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The domestic cat (Latin: Felis catus) or the feral cat (Latin: Felis silvestris catus) is a small, typically furry, carnivorous mammal. They are often called house cats when kept as indoor pets or simply cats when there is no need to distinguish them from other felids and felines. Cats are often valued by humans for companionship and for their ability to hunt vermin. There are more than 70 cat breeds; different associations proclaim different numbers according to their standards.

Cats are similar in anatomy to the other felids, with a strong, flexible body, quick reflexes, sharp retractable claws, and teeth adapted to killing small prey. Cat senses fit a crepuscular and predatory ecological niche. Cats can hear sounds too faint or too high in frequency for human ears, such as those made by mice and other small animals. They can see in near darkness. Like most other mammals, cats have poorer color vision and a better sense of smell than humans. Cats, despite being solitary hunters, are a social species and cat communication includes the use of a variety of vocalizations (mewing, purring, trilling, hissing, growling, and grunting), as well as cat pheromones and types of cat-specific body language.

Cats have a high breeding rate.

Since cats were venerated in ancient Egypt, they were commonly believed to have been domesticated there, but there may have been instances of domestication as early as the Neolithic from around 9,500 years ago (7,500 BC). A genetic study in 2007 concluded that domestic cats are descended from Near Eastern wildcats, having diverged around 8,000 BC in West Asia. A 2016 study found that leopard cats were undergoing domestication independently in China around 5,500 BC, though this line of partially domesticated cats leaves no trace in the domesticated populations of today.

As of a 2007 study, cats are the second most popular pet in the United States by number of pets owned, behind the first, which is freshwater fish.

Taxonomy and evolution


The felids are a rapidly evolving family of mammals that share a common ancestor only 10–15 million years ago and include lions, tigers, cougars and many others. Within this family, domestic cats (Felis catus) are part of the genus Felis , which is a group of small cats containing about seven species (depending upon classification scheme). Members of the genus are found worldwide and include the jungle cat (Felis chaus) of southeast Asia, European wildcat (F. silvestris silvestris), African wildcat (F. s. lybica), the Chinese mountain cat (F. bieti), and the Arabian sand cat (F. margarita), among others.

The domestic cat was first classified as Felis catus by Carl Linnaeus in the 10th edition of his Systema Naturae published in 1758. Because of modern phylogenetics, domestic cats are usually regarded as another subspecies of the wildcat, F. silvestris. This has resulted in mixed usage of the terms, as the domestic cat can be called by its subspecies name, Felis silvestris catus. Wildcats have also been referred to as various subspecies of F. catus, but in 2003, the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature fixed the name for wildcats as F. silvestris. The most common name in use for the domestic cat remains F. catus, following a convention for domesticated animals of using the earliest (the senior) synonym proposed. Sometimes, the domestic cat has been called Felis domesticus or Felis domestica, as proposed by German naturalist J. C. P. Erxleben in 1777 but these are not valid taxonomic names and have been used only rarely in scientific literature, because Linnaeus's binomial takes precedence. A population of Transcaucasian black feral cats was once classified as Felis daemon (Satunin 1904) but now this population is considered to be a part of domestic cat.

All the cats in this genus share a common ancestor that probably lived around 6–7 million years ago in Asia.

In comparison to dogs, cats have not undergone major changes during the domestication process, as the form and behavior of the domestic cat is not radically different from those of wildcats and domestic cats are perfectly capable of surviving in the wild.

Cats have either a mutualistic or commensal relationship with humans. Two main theories are given about how cats were domesticated. In one, people deliberately tamed cats in a process of artificial selection as they were useful predators of vermin. This has been criticized as implausible, because the reward for such an effort may have been too little; cats generally do not carry out commands and although they do eat rodents, other species such as ferrets or terriers may be better at controlling these pests. The alternative idea is that cats were simply tolerated by people and gradually diverged from their wild relatives through natural selection, as they adapted to hunting the vermin found around humans in towns and villages.

Nomenclature and etymology


The English word 'cat' (Old English catt) is in origin a loanword, introduced to many languages of Europe from Latin cattus and Byzantine Greek κάττα, including Portuguese and Spanish gato, French chat, German Katze, Lithuanian katė, and Old Church Slavonic kotka, among others. The ultimate source of the word is Afroasiatic, presumably from Late Egyptian čaute, the feminine of čaus"wildcat". An alternative word with cognates in many languages is English 'puss' ('pussycat'). Attested only from the 16th century, it may have been introduced from Dutch poes or from Low German puuskatte, related to Swedish kattepus, or Norwegian pus, pusekatt. Similar forms exist in Lithuanian puižė and Irish puiscín. The etymology of this word is unknown, but it may have simply arisen from a sound used to attract a cat.

A group of cats is referred to as a "clowder" or a "glaring", a male cat is called a "tom" or "tomcat" (or a "gib", if neutered), an unaltered female is called a "queen", and a juvenile cat is referred to as a "kitten". The male progenitor of a cat, especially a pedigreed cat, is its "sire", and its female progenitor is its "dam". In Early Modern English, the word 'kitten' was interchangeable with the now-obsolete word 'catling'.

A pedigreed cat is one whose ancestry is recorded by a cat fancier organization. A purebred cat is one whose ancestry contains only individuals of the same breed. Many pedigreed and especially purebred cats are exhibited as show cats. Cats of unrecorded, mixed ancestry are referred to as domestic short-haired or domestic long-haired cats, by coat type, or commonly as random-bred, moggies (chiefly British), or (using terms borrowed from dog breeding) mongrels or mutt-cats.

While the African wildcat is the ancestral subspecies from which domestic cats are descended, and wildcats and domestic cats can completely interbreed (Being subspecies of the same species), several intermediate stages occur between domestic pet and pedigree cats on one hand and those entirely wild animals on the other. The semiferal cat, a mostly outdoor cat, is not owned by any one individual, but is generally friendly to people and may be fed by several households. Feral cats are associated with human habitation areas and may be fed by people or forage for food, but are typically wary of human interaction.

Biology


Domestic cats are similar in size to the other members of the genus Felis, typically weighing between 4 and 5 kg (9 and 10 lb). Some breeds, however, such as the Maine Coon, can occasionally exceed 11 kg (24 lb). Conversely, very small cats, less than 2 kg (4 lb), have been reported. The world record for the largest cat is 21 kg (50 lb). The smallest adult cat ever officially recorded weighed around 1 kg (2 lb). Feral cats tend to be lighter as they have more limited access to food than house cats. In the Boston area, the average feral adult male will weigh 4 kg (9 lb) and average feral female 3 kg (7 lb). Cats average about 23–25 cm (9–10 in) in height and 46 cm (18 in) in head/body length (males being larger than females), with tails averaging 30 cm (12 in) in length.

Cats have seven cervical vertebrae, as do almost all mammals; 13 thoracic vertebrae (humans have 12); seven lumbar vertebrae (humans have five); three sacral vertebrae like most mammals (humans have five); and a variable number of caudal vertebrae in the tail (humans retain three to five caudal vertebrae, fused into an internal coccyx). :11 The extra lumbar and thoracic vertebrae account for the cat's spinal mobility and flexibility. Attached to the spine are 13 ribs, the shoulder, and the pelvis. :16 Unlike human arms, cat forelimbs are attached to the shoulder by free-floating clavicle bones which allow them to pass their body through any space into which they can fit their head.

The cat skull is unusual among mammals in having very large eye sockets and a powerful and specialized jaw. :35 Within the jaw, cats have teeth adapted for killing prey and tearing meat. When it overpowers its prey, a cat delivers a lethal neck bite with its two long canine teeth, inserting them between two of the prey's vertebrae and severing its spinal cord, causing irreversible paralysis and death. Compared to other felines, domestic cats have narrowly spaced canine teeth, which is an adaptation to their preferred prey of small rodents, which have small vertebrae. The premolar and first molar together compose the carnassial pair on each side of the mouth, which efficiently shears meat into small pieces, like a pair of scissors. These are vital in feeding, since cats' small molars cannot chew food effectively, and cats are largely incapable of mastication. :37 Though cats tend to have better teeth than most humans, with decay generally less likely because of a thicker protective layer of enamel, a less damaging saliva, less retention of food particles between teeth, and a diet mostly devoid of sugar, they are nonetheless subject to occasional tooth loss and infection.

Cats, like dogs, are digitigrades. They walk directly on their toes, with the bones of their feet making up the lower part of the visible leg. Cats are capable of walking very precisely, because like all felines, they directly register; that is, they place each hind paw (almost) directly in the print of the corresponding fore paw, minimizing noise and visible tracks. This also provides sure footing for their hind paws when they navigate rough terrain. Unlike most mammals, when cats walk, they use a "pacing"gait; that is, they move the two legs on one side of the body before the legs on the other side. This trait is shared with camels and giraffes. As a walk speeds up into a trot, a cat's gait changes to be a "diagonal" gait, similar to that of most other mammals (and many other land animals, such as lizards): the diagonally opposite hind and fore legs move simultaneously.

Like almost all members of the Felidae, cats have protractable and retractable claws. In their normal, relaxed position, the claws are sheathed with the skin and fur around the paw's toe pads. This keeps the claws sharp by preventing wear from contact with the ground and allows the silent stalking of prey. The claws on the fore feet are typically sharper than those on the hind feet. Cats can voluntarily extend their claws on one or more paws. They may extend their claws in hunting or self-defense, climbing, kneading, or for extra traction on soft surfaces. Most cats have five claws on their front paws, and four on their rear paws. The fifth front claw (the dewclaw) is proximal to the other claws. More proximally is a protrusion which appears to be a sixth "finger". This special feature of the front paws, on the inside of the wrists, is the carpal pad, also found on the paws of big cats and dogs. It has no function in normal walking, but is thought to be an antiskidding device used while jumping. Some breeds of cats are prone to polydactyly (extra toes and claws). These are particularly common along the northeast coast of North America.

Cats are familiar and easily kept animals, and their physiology has been particularly well studied; it generally resembles those of other carnivorous mammals, but displays several unusual features probably attributable to cats' descent from desert-dwelling species.

Cats conserve heat by reducing the flow of blood to their skin and lose heat by evaporation through their mouths.

Cats are obligate carnivores: their physiology has evolved to efficiently process meat, and they have difficulty digesting plant matter. In contrast to omnivores such as rats, which only require about 4% protein in their diet, about 20% of a cat's diet must be protein. Cats are unusually dependent on a constant supply of the amino acid arginine, and a diet lacking arginine causes marked weight loss and can be rapidly fatal. Another unusual feature is that the cat cannot produce taurine, with taurine deficiency causing macular degeneration, wherein the cat's retina slowly degenerates, causing irreversible blindness.

A cat's gastrointestinal tract is adapted to meat eating, being much shorter than that of omnivores and having low levels of several of the digestive enzymes needed to digest carbohydrates. These traits severely limit the cat's ability to digest and use plant-derived nutrients, as well as certain fatty acids. Despite the cat's meat-oriented physiology, several vegetarian or vegan cat foods have been marketed that are supplemented with chemically synthesized taurine and other nutrients, in attempts to produce a complete diet. However, some of these products still fail to provide all the nutrients cats require, and diets containing no animal products pose the risk of causing severe nutritional deficiencies.

Cats do eat grass occasionally. A proposed explanation is that cats use grass as a source of folic acid. Another proposed explanation is that it is used to supply dietary fiber.

Cats have excellent night vision and can see at only one-sixth the light level required for human vision. :43 This is partly the result of cat eyes having a tapetum lucidum, which reflects any light that passes through the retina back into the eye, thereby increasing the eye's sensitivity to dim light. Another adaptation to dim light is the large pupils of cats' eyes. Unlike some big cats, such as tigers, domestic cats have slit pupils. These slit pupils can focus bright light without chromatic aberration, and are needed since the domestic cat's pupils are much larger, relative to their eyes, than the pupils of the big cats. At low light levels a cat's pupils will expand to cover most of the exposed surface of its eyes. However, domestic cats have rather poor color vision and (like most nonprimate mammals) have only two types of cones, optimized for sensitivity to blue and yellowish green; they have limited ability to distinguish between red and green. A 1993 paper reported a response to middle wavelengths from a system other than the rods which might be due to a third type of cone. However, this appears to be an adaptation to low light levels rather than representing true trichromatic vision.

Cats have excellent hearing and can detect an extremely broad range of frequencies.

Cats have an acute sense of smell, due in part to their well-developed olfactory bulb and a large surface of olfactory mucosa, about 5.8 cm 2 (0.90 in 2 ) in area, which is about twice that of humans. Cats are sensitive to pheromones such as 3-mercapto-3-methylbutan-1-ol, which they use to communicate through urine spraying and marking with scent glands. Many cats also respond strongly to plants that contain nepetalactone, especially catnip, as they can detect that substance at less than one part per billion. About 70—80% of cats are affected by nepetalactone. This response is also produced by other plants, such as silver vine (Actinidia polygama ) and the herb valerian; it may be caused by the smell of these plants mimicking a pheromone and stimulating cats' social or sexual behaviors.

Cats have relatively few taste buds compared to humans (470 or so versus more than 9,000 on the human tongue).

To aid with navigation and sensation, cats have dozens of movable whiskers (vibrissae) over their body, especially their faces. These provide information on the width of gaps and on the location of objects in the dark, both by touching objects directly and by sensing air currents; they also trigger protective blink reflexes to protect the eyes from damage. :47

Most breeds of cat have a noted fondness for settling in high places, or perching.

The average lifespan of pet cats has risen in recent years.

Spaying or neutering increases life expectancy: one study found neutered male cats live twice as long as intact males, while spayed female cats live 62% longer than intact females.

Despite widespread concern about the welfare of free-roaming cats, the lifespans of neutered feral cats in managed colonies compare favorably with those of pet cats.

Cats can suffer from a wide range of health problems, including infectious diseases, parasites, injuries, and chronic disease.

In addition to obvious dangers such as rodenticides, insecticides, and herbicides, cats may be poisoned by many chemicals usually considered safe by their human guardians, because their livers are less effective at some forms of detoxification than those of many other animals, including humans and dogs. Some of the most common causes of poisoning in cats are antifreeze and rodent baits. Cats may be particularly sensitive to environmental pollutants. When a cat has a sudden or prolonged serious illness without any obvious cause, it has possibly been exposed to a toxin.

Many human medicines should never be given to cats.

Other common household substances that should be used with caution around cats include mothballs and other naphthalene products. Phenol-based products (e.g. Pine-Sol, Dettol /Lysol or hexachlorophene) are often used for cleaning and disinfecting near cats' feeding areas or litter boxes, but these can sometimes be fatal. Ethylene glycol, often used as an automotive antifreeze, is particularly appealing to cats, and as little as a teaspoonful can be fatal. Some human foods are toxic to cats; for example chocolate can cause theobromine poisoning, although (unlike dogs) few cats will eat chocolate. Large amounts of onions or garlic are also poisonous to cats. Many houseplants are also dangerous, such as Philodendron species and the leaves of the Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum

The domesticated cat and its closest wild ancestor are both diploid organisms that possess 38 chromosomes and roughly 20,000 genes. About 250 heritable genetic disorders have been identified in cats, many similar to human inborn errors. The high level of similarity among the metabolism of mammals allows many of these feline diseases to be diagnosed using genetic tests that were originally developed for use in humans, as well as the use of cats as animal models in the study of the human diseases.

Behavior


Outdoor cats are active both day and night, although they tend to be slightly more active at night.

Cats conserve energy by sleeping more than most animals, especially as they grow older.

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 10 times larger than those of female cats and may overlap with several females' territories. These territories are marked by urine spraying, by rubbing objects at head height with secretions from facial glands, and by defecation. Between these territories are neutral areas where cats watch and greet one another without territorial conflicts. Outside these neutral areas, territory holders usually chase away stranger cats, at first by staring, hissing, and growling, and if that does not work, by short but noisy and violent attacks. Despite some cats cohabiting in colonies, they do not have a social survival strategy, or a pack mentality, and always hunt alone.

However, some pet cats are poorly socialized.

Though cats and dogs are believed to be natural enemies, they can live together if correctly socialized.

Life in proximity to humans and other domestic animals has led to a symbiotic social adaptation in cats, and cats may express great affection toward humans or other animals.

Domestic cats use many vocalizations for communication, including purring, trilling, hissing, growling / snarling, grunting, and several different forms of meowing. By contrast, feral cats are generally silent. :208 Their types of body language, including position of ears and tail, relaxation of the whole body, and kneading of the paws, are all indicators of mood. The tail and ears are particularly important social signal mechanisms in cats; for example, a raised tail acts as a friendly greeting, and flattened ears indicates hostility. Tail-raising also indicates the cat's position in the group's social hierarchy, with dominant individuals raising their tails less often than subordinate animals. Nose-to-nose touching is also a common greeting and may be followed by social grooming, which is solicited by one of the cats raising and tilting its head.

Purring may have developed as an evolutionary advantage as a signalling mechanism of reassurance between mother cats and nursing kittens. Post-nursing cats often purr as a sign of contentment: when being petted, becoming relaxed, or eating. The mechanism by which cats purr is elusive. The cat has no unique anatomical feature that is clearly responsible for the sound. It was, until recent times, believed that only the cats of the Felis genus could purr. However, felids of the Panthera genus (tiger, lion, jaguar, and leopard) also produce sounds similar to purring, but only when exhaling.

Cats are known for spending considerable amounts of time licking their coat to keep it clean.

Among domestic cats, males are more likely to fight than females.

When cats become aggressive, they try to make themselves appear larger and more threatening by raising their fur, arching their backs, turning sideways and hissing or spitting.

Serious damage is rare, as the fights are usually short in duration, with the loser running away with little more than a few scratches to the face and ears.

Cats hunt small prey, primarily birds and rodents, and are often used as a form of pest control.

Free-fed feral cats and house cats tend to consume many small meals in a single day, although the frequency and size of meals varies between individuals.

Perhaps the best known element of cats' hunting behavior, which is commonly misunderstood and often appalls cat owners because it looks like torture, is that cats often appear to "play" with prey by releasing it after capture.

Another poorly understood element of cat hunting behavior is the presentation of prey to human guardians.

Domestic cats select food based on its temperature, smell and texture; they dislike chilled foods and respond most strongly to moist foods rich in amino acids, which are similar to meat.

Though cats usually prey on animals less than half their size, a feral cat in Australia has been photographed killing an adult pademelon weighing around the cat's size at 4 kg (8.8 lb).

Since cats lack lips to create suction, they use a lapping method with the tongue to draw liquid upwards into their mouths.

Domestic cats, especially young kittens, are known for their love of play.

Owing to the close similarity between play and hunting, cats prefer to play with objects that resemble prey, such as small furry toys that move rapidly, but rapidly lose interest (they become habituated) in a toy they have played with before. Cats also tend to play with toys more when they are hungry. String is often used as a toy, but if it is eaten, it can become caught at the base of the cat's tongue and then move into the intestines, a medical emergency which can cause serious illness, even death. Owing to the risks posed by cats eating string, it is sometimes replaced with a laser pointer's dot, which cats may chase. There are several important issues related to using a laser with a cat; first most, lasers can cause blindness in cats, even lasers which are sold as "eye safe" can actually be of much higher power of that proclaimed and can cause damages to the eyes. In addition, the cat thinks of the laser point as prey, but gets frustrated as he is unable to catch it.

Female cats are seasonally polyestrous, which means they may have many periods of heat over the course of a year, the season beginning in spring and ending in late autumn. Heat periods occur about every two weeks and last about 4 to 7 days. Multiple males will be attracted to a female in heat. The males will fight over her, and the victor wins the right to mate. At first, the female rejects the male, but eventually the female allows the male to mate. The female utters a loud yowl as the male pulls out of her because a male cat's penis has a band of about 120–150 backwards-pointing penile spines, which are about 1 mm long; upon withdrawal of the penis, the spines rake the walls of the female's vagina, which is a trigger for ovulation. This act also occurs to clear the vagina of other sperm in the context of a second (or more) mating, thus giving the later males a larger chance of conception.

After mating, the female washes her vulva thoroughly. If a male attempts to mate with her at this point, the female will attack him. After about 20 to 30 minutes, once the female is finished grooming, the cycle will repeat.

Because ovulation is not always triggered by a single mating, females may not be impregnated by the first male with which they mate.

At 124 hours after conception, the morula forms.

The gestation period for cats is between 64 and 67 days, with an average of 66 days. The size of a litter usually is three to five kittens, with the first litter usually smaller than subsequent litters. Kittens are weaned between six and seven weeks old, and cats normally reach sexual maturity at 5–10 months (females) and to 5–7 months (males), although this can vary depending on breed. Females can have two to three litters per year, so may produce up to 150 kittens in their breeding span of around ten years.

Cats are ready to go to new homes at about 12 weeks of age, when they are ready to leave their mother.

Ecology


Cats are a cosmopolitan species and are found across much of the world. Geneticist Stephen James O'Brien, of the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland, remarked on how successful cats have been in evolutionary terms: "Cats are one of evolution's most charismatic creatures. They can live on the highest mountains and in the hottest deserts." They are extremely adaptable and are now present on all continents except Antarctica, and on 118 of the 131 main groups of islands—even on isolated islands such as the Kerguelen Islands.

Feral cats can live in forests, grasslands, tundra, coastal areas, agricultural land, scrublands, urban areas, and wetlands.

As domestic cats are little altered from wildcats, they can readily interbreed.

Feral cats are domestic cats that were born in or have reverted to a wild state.

Public attitudes towards feral cats vary widely, ranging from seeing them as free-ranging pets, to regarding them as vermin.

To date, little scientific data is available to assess the impact of cat predation on prey populations.

In isolated landmasses, such as Australasia, there are often no other native, medium-sized quadrupedal predators (including other feline species); this tends to exacerbate the impact of feral cats on small native animals. Native species such as the New Zealand kakapo and the Australian bettong, for example, tend to be more ecologically vulnerable and behaviorally "naive", when faced with predation by 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.

Even in places with ancient and numerous cat populations, such as Western Europe, cats appear to be growing in number and independently of their environments'carrying capacity (such as the numbers of prey available). This may be explained, at least in part, by an abundance of food, from sources including feeding by pet owners and scavenging. For instance, research in Britain suggests that a high proportion of cats hunt only "recreationally". And in South Sweden, where research in 1982 found that the population density of cats was as high as 2,000 per square kilometre (5,200/sq mi).

The domestic cat is a significant predator of birds.

On islands, birds can contribute as much as 60% of a cat's diet.

Some of the same factors that have promoted adaptive radiation of island avifauna over evolutionary time appear to promote vulnerability to non-native species in modern time. The susceptibility of many island birds is undoubtedly due to evolution in the absence of mainland predators, competitors, diseases, and parasites, in addition to lower reproductive rates and extended incubation periods. The loss of flight, or reduced flying ability is also characteristic of many island endemics. These biological aspects have increased vulnerability to extinction in the presence of introduced species, such as the domestic cat. Equally, behavioral traits exhibited by island species, such as "predatory naivety" and ground-nesting, have also contributed to their susceptibility.

Interaction with humans


Cats are common pets in Europe and North America, and their worldwide population exceeds 500 million. Although cat guardianship has commonly been associated with women, a 2007 Gallup poll reported that men and women in the United States of America were equally likely to own a cat.

As well as being kept as pets, cats are also used in the international fur and leather industries for making coats, hats, blankets and stuffed toys; and shoes, gloves and musical instruments respectively (about 24 cats are needed to make a cat fur coat). This use has now been outlawed in the United States, Australia, and the European Union. Cat pelts have been used for superstitious purposes as part of the practise of witchcraft, and are still made into blankets in Switzerland as folk remedies believed to help rheumatism. In the Western intellectual tradition, the idea of cats as everyday objects have served to illustrate problems of quantum mechanics in the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment.

A few attempts to build a cat census have been made over the years, both through associations or national and international organizations (such as the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies's one) and over the net, but such a task does not seem simple to achieve. General estimates for the global population of domestic cats range widely from anywhere between 200 million to 600 million.

Traditionally, historians tended to think ancient Egypt was the site of cat domestication, owing to the clear depictions of house cats in Egyptian paintings about 3,600 years old. However, in 2004, a Neolithic grave excavated in Shillourokambos, Cyprus, contained the skeletons, laid close to one another, of both a human and a cat. The grave is estimated to be 9,500 years old, pushing back the earliest known feline–human association significantly. The cat specimen is large and closely resembles the African wildcat, rather than present-day domestic cats. This discovery, combined with genetic studies, suggests cats were probably domesticated in the Middle East, in the Fertile Crescent around the time of the development of agriculture and then they were brought to Cyprus and Egypt.

Direct evidence for the domestication of cats 5,300 years ago in Quanhucun, China has been published by archaeologists and paleontologists from the University of Washington and Chinese Academy of Sciences. The cats are believed to have been attracted to the village by rodents, which in turn were attracted by grain cultivated and stored by humans.

In ancient Egypt, cats were sacred animals, with the goddess Bastet often depicted in cat form, sometimes taking on the war-like aspect of a lioness. :220 The Romans are often credited with introducing the domestic cat from Egypt to Europe; :223 in Roman Aquitaine, a first- or second-century engraving of a young girl holding a cat is one of two earliest depictions of the Roman domesticated cat. However, cats possibly were already kept in Europe prior to the Roman Empire, as they may have been present in Britain in the late Iron Age. Domestic cats were spread throughout much of the rest of the world during the Age of Discovery, as they were carried on sailing ships to control shipboard rodents and as good-luck charms (see Ship's cat). :223

Several ancient religions believed cats are exalted souls, companions or guides for humans, that are all-knowing but mute so they cannot influence decisions made by humans.

Although no species are sacred in Islam, cats are revered by Muslims. Some Western writers have stated Muhammad had a favorite cat, Muezza. He is reported to have loved cats so much, "he would do without his cloak rather than disturb one that was sleeping on it". The story has no origin in early Muslim writers, and seems to confuse a story of a later Sufi saint, Ahmed ar-Rifa'i, centuries after Muhammad.

Freyja, the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility in Norse mythology, is depicted as riding a chariot drawn by cats.

Many cultures have negative superstitions about cats. An example would be the belief that a black cat"crossing one's path" leads to bad luck, or that cats are witches'familiars used to augment a witch's powers and skills. The killing of cats in Medieval Ypres, Belgium, is commemorated in the innocuous present-day Kattenstoet (cat parade).

According to a myth in many cultures, cats have multiple lives.

Depictions in art



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