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What did (domestic) cats evolve from?

What did (domestic) cats evolve from?


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I have received this question during a recent discussion about pet birds and cats. We know that birds evolved from the dinosaurs before the mass extinction that happened about 66 million years ago.

However, I could not find such clear information about the most prolific creature on the Internet.

This article suggests Felis attica (reclassified to Pristifelis attica) as an ancestor which seems to have lived about 12 million years ago.

I am interested in filling the gap between the mass extinction and Felis attica to have an answer for my question, but I cannot find an article diving even further in cats history.

Question: What did (domestic) cats evolve from?


The carnivora can be seen in this phylogeny tree which comprises most of today's mammals. They suggest that rodents, elephants, monkeys, dogs and sea mammals all diverged from about 30 million years before the asteroid, until 5 million years after. The placentals and marsupials had a common ancestor previous to 100 million years ago.

Image from genomic study:

Previous to the Felix clade we have Feliforma, which includes mongooses and hyenas.

Image from wiki Feliformia:

There's a tree here

The last common ancestor of cats and dogs was about 40-55 million years ago. Feliforma family tree.

If you want to see previous to that, there are some basal carnivora, where the Feliforma are at the end of the tree.


Domestic cats ancestor was likely Felis silvestris or Felis lybica

Now this is actually just our best guess, little on the way of fossil evidence has been found but based on genetics Felis silvestris is the closes genetic match to the domesticated cat. However questions have arisen due to the risk of interbreeding, so it is possible Felis lybica may be it and Felis silvestris may only be a closely related sister group.

The big problem, Felis silvestris and Felis lybica form what is known as a species complex. That is a a collection of populations that may or may not be separate species. They are so closely related and physically similar that it is difficult to be sure they even are separate species. There is a lot of debate over which population leads to the domesticated cat and evidence is tentative at best. Both species readily crossbreed with domesticated cats so a form answer may never be possible.

Source

Source 2


Cat Breeds

Cats, which are part of the Felidae family, are some of the smallest carnivores that are protected by humans. Their retractable claws are incredibly useful, allowing them to maintain their balance, catch their prey, and protect themselves from threats. One of the telltale signs of a domestic cat is found in their skull, showing off sharp canine teeth that they inherited from their wild ancestors. With heightened hearing and smell, even cute cats can be resourceful hunters. They are one of the first animals to be domesticated.

The 13 Top Cat Characteristics Listed

Cats have unique characteristics of their physique, behavior, and even their senses. Though most people will know a domestic cat when they see one, here are some of the key ways that you can determine if an animal is definitively a cat.

  1. Warm-blooded mammals: Cat are in the mammal family, which means that they have many of the typical traits that are associated with this class. They have fur, they have a live birth, and they feed their young milk from their bodies as babies.
  2. Retractable claws: The cats of a cat are a rather unique feature of their paw. While they animal is relaxed, the claws remain concealed underneath the fur and skin. Rather than residing on the top of the toe, they are found around the toe pads to prevent them from wearing down as they walk. Typically, five claws are found on each of the front paws, but only four claws are found on the back paws.
  3. Lone hunters but social animals: When looking for their prey, the cat tends to seek out their prey on their own (though there is little need for hunting when owners will feed them). However, these animals prefer to surround themselves with other cats, humans, and even other animals, showing great affection. Plus, the mothers will typically be ferociously protective of their young.
  4. Verbal expression out of kittenhood: The vocal range of many mammals are minimal in adulthood, but the same is not true of cats. Their meow is biologically designed to mimic the sounds that a newborn baby makes, calling on the emotional reaction of their owners. Interestingly, this desire to attract the love of their owners can cause them to be rather jealous of any new kittens in the household.
  5. Live birth: The female cat will give birth to live young, which are called kittens. The kittens are often born in an amniotic sac, which is eaten by the mother. Kittens need to be nourished by their mothers until they are about 8 weeks old.
  6. Fast reflexes: Perhaps one of the most notable features of the cat is their ability to land on their feet. Even when falling from a height of nearly 10 feet, these animals will instinctively twist their body to land on their paws. The cat righting reflex is the same movement for any time that they fall, and they can correct their positioning in as little as 3 feet off the ground.
  7. Impressive night vision: The tapetum lucidum in the eye of the cat allows it to view anything in the dark, only requiring 15%-20% of the light that humans need to see the same. When the cat is taking in the most light, their pupils may expand to their entire exposed surface. As kittens, their eyes don’t even open until they are about a week old, though their vision may take longer to reach better focus.
  8. Minimum color vision: Though cats aren’t entirely colorblind, most cat are only able to see blue and yellow with clarity. The ability to see red and green is extremely limited.
  9. Heightened senses of hearing and smell: Cats can hear a tremendous range of sounds from 500 Hz to 32 kHz (Comparatively, the average person hears from 20 Hz to 15 kHz). The advanced sense of smell comes from the development of their olfactory bulb and mucosa. With a heightened pheromone sensitivity, this sense can impact their social and sexual behavior alike, despite their short snout.
  10. Sharp teeth: The ancestors of domestic cats significantly impacted their skull, offering a specialized jaw that includes two long canine teeth. These teeth are much smaller in domestic animals, as they don’t have to cat and kill their prey anymore. As sharp as the teeth are, their molars are hardly used for chewing food.
  11. Carnivorous: A cat’s diet is largely made of meat, requiring at least two grams of protein each day. This amount can vary with the weight and age of the cat. Although cats are carnivorous, many household plants and vegetables can be toxic if ingested.
  12. Digitigrade walking: Cat’s walk on all four legs, using their toes to keep their body balanced. The legs of each side of the body move together, which helps them to remain quiet as they hunt prey and avoid being detected.
  13. Hooked papillae on the tongue: The backwards-facing hooks of the tongue play an important role in a cat’s life, as it is used for self-grooming. Made of keratin (an important protein in hair), the fur will collect in the stomach and cause the cat to spit up their collected hair.

A Brief History of House Cats

On any of the surprising number of Web sites dedicated entirely to wisdom about cats, one will find quotations like these: "As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat" (attributed to Ellen Perry Berkeley) "The phrase 'domestic cat' is an oxymoron" (attributed to George F. Will) and "A dog is a man's best friend. A cat is a cat's best friend" (attributed to Robet J. Vogel). Of course, there is such a thing as the domestic cat, and cats and humans have enjoyed a mostly symbiotic relationship for thousands of years. But the quips do illuminate a very real ambivalence in the long relationship between cats and humans, as this history of the house cat shows.

The Mystery of the Ancient House Cat

It has taken a while for scientists to piece together the riddle of just when and where cats first became domesticated. One would think that the archaeological record might answer the question easily, but wild cats and domesticated cats have remarkably similar skeletons, complicating the matter. Some clues first came from the island of Cyprus in 1983, when archaeologists found a cat's jawbone dating back 8,000 years. Since it seemed highly unlikely that humans would have brought wild cats over to the island (a "spitting, scratching, panic-stricken wild feline would have been the last kind of boat companion they would have wanted," writes Desmond Morris in Catworld: A Feline Encyclopedia), the finding suggested that domestication occurred before 8,000 years ago.

In 2004, the unearthing of an even older site at Cyprus, in which a cat had been deliberately buried with a human, made it even more certain that the island's ancient cats were domesticated, and pushed the domestication date back at least another 1,500 years.

Just last month, a study published in the research journal Science secured more pieces in the cat-domestication puzzle based on genetic analyses. All domestic cats, the authors declared, descended from a Middle Eastern wildcat, Felis sylvestris, which literally means "cat of the woods." Cats were first domesticated in the Near East, and some of the study authors speculate that the process began up to 12,000 years ago.

Egyptians cats were associated with the goddess Bastet, and thus revered and immortalized in many forms of art, like this one acquired by Henry Walters. The pendant on this cat's necklace displays a standing goddess with the double-crown nursing the young Harpokrates. (Image Source: Wikipedia) Dating from 664 B.C. - 395 A.D, Egyptians mummified their house cats, such as this one courtesy of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Note that this is a model or reproduction of a cat mummy, as there are no bones inside. The ancient Egyptian reverence for cats is well-known—and well-documented in the archaeological record: scientists found a cat cemetery in Beni-Hassan brimming with 300,000 cat mummies. (National Museum of Natural History) Possibly from the Ptolemaic Dynasty, this papyrus column with two cats dating back to 305-30 B.C.E. is made of faience. It is a good demonstration of how much Egyptians adored their house cats that statues like this one were made in their likeness. (Freer Sackler Museum) This cast of an ancient Egyptian statuette of a cat is held by the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and was discovered in 1922. (National Musuem of Natural History) Small amulets made of faience, like this one (dating back to 664-525 B.C.E.), or alternatively made of stone, ceramic, metal, or glass were common personal possessions in ancient Egypt. They were most frequently fashioned in the form of gods and goddesses or of animals sacred to them and worn as protection. Courtesy of the Freer Sackler Museum. (Freer Sackler Museum) Opus vermiculatum in the National Museum is a floor mosaic with a cat and two ducks from the late Republican era, first quarter of the 1st century BC. House cats were considered to be both useful and reverent to Roman society. (Image Source: Wikipedia)

Civilization's Pet

While 12,000 years ago might seem a bold estimate—nearly 3,000 before the date of the Cyprus tomb's cat—it actually is a perfectly logical one, since that is precisely when the first agricultural societies began to flourish in the Middle East's Fertile Crescent.

When humans were predominantly hunters, dogs were of great use, and thus were domesticated long before cats. Cats, on the other hand, only became useful to people when we began to settle down, till the earth and—crucially—store surplus crops. With grain stores came mice, and when the first wild cats wandered into town, the stage was set for what the Science study authors call "one of the more successful 'biological experiments' ever undertaken." The cats were delighted by the abundance of prey in the storehouses people were delighted by the pest control.

"We think what happened is that the cats sort of domesticated themselves," Carlos Driscoll, one of the study authors, told the Washington Post. The cats invited themselves in, and over time, as people favored cats with more docile traits, certain cats adapted to this new environment, producing the dozens of breeds of house cats known today. In the United States, cats are the most popular house pet, with 90 million domesticated cats slinking around 34 percent of U.S. homes.

God and Devil: The Cat in History

If cats seem ambivalent towards us, as the quotations from cat fan-sites indicate, then it may be a reflection of the wildly mixed feelings humans, too, have shown cats over the millennia.

The ancient Egyptian reverence for cats is well-known—and well-documented in the archaeological record: scientists found a cat cemetery in Beni-Hassan brimming with 300,000 cat mummies. Bastet, an Egyptian goddess of love, had the head of a cat, and to be convicted of killing a cat in Egypt often meant a death sentence for the offender.

Ancient Romans held a similar—albeit tempered and secularized—reverence for cats, which were seen as a symbol of liberty. In the Far East, cats were valued for the protection they offered treasured manuscripts from rodents.

For some reason, however, cats came to be demonized in Europe during the Middle Ages. They were seen by many as being affiliated with witches and the devil, and many were killed in an effort to ward off evil (an action that scholars think ironically helped to spread the plague, which was carried by rats). Not until the 1600s did the public image of cats begin to rally in the West.

Nowadays, of course, cats are superstars: the protagonists of comic strips and television shows. By the mid-90s, cat services and products had become a billion-dollar industry. And yet, even in our popular culture, a bit of the age-old ambivalence remains. The cat doesn't seem to be able to entirely shake its association with evil: After all, how often do you see a movie's maniacal arch-villain, as he lounges in a comfy chair and plots the world's destruction, stroke the head of a Golden Retriever?

David Zax, a writer in Washington, D.C., recently wrote a brief history of Wimbledon.

About David Zax

David Zax is a freelance journalist and a contributing editor for Technology Review (where he also pens a gadget blog).


Cats on the Move

Once the formerly wild felines became household companions, the same cats appear to have accompanied human tribes as they gradually migrated and spread throughout the ancient world. (Related: Check out our ancestors' journey.)

"It's sort of analogous to the 'out of Africa' theory that people talk about for humans," Driscoll said. "In the same way, domestic cats from Europe are really the same as domestic cats from Israel or China or wherever."

The earliest archaeological evidence for domestic cats has been found in Cyprus and dates back approximately 9,500 years.

Cat studies of all types are hindered by the many physical and behavioral similarities between domestic cats and their wild relatives. In fact, it is often difficult or impossible for even the trained eye to tell them apart, and interbreeding has created many hybrids of the two.


All Cats, Large and Small

All cats -- that is, all felids -- share common traits. This might seem counter-intuitive if you're comparing your house cat with a tiger. Remember, though, the term "big cats" carries no biological significance apart from size distinction. It may help to keep in mind that the similarities found in ancient cat remains have made tracing their genealogy quite difficult.

In any case, all cats are obligate carnivores (they have to eat meat), many are social, and they're often nocturnal. No members of the Felidae family have taste receptors for sweetness.


Tabby Takeover

By comparing the DNA of cats throughout history, the study captures a glimpse of how the animals were changing even before humans started to cart them across the globe, Ottoni says.

Surprisingly, wild and domestic cats showed no major differences in their genetic makeup, and one of the few traits available for telling them apart was the tabby coat marking.

The study sheds light on the late emergence of the blotched or striped coat markings, which began to appear in domesticated tabby cats in the Middle Ages. The gene for a tabby coat dates back to the Ottoman Empire in Southwest Asia and later became common in Europe and Africa.

It was only in the 18th century, however, that the markings became common enough to be associated with domestic cats, and in the 19th century, cat fanciers began selecting cats with particular traits to create fancy breeds.


Why Study the History of the Cat?

Delving into the history and evolution of cats is fascinating—and also has implications for feline health. Veterinary institutions around the world are now using genome sequencing to identify genetic mutations and attempt to eradicate some diseases in cats. This is the main goal of Lyons’s Feline Genetics Laboratory at the University of Missouri. “We can use the information from the cat to help with human medicine, too, so it’s called translational medicine,” she explains. The lab also launched a project titled the “99 Lives Cat Genome Sequencing Initiative,” which allows interested cat owners to submit their own pet’s DNA for sequencing.

If you want to learn more about the personal ancestry of your own feline family member, that’s possible too, says Lyons. “There is a DNA ancestry test for cats that can tell you is your cat from oh, eight to 10 different racial populations throughout the world. And you can tell if your cat has recently been related to a breed as well.”

Aside from its practical implications for health and breed identification, the domestic cat’s history imparts a valuable lesson: these are truly amazing and highly adaptable creatures. “I think one thing that gets lost, especially with cats, is appreciating how far they’ve come,” Grimm says. “They are very domesticated animals, they’re easy to have around, and they’re very loving and comforting. But 10,000 years is really the blink of an eye in terms of their evolutionary history. And so somewhere inside of them, there’s still a wild animal. It’s important to honor that.”


The genes that turned wildcats into kitty cats

Place a housecat next to its direct ancestor, the Near Eastern wildcat, and it may take you a minute to spot the difference. They’re about the same size and shape, and, well, they both look like cats. But the wildcat is fierce and feral, whereas the housecat, thanks to nearly 10,000 years of domestication, is tame and adaptable enough to have become the world’s most popular pet. Now scientists have begun to pinpoint the genetic changes that drove this remarkable transformation. The findings, based on the first high-quality sequence of the cat genome, could shed light on how other creatures, even humans, become tame.

“This is the closest thing to a smoking gun we’ve ever had,” says Greger Larson, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom who has studied the domestication of pigs, dogs, and other animals. “We’re much closer to understanding the nitty-gritty of domestication than we were a decade ago.”

Cats first entered human society about 9500 years ago, not long after people first took up farming in the Middle East. Drawn to rodents that had invaded grain stores, wildcats slunk out of the deserts and into villages. There, many scientists suspect, they mostly domesticated themselves, with the friendliest ones able to take advantage of human table scraps and protection. Over thousands of years, cats shrank slightly in size, acquired a panoply of coat colors and patterns, and (largely) shed the antisocial tendencies of their past. Domestic animals from cows to dogs have undergone similar transformations, yet scientists know relatively little about the genes involved.

Researchers led by Michael Montague, a postdoc at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, have now pinpointed some of them. The scientists started with the genome of a domestic cat—a female Abyssinian—that had been published in draft form in 2007, then filled in missing sequences and identified genes. They compared the resulting genome with those of cows, tigers, dogs, and humans.

The analysis, published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed 281 genes that show signs of rapid or numerous genetic changes—a hallmark of recent selection—in domestic cats. Some appear to be involved in hearing and vision, the senses that felines rely on most. Others play a role in fat metabolism and are likely an adaptation to cats’ highly carnivorous lifestyle.

But the most intriguing findings came when the team sequenced the genomes of 22 domestic cats—representing a wide variety of breeds and locations— and compared them with the genomes of two Near Eastern and two European wildcats. The researchers uncovered at least 13 genes that changed as cats morphed from feral to friendly. Some of these, based on previous studies of knockout mice, seem to play a role in cognition and behavior, including fear responses and the ability to learn new behaviors when given food rewards. “That jibes with what we know about the domestication of cats,” Montague says, “because they would have needed to become less fearful of new locations and individuals, and the promise of food would have kept them sticking around.”

“This is my favorite part of the paper,” says Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, a leading comparative genomicist at Uppsala University in Sweden who was not involved in the work. She notes that a few of the genes the team identified code for glutamate receptors, which play a key role in learning and memory and may have been selected in humans as well. “We’re hitting on genes that allow our brains to develop and make us interact socially.”

The team also found five genes in domestic cats that influence the migration of neural crest cells, stem cells in the developing embryo that affect everything from skull shape to coat color. This supports a recent proposal that such cells may be the master control switches of domestication, explaining why domestic animals share common traits, such as smaller brains and certain pigmentation patterns—a mystery first noted by Charles Darwin.

If cats sport genetic changes akin to those of other domestic animals, why are they still a bit wilder than our other favorite domesticate, the dog? Co-author William Murphy, a geneticist at Texas A&M University, College Station, says the cat genome appears to have undergone less intense and more recent evolutionary pressure than that of dogs that’s not surprising, considering that dogs may have lived with us for up to 30,000 years. “Cats were not selected for a purpose like dogs and other domesticates,” Murphy speculates. “They just hung out, and humans tolerated them.”

Still, Larson doesn’t think it’s fair to call cats “semi-domesticated,” as the authors do in their paper. “I’ve got two cats at home, and they’re as domesticated as any animal on earth,” he says. “There are homes where cats just sit on the couch, ignoring the dogs and primates that should be a major threat to them. That’s asking a lot of a wild carnivore.”


What did (domestic) cats evolve from? - Biology

History of the Domestic Cat

Cats have always been a source of fascination for mankind throughout history. Today cats have become one of the world's most popular pets perfectly suited to the lifestyle of our day. They are beautiful, enigmatic and easy-to-care for pets. But where and when did the domestic cat originate? This page will give you some insight into this question.

It has been about 4000 years since the first cats were domesticated. The Ancient Egyptians were the first to keep and use cats to control vermin and other pests to protect stores of food. In Ancient Egypt, the cat was revered as a hunter and worshiped as gods and goddesses. The ancient Egyptians imposed the death penalty for killing cats and cats were also mummified before being buried.

Other ancient civilisations later began to domesticate the cat and took tame felines to Italy where they slowly spread around Europe. Eventually, they arrived in the New World with the Pilgrims. The shorthaired domestic cat spread across the world from Egypt while longhaired cats came later from Turkey and Iran. The domestic cat also spread from India to China and Japan.

Except for a short period of persecution in the Middle Ages when cats were associated with the devil, by the eighteenth century cats had become popular household pets world wide.

The wild cats of today such as Lions and Tigers descended from early carnivores called miacids. From there the modern wild cat developed into three main types the European wild cat, the African wild cat and the Asiatic desert cat. The domestic cat is thought to have evolved from the African wild cat because of its tabby markings.

Domestic cats today still take many characteristics from their wild ancestors. The arresting eyes, body shape, feeding and grooming habits are the same along with the ability to pounce into action at any given moment. It is this link that makes the domestic cat so fascinating around the world.

The non-pedigree domestic cat, the Moggie is the most popular house pet today with the black and white Moggie being the most popular followed by the black cat followed by the Tabby cat. There are also 36 recognised breeds of pedigree cats around the world with the Siamese cat being the most popular. Most homes today that keep pets have at least one cat in residence.


The Making of the Cat

From the tall grass savanna of Kenya to the forested slopes of the Rockies, from the steaming jungles of Indonesia and the crags of the Himalayas to your very own living room, cats prowl our planet. Some are large and imposing, celebrated for their predatory power. Others are small and elusive, their spots blending into the shadows. Not to mention our familiar moggie companions that purr and yowl for a tender back scratch. At whatever size, and whatever form, we seem to have limitless adoration and fascination for the felines that inhabit our planet. Our affection for them runs so deep that we’re even transfixed by those that slipped into extinction long ago. There is no more potent symbol of the Ice Age than Smilodon fatalis, the great saber-toothed cat preserved by the hundreds in the thick muck of the La Brea asphalt seeps. Living or dead, we love cats.

But where did cats come from? They did not spontaneously burst from the grass to ambush their prey. The world’s cats, both large and small, wild and domestic, have as deep and circuitous an evolutionary history as any other species. And while they’re all consummate predators, the cat family has taken a variety of forms. Their remarkable flexibility has allowed them to flourish, whether in the shape of lanky speed demons like cheetahs or the extinct sabercats who stalked baby mastodons, or domestic tabbies that are the scourge of backyard wildlife. Cats have always been malleable beasts, changing with the shifts in climate and habitat that the Earth has undergone since their origin over 25 million years ago. And while there are various points at which we could start the great cat tale, let’s begin with one of the worst days in the planet’s history.

Up from the Ashes

About 66 million years ago, on a Cretaceous day just like any other, a six-mile-wide chunk of rock hurtled through the atmosphere to strike the area we now know as the Yucatan Peninsula. The devastation was unprecedented. Tsunamis emanated outwards from the impact site, ripping up the seafloor and crashing far inland along North America’s southern coastlines. It took hours before the fragments of rock and other debris thrown into the atmosphere by the massive blast hurtled back down towards the planet’s surface. The friction from the reentry was so great that these pieces heated the atmosphere intensely, turning the air into an oven that ignited massive wildfires all over the planet. And somehow this was not even the worst of it. In the months and years following the impact, a thick cloud of dust and debris blotted out the sun. Temperatures fell and vegetation withered. The non-avian dinosaurs, which had dominated ecosystems on land for over 130 million years, all perished. Only birds remained to carry on the dinosaurian legacy. The flying pterosaurs, seagoing lizards called mosasaurs, coil-shelled ammonites, and other forms of life were wiped out too. And even groups of animals that pulled through – such as lizards and mammals – had their own numbers severely cut back. All told, about 75 percent of known species disappeared practically overnight. But as devastating as this environmental catastrophe was to the life on our planet, without it, there wouldn’t have been any cats.

A protoypical miacid, an early ancestor of cats. | Credit: EvelynKirkaldyArt.com

Mammals had thrived during the Age of Dinosaurs, but only at a small size. There were ancient equivalents of aardvarks and badgers and flying squirrels and raccoons and beavers, but nothing like a cat. It took an asteroid shaking up the world’s ecosystems for mammals to flourish in ways they never had before, proliferating in a warm, lush world free of gigantic reptiles. This is the setting in which the meek evolutionary twig that supported the ancestors of cats first emerged. Paleontologists know these mammals as miacids. If you were able to see them today, they might remind you of something like a civet or a pine marten – small and slender mammals that chased down lizards and smaller mammals through the ancient undergrowth. They were not the prime carnivores of their time. That title went to archaic and totally extinct groups such as the creodonts – burly predators that superficially resembled the cats and hyenas that would come later – and mesonychids, nicknamed “wolves with hooves.” The miacids stayed small as long as these larger predators were on the prowl, but by about 42 million years ago the miacids sprouted off a new branch of their own. This offshoot was the Carnivora, the group to which dogs and cats and bears and seals and civets all belong. This was a new kind of predator, equipped with specialized teeth capable of efficiently shearing through flesh. After another 12 million years, it was this group that would give rise to the very first cats.

The ‘First Cat’

Exactly what the founder of the cat family looked like is unknown. The fossil record, as Charles Darwin once wrote, is like a stone book for which we only have a few words or sentences in an incomplete array of chapters. This makes it all the more difficult to pin down precise ancestors, especially the further back in time you go. Therefore paleontologists look for animals that have what they call transitional features – traits that bridge gaps between groups and act as proxies for those ancestors, tracing the chaotic route of evolution from the present way back into the past. For cats, that search has led fossil experts to a little mammal called Proailurus. The naturalist Henri Filhol named this extinct beast back in 1879 from fossils found in France, and even then he could tell that the mammal had something to do with the origin of felines: Proailurus means “first cat.”

Not that Proailurus looked very much like the cats we know today. This 30 million-year-old mammal, which was about the size of the friendly purrbox that might inhabit your own home, still looked something like a mongoose or civet, using its retractable claws to clamber up and around trees. Nevertheless, the arrangement of the wee carnivore’s teeth, as well as other anatomical clues, have led paleontologists to place it very close to the origin of cats. It represents the time when cats split off from the ancestors of hyenas and other members of the Carnivora family tree. From there, though, we need to make a bit of a jump. The fossil record of cats during this time is relatively sparse, and the next prehistoric star in the lineup paleontologists point to is Pseudaelurus. This was more of a modern-looking cat, which had evolved about 20 million years ago. These cats still had a proportionally longer spine than modern species, and you can still see remnants of the additional teeth that were lost as cats evolved to shear flesh with their cheek teeth. This lynx-sized feline basically represents the standard cat body plan that would proliferate across the planet for the next 20 million years. Even Pseudaelurus itself wandered from Europe to Asia and North America, giving cats a claw hold across the northern hemisphere.

Rise of the Swordtooth

After the time of Pseudaelurus, however, cats hit a fork in the evolutionary road. Two different cat groups diverged from each other, spinning off different forms. There was the Felidae – the relatives and predecessors of today’s cats with conical teeth like leopards and cougars – and the long-toothed Machairodontinae, or sabercats. The long-toothed group were not, as they are popularly known, “sabertoothed tigers.” The ancestors of tigers and sabercats split from each other over 20 million years ago and are about as distantly related from each other as a red fox is from a wolf. And speaking of sabercats, not every cat-like mammal with long fangs can claim membership in the famous sabercat line. In the broader carnivoran family tree, there were at least two other cat-like groups of mammals that independently evolved long saber fangs – predators called nimravids and barbourofelids – that were cousins of cats but fell outside the cat group proper. Even marsupials tried to get in on the act. In South America, there was a marsupial predator called Thylacosmilus – the pouch knife – with excessively long canines that slotted into flanges of bone jutting down from its lower jaw. Saberteeth evolved over and over and over again in the history of mammals. In fact, it’s strange that there aren’t any sabertoothed predators alive today. But in the history of cats, the sabercats were a group to themselves and included some of the most fearsome predators of all time.

A 20th century reconstruction of Smilodon, the great sabertoothed cat. | Credit: The Prelinger Archive

Not all sabercats were exactly alike. One of the earliest, the 15-million-year-old Paramachairodus from Europe, was about the size of a leopard and had relatively short canines compared to its later relatives. Much closer to us in time, from 2.5 million years ago to about 10,000 years ago, the famous Smilodon line had species that exceeded a Siberian tiger in size and grappled prey to the ground with burly forelimbs. The much more slender Homotherium had shorter canines and a rangier build better suited for running after victims. Then there was Xenosmilus – the “alien knife” – who mixed short, broad sabers with a muscular build, mixing and matching traits seen in the Smilodon and Homotherium lines. There were many ways to be a sabercat.

Those fearsome teeth have long had a hold on our imagination. So much so that there’s been no shortage of ideas about how sabercats used their fangs. Over the years these cats have been cast as stabbers, armor-piercers, and even blood-suckers, but the modern consensus is that Smilodon and its relatives used their extended canines to slice through the soft parts of their ancient prey. A sabertoothed bite to the neck or belly of a victim would have caused catastrophic blood loss, if not immediate death.

The last of the sabercats died out about 8,000 years ago. Why they disappeared is a mystery. While art works, museum displays, and movies have often depicted the cats trying to take down giant sloths and mammoths, recent studies have suggested sabercats preferred mid-sized prey such as camels and baby mastodons. Still, it seems that these cats specialized in hunting the megafauna that once flourished during the last Ice Age, and when many of these creatures died, so did the cats. For the first time in over 20 million years there were no more sabercats, although, given how many times they’ve evolved, it’s likely that something resembling Smilodon could eventually evolve again. For now, though, the world belongs to the short-fanged cats.

The Felids We Know — and Love

All the cats we know today – from the biggest Siberian tiger of the frigid forests to the tiny margay of the American tropics – are felids. They split from the sabercats over 20 million years ago, and today represent about 40 distinct species spread across the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Of all the wild cats, though, it’s the big cats that get the lion’s share of our attention. Despite sharing a large body size, though, not all “big cats” are close relatives. There are two subdivisions of living cats. One group, the Pantherinae, includes tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, and snow leopards, as well as the smaller clouded leopards (the most ancient lineage of the pantherine group). A second group – the Felinae – includes cheetahs and cougars in addition to the comparatively diminutive fishing cats, sand cats, jaguarundis, and their relatives. The cat family tree is a tangle of surprising connections.

The felid lineage. | Source: Wikipedia.org

In terms of the world’s beloved big cats, though, paleontologists have recently started to zero in on where they came from. In 2013, paleontologists working in Tibet announced the discovery of Panthera blytheae. Up until the cat’s discovery, the oldest known pantherine cats were thought to be from the 3.6 million year old bedrock of Tanzania. Panthera blytheae moved back the group’s origins to older than 4.4 million years, and in a place that wasn’t expected. Big cats were thought to have originated in Africa, but the recent discovery seems to point to Asia, and, more specifically, the Tibetan Plateau. Other mammals – such as woolly rhinos and Himalayan blue sheep – seem to have gotten their start in the same place, leading paleontologists to suggest that mammals whoevolved in this chilly place developed adaptations for cooler conditions, which allowed them to spread outward and thrive as the planet started to go through the ebb and flow of Ice Ages. This doesn’t mean that Panthera blytheae was the direct ancestor of today’s lions and tigers, but the cat points to a deeper and more complex story for our favorite carnivores than anyone previously knew.

Of course, there’s more to cat evolution than the backstories of fierce sabercats or lions teaming up to take down water buffalo. Many of us live with cats. The ASPCA estimates that there are between 74 and 96 million domestic cats in American households alone. That number even outstrips the count for dogs ‑ our supposed ‘best friends’. You may even be feeling the rumble of your feline companion’s purr on your lap as you read this. How did this special connection between our species and a fuzzy carnivore with sharp teeth and retractable claws come to be?

Entire books have been written about how humans and dogs became companions, but the details of how cats sauntered into our daily lives is much more obscure. There was no great accord or historical marker to identify the date for us. But biologists and archaeologists have been able to suss out a few key details. Perhaps not surprising to cat owners, it appears that cats adopted us rather than the other way around. A widely-reported study from 2007 suggests that the ancestors of domestic cats were the Near Eastern wildcats of the Fertile Crescent. Sometime around 10,000 years ago – a time, it should be noted, when sabercats and other Ice Age cats like the cave lion were still alive – some of these cats decided to take up with the human inhabitants of the area. Humans probably had little to do with the domestication. But by settling down, farming, and storing our food, people created a smorgasbord for rodents that, in turn, enticed cats to wander into our homesteads. The felines proved themselves useful enough that we let the cats settle down with us, and, honestly, who could resist the mewing charm of little kittens?

Our inadvertent partnership with cats changed them just as they changed our daily lives. Biologists have even been able to see this in cat genes. On the surface, the feline that struts around your home doesn’t seem much different from their wild counterparts. (This is part of what makes feral cats such an ecological nightmare – they’re adept hunters of native species that has led countries like Australia from banning outdoor cats.) But get down into the DNA and biologists can see that our favorite pets show at least 13 genetic markers that distinguish domestic breeds from wild ones. Some of these differences are associated with behavior, such as changes in when cats feel fear or how they’re able to learn when provided food as a reward, showing how their brains changed as they came in to settle down with us.

Looking back at our own history, it may seem a little strange that we keep cats so close to us. The very first humans evolved in Africa over six million years ago, and by then there was a wide array of sabertoothed and non-sabertoothed cats on the scene. Some human fossils – such as the skull of one of our australopithecine cousins dubbed SK-54 with two puncture marks matching the tooth width of a leopard – indicate that cats even ate some of our relatives. Coming down from the trees meant that we were entering a world ruled by cats ready to pounce from the grass. We evolved alongside cats, undoubtedly fearful as well as fascinated. For while each cat species differs, they all share elements of the same grace and charm we’ve admired for as long as human memory can trace back. Through our own history we’ve been cat food, stolen their kills, admired them from afar, treated them as gods, and, unfortunately, brought far too many to the brink of extinction. If we truly love cats as much as our culture professes we do, then the best we can do to honor them is let cats continue their 30 million year evolutionary journey into the future.

Brian Switek is a freelance science writer and author of the books My Beloved Brontosaurus, Written in Stone , and Prehistoric Predators. He also writes the blog Laelaps for Scientific American, and when not writing about fossils he can be found helping museum and university crews excavate fossil wonders across the western deserts.


Animal Diversity Web

Felis catus can be found on every continent except Antarctica, generally in human populated areas. This species can be found on a large number islands as well. Their nearly global distribution can be attributed their domestication by humans however, there is a large global feral population as well. (Wilkins, 2007)

  • Biogeographic Regions
  • nearctic
    • introduced
    • introduced
    • native
    • native
    • introduced
    • introduced
    • introduced
    • Other Geographic Terms
    • holarctic
    • cosmopolitan

    Habitat

    Domestic cats primarily live in areas of human habitation and are somewhat constrained to developed areas. Most feral populations live in close proximity to current or past human settlements.

    • Habitat Regions
    • temperate
    • terrestrial
    • Other Habitat Features
    • urban
    • suburban
    • agricultural

    Physical Description

    Felis catus most likely originated from African wild cats or Asian desert cats . Although both species have the same number of chromosomes as Felis catus , Asian desert cats are common around human settlements and are easily tamed. There are over 100 breeds of domestic cats but all have a very similar body shape and size. Adult mass ranges from 4.1 to 5.4 kg, and average length is 76.2 cm. Interbreed variation is defined based on coat type and coloration or patterning of the fur. Domestic cat have approximately 244 bones in their body, of which about 30 are vertebrae (the number can vary depending upon the length of cat). With so many vertebrae in their spine, cats are very flexible and can rotate half of their spine 180°. They are capable of jumping five times their own height and are able to slip through narrow spaces because they have no collar bone and their scapulae lie medially on their body. Each forelimb (i.e., manus) has five digits and the hindlimbs (i.e., pes) have four. Polydactyly is not uncommon among house cats. They have retractable claws on each paw, which typically do not extend when the animal walks. They have 26 teeth that usually develop within the first year. The dental formula for this species is 3/3, 1/1, 2/2, 1/1. When kittens are about two weeks old they develop deciduous or milk teeth above the gums. By the end of the fourth month the milk incisors are replaced by permanent teeth. (Davison, 1947 Edwards, 2009 Wilkins, 2007)

    • Other Physical Features
    • endothermic
    • homoiothermic
    • bilateral symmetry
    • polymorphic
    • Sexual Dimorphism
    • male larger
    • Range mass 4.1 to 5.4 kg 9.03 to 11.89 lb
    • Average length 76.2 cm 30.00 in

    Reproduction

    House cats are polygynandrous, as both males and females have multiple mates throughout the year. (Wilkins, 2007)

    Unless pregnant, female house cats go into estrus approximately every 21 days during breeding season, which occurs from March to September in the northern hemisphere and from October to March in the southern hemisphere. Male house cats patrol territories in search of estrus females during mating season. Estrus females call loudly to potential mates, while continually rolling on the ground. When a potential mate arrives, females present their rumps, which lets the male know they are in estrus. When a pair meets, they may mate many times over a few hours before parting ways. Females have induced ovulation which is stimulated by copulation. Gestation ranges from 60 to 67 days. Average litter size has not been documented for this species however, as many as 18 kittens in a single litter has been reported. Neonate mass ranges from 110 to 125 g. Most kittens are weaned by 7 to 8 weeks after birth and are completely independent by 12 weeks. Females are reproductively mature by 6 months, and males are reproductively mature by 8 months. (Morris, 1987 Wilkins, 2007)

    • Key Reproductive Features
    • iteroparous
    • year-round breeding
    • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
    • sexual
    • induced ovulation
    • viviparous
    • Breeding interval Females go into oestrus approximately every 21 days during the breeding season unless mated.
    • Breeding season March to September in the northern hemisphere or October to March in the southern hemisphere.
    • Range number of offspring 18 (high)
    • Range gestation period 60 to 67 days
    • Range weaning age 7 to 8 weeks
    • Average time to independence 12 weeks
    • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female) 6 months
    • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male) 8 months

    Domestic cat kittens are cared for by their mothers and paternal care is virtually non-existent. In some cases, unrelated females may aid new mothers by caring for and nursing her kittens while she hunts. This behavior is rare, however, and often mothers are forced to leave their kittens unguarded while hunting. Mothers also purr to their kittens, which is thought to reduce stress levels. Females nurse their kittens until around 8 weeks after birth, when weaning is completed. Prior to independence, kittens learn how to hunt by mimicking their mother. Mothers also take an active role in teaching their young how to hunt by allowing them to hunt only very small animals, such as mice. Kittens are not permitted to hunt larger prey, such as rats, right away. Weaning is usually complete by 7 to 8 weeks however, kittens do not leave their mother until they are 6 to 8 months old, depending on sex. ("Health Topics", 2011 Leyhausen, 1979 Morris, 1987)

    • Parental Investment
    • precocial
    • female parental care
    • pre-hatching/birth
      • provisioning
        • female
        • female
        • provisioning
          • female
          • female
          • provisioning
            • female
            • female

            Lifespan/Longevity

            There is no information available regarding the average lifespan of domestic cats in the wild. Captive individuals are expected to live for approximately 14 years.

            Behavior

            Territorial boundaries are demarcated by adult cats via rubbing or marking with urine. Scent is produced by glands near the ears, neck, and back of the head, and is released by rubbing against an object. When a cat scratches something with its claws to sharpen them, scent is released via pedal glands. Sharpening claws on an object or rubbing against it are forms of gentle marking, whereas spraying is used to establish territorial boundaries. Males tend to make territories more often than females. (Alderton, 2002)

            House cats sometimes mimic nursing by chewing or sucking on fabrics or other household items. This is considered a comfort-seeking behavior common in kittens but is rare in adults unless they are removed from their mother too early to be weaned. Adult sucking or chewing is found most commonly in Siamese or Burmese breeds and usually continues throughout the animal's life. This type of behavior has been likened to obsessive compulsive disorder in humans caused, in part, by a genetic predisposition. House cats with little access or exposure to plants often chew on plants inside the house, which may be a sign that the cat is craving plant matter or that their diet is fiber deficient. (Childs, 2007 "Health Topics", 2011)

            Certain behaviors can be a nuisance to humans if not stopped early on. Kitten behavior can often be aggressive as kittens are still learning behavioral patterns from their peers or family. If a kitten is raised in the absence of family or play mates the play aggression has a much higher chance of becoming more severe and permanent. Unprovoked aggression towards humans may be the result of other stimuli, such as seeing a bird or animal outside and the behavior is then redirected toward a person. Males often show more aggression toward each other than toward females. ("Health Topics", 2011)

            • Key Behaviors
            • scansorial
            • cursorial
            • terricolous
            • nocturnal
            • motile
            • solitary
            • territorial
            • dominance hierarchies

            Home Range

            The home range of domestic cats varies greatly, depending on individual habitat. For example, male farm cats tend to have 150 acres of territory and female farm cats 15 acres. In urban areas territories are significantly decreased and often overlap. Males tend to have territories that overlap those of several females, which increases their number of potential matings. (Morris, 1987)

            Communication and Perception

            Body language and vocalizations are ways in which domestic cats communicate with conspecifics. Relaxed individuals often have their ears forward and whiskers relaxed. Adults display contentedness via purring. Kittens also purr and knead or prod when content and suckling their mother. Domestic cats also "meow", which changes meaning in relation to posture. If a cat is upset it will likely growl, hiss, or even spit at another cat or animal. In general , cats have advanced auditory perception. Their ears can rotate 180° to either face frontward or be flattened back or any direction in between. With three inner ear canals in each of the three dimensional planes, domestic cats have a great sense of balance. Their ears are sensitive enough to hear ten octaves, which is two more than a human can hear. Domestic cats can hear a broad range of frequencies, from 50 to 65 kilohertz, versus humans which can only hear sounds between 18 and 20 kilohertz. They have vibrissae on the muzzle, eyebrows, and elbows which function as haptic receptors. These touch receptors allow house cats to navigate their way around obstacles in low light conditions by sensing changes in air flow around an object as it approaches it. (Morris, 1987 Wilkins, 2007)

            Peripheral vision in domestic cats is very good but their eyes are also farsighted (an adaptation for hunting), which doesn't allow them to focus on objects within 2 feet. A reflective membrane in the back of the eye, called the tapetum lucidum, reflects light from behind the eye's retina and intensifies it. Species possessing tapetum lucidum are able to see exceptionally well in low light. Cats cannot see most colors, although some researchers believe that they may be able to see red and blue. The third eyelid, or haw, is a semi-transparent protective lid which typically retracts into the inner corner of the eye. (Wilkins, 2007)

            With about 200 million olfactory cells, the nose of domestic cats is about thirty times more sensitive than that of humans. Jacobson's organ (i.e., the vomeronasal organ) is located immediately dorsal to the hard palate and is particularly exposed to scent molecules when an individual inhales via the mouth. (Wilkins, 2007)

            A domestic cat's tongue is covered in hundreds of papillae hook-like structures, which face backwards and are used to comb and clean the fur. Domestic cats sometimes socially groom, but typically grooming is a singular task unless the cat is the individual's mother. Taste buds are located on the sides, tip, and back of the tongue and allow domestic cats to perceive bitter, acidic and salty flavors but not sweet. (Wilkins, 2007)

            • Communication Channels
            • visual
            • tactile
            • acoustic
            • chemical
            • Other Communication Modes
            • mimicry
            • pheromones
            • scent marks
            • Perception Channels
            • visual
            • tactile
            • acoustic
            • vibrations
            • chemical

            Food Habits

            Domestic cats are carnivorous and a healthy diet consists of about 30 to 35% muscle meat, 30% carbohydrates, and 8 to 10% fats, which promote growth and healthy skin and coat. Feral cats may hunt for rodents or birds. Some domestic cats depend on human supplied feed. Adult females require around 200 to 300 calories per day, whereas adult males need between 250 and 300 calories per day. In order to kill their prey, all felids bite the back of the neck at the base of the skull, thus, severing the spinal chord from the brain stem. Primary prey for feral animals includes small rodents, birds, fish, and some arthropods. Occasionally, domestic cats ingest plant material to fulfill fiber deficiencies. (Edwards, 2009 Wilkins, 2007)

            • Primary Diet
            • carnivore
              • eats terrestrial vertebrates
              • Animal Foods
              • birds
              • mammals
              • fish
              • insects
              • Plant Foods
              • leaves

              Predation

              Domestic cats are occasionally preyed on by wild predators, such as coyotes, foxes, mountain lions, alligators, and many other terrestrial predators, such as large snakes, crocodiles, other cat species, and other canids.

              • Known Predators
                • coyotes (Canis latrans)
                • foxes (Vulpes)
                • mountain lions (Puma concolor)
                • alligators (Alligator mississippiensis)
                • large snakes ( Serpentes )
                • crocociles (Crocodylus)
                • large cats (Felidae)
                • canids (Canidae)

                Ecosystem Roles

                Domestic cats are great pest control agents for rodents in and around areas of human habitation. Cats can become infected with hookworm (Ancylostoma and Uncinaria ) larvae either from ingested food or from penetration through the skin. Once infection occurs, hookworms travel to the lungs and then to the intestines where they develop into adults and attach to the intestinal walls. Hookworm infestation can cause anemia and if left untreated can result in blood in the feces and eventually death. Roundworms ( Toxascaris leonina and Toxocara cati), the most common parasites among house cats, may infect cats when they eat rodents. Approximately 25 to 75% of the global cat population is estimated to be infected with roundworms. Roundworms also live and develop in the intestine where females produce eggs that are excreted with feces. Infection can result in intestinal blockage and death. Sometimes, larvae from domestic cats can be passed onto humans causing visceral larval migrans and ocular larval migrans. Cats can become infected with tapeworms during grooming by ingesting larvae or eggs or by eating infected rodents. Controlling infection is highly successful with the aid of medications from veterinarians. Tapeworms rarely cause significant illness or death in domestic cats. ("Health Topics", 2011)

                • fleas (Siphonaptera)
                • ticks (Ixodida)
                • ringworm ( Dermatophytosis )
                • mites ( Acari )
                • lice ( Pthiraptera )
                • fly larvae (Diptera)
                • roundworms (Nematoda)
                • tapeworms (Cestoda)
                • hookworms ( Ancylostomatidae )
                • coccidians ( Coccidia )

                Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

                Aside from the benefit that humans receive from domestic cats as pets, domestic cats are used as model organisms for various biomedical research efforts and have been used as rodent pest control agents for thousands of years. It is likely that cats were first domesticated due to their usefulness as pest control agents. There has been a great deal of effort put into mapping the genome of domestic cats. (Morris, 1987 Wilkins, 2007)

                Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

                Domestic cats are abundant and overpopulation has become a significant economic burden in some locations. Feral cats can be a nuisance, and have decreased the abundance and diversity of bird communities at various locations across the globe. Feral cats have also been known to spread parasites and disease to domesticated individuals. Cats can also transmit parasites and disease to humans. For example, domestic cats can pass tapeworms, hookworms and possibly roundworms to humans. (Morris, 1987 Wilkins, 2007)

                Conservation Status

                Domestic cats are abundant and overpopulation is a major issue throughout various parts of their global distribution. Large population numbers and their natural predatory instincts has lead to the decline of numerous species of small vertebrates, including many species of bird

                • IUCN Red List No special status
                • US Federal List No special status
                • CITES No special status
                • State of Michigan List No special status

                Contributors

                Nicolle Birch Anna Toenjes (author), Augsburg College, Kevin Potts (editor), Augsburg College, John Berini (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.

                Glossary

                Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

                living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

                living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

                living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

                living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

                uses sound to communicate

                living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

                having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

                an animal that mainly eats meat

                either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal

                uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

                having a worldwide distribution. Found on all continents (except maybe Antarctica) and in all biogeographic provinces or in all the major oceans (Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific.

                ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates

                animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

                parental care is carried out by females

                a distribution that more or less circles the Arctic, so occurring in both the Nearctic and Palearctic biogeographic regions.

                Found in northern North America and northern Europe or Asia.

                ovulation is stimulated by the act of copulation (does not occur spontaneously)

                referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.

                offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

                imitates a communication signal or appearance of another kind of organism

                having the capacity to move from one place to another.

                the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

                islands that are not part of continental shelf areas, they are not, and have never been, connected to a continental land mass, most typically these are volcanic islands.

                found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

                the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

                chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species

                the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

                "many forms." A species is polymorphic if its individuals can be divided into two or more easily recognized groups, based on structure, color, or other similar characteristics. The term only applies when the distinct groups can be found in the same area graded or clinal variation throughout the range of a species (e.g. a north-to-south decrease in size) is not polymorphism. Polymorphic characteristics may be inherited because the differences have a genetic basis, or they may be the result of environmental influences. We do not consider sexual differences (i.e. sexual dimorphism), seasonal changes (e.g. change in fur color), or age-related changes to be polymorphic. Polymorphism in a local population can be an adaptation to prevent density-dependent predation, where predators preferentially prey on the most common morph.

                communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

                reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

                living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.

                uses touch to communicate

                that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

                defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

                living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.

                movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others

                uses sight to communicate

                reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

                breeding takes place throughout the year

                young are relatively well-developed when born

                References

                catwebsite.org. 2008. "Cat lifespan : How long will cat live?" (On-line). Accessed April 23, 2011 at http://www.catwebsite.org/cat-lifespan.htm.

                Alderton, D. 2002. Cats . New York, NY: Dorling Kindersley, Inc..

                American Association of Feline Practitioners and the Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine, 2010. "Feline Behavior Problems: Aggression" (On-line). Accessed April 07, 2011 at http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/healthinfo/brochure_aggression.cfm.

                Childs, C. 2007. The Animal Dialogues Uncommon Encounters in the Wild . New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

                Davison, A. 1947. Mammalian Anatomy With Special Reference To The Cat . Toronto: The Blackiston Company.

                Edwards, A. 2009. Cats, Cat Breeds, & Cat Care . London, England: Southwater, Anness Publishing Ltd..

                Eldredge, D., D. Carlson, L. Carlson, J. Giffin. 2008. Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook . Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc..

                Leyhausen, P. 1979. Cat Behavior The Predatory and Social Behavior of Domestic and Wild Cats . New York, New York: Garland STPM Press.

                Morris, D. 1987. Cat Watching: Why cats purr and everything else you ever wanted to know. . New York, NY: Crown Publishers, Inc..



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