggravated epidemics of the Black Plague in places where there were not enough cats left to keep rat populations down. The plague was spread by fleas carried by infected rats.
An exaggerated fear of cats is known as ailurophobia.