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Cats or House cats (scientific name : Felis silvestris catus) are mammals of the family Felidae (the felines). Originally, cats were wild animals, but they first have been domesticated 10,000 years ago. Scientists think that the ancestor of the domestic cat is the African Wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica).
Cats are carnivorous: they eat meat such as mice, birds and other small mammals, but when cats live in houses with humans, they eat "cat food", which is manufactured and contain good nutrients for their health.
Cats use different sounds for communication, like meowing and purring. They are independent: they can look after themselves and enjoy spending time alone. They are very clean animals and know what they can eat or not. Their claws are retractile, so they can go in or out.
A baby cat is called a kitten. A female cat that has not had its sex organs removed is called a queen. A male cat that has not had its sex organs removed is called a tom. There are about 60 breeds of cats. Domestic cats are found in shorthair, longhair, and hairless breeds. Cats that are not specific breeds can be referred to as 'domestic shorthair' (DSH) or 'domestic longhair' (DLH). The word 'cat' is also used for other felines. Felines are usually called either big cats or small cats. The big, wild cats are well known: lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, pumas, and cheetahs. There are small wild cats in most parts of the world, such as the lynx in northern Europe. The big cats and wild cats are not tame and can be very dangerous.
History[edit | edit source]
In the past, most notably in Egypt, people kept domestic cats because they hunted and ate mice and rats. Today, people often keep cats as pets. There are also domestic cats that live without being cared for by people. These kinds of cats are called "feral cats".
The oldest evidence of cats kept as pets is from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, around 7500 BC. Ancient Egyptians worshipped cats as gods, and often mummified them so they could be with their owners "for all of eternity".
Today, special food for cats is widely available in developed countries. Proper feeding will help a cat live longer compared to hunting or being fed table scraps. Not correctly feeding a cat can lead to problems (see below for health concerns).
Cats cannot taste sweet foods (with sugar) because of a mutation (change) in their ancestors which removed the ability to taste sweet things == Cat anatomy == Cats have anatomy similar to the other members of the genus Felis. The genus has extra lumbar (lower back) and thoracic (chest) vertebrae. This helps to explain the cat's spinal mobility and flexibility. Unlike human arms, cat forelimbs are attached to the shoulder by free-floating clavicle bones. These allow cats to pass their body through any space into which they can fit their heads.
The cat skull is unusual among mammals in having very large eye sockets and a powerful and specialized jaw.:35 Compared to other felines, domestic cats have narrowly spaced canine teeth: this is an adaptation to their preferred prey of small rodents. Cats, like dogs, walk directly on their toes, with the bones of their feet making up the lower part of the visible leg.
Cats walk very precisely. Unlike most mammals, when cats walk, they use a "pacing" gait (walking style); 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 will change to be a "diagonal" gait, similar to that of most other mammals: the diagonally opposite hind and forelegs will move at the same time. Most cats have five claws on their front paws, and four on their rear paws. On the inside of the front paws, there is something that looks like a sixth "finger". This special feature on the inside of the wrists is the carpal pad. The carpal pad is also found on other cats and dogs.
Food[edit | edit source]
Many house cats eat food that their owners give them. This food is manufactured, and designed to contain the right nutrients for cats. There are many different types of cat food. These come in many different flavors and costs are often very small.
There is moist canned food and also dry cat food which comes in different sized cans or bags and formulas. There are kitten formulas, cat formulas, health formulas, formulas for reducing a cat's weight, and many others. It seems obvious that the food should be mostly meat, as that is most of a cat's natural diet. But remember, when they catch mice, they also eat the bones. So there is need for formulas to have more than just meat.
Cats should not be fed a daily diet of dog food. It could make the cat blind, as it has no taurine, which is a nutrient for the eyes.
Health concerns[edit | edit source]
Cats do get diseases, and prevention is better than cure. It is most important to get a young cat vaccinated against some of the most deadly diseases. If a cat gets a disease, a veterinarian (animal doctor) can offer help. Some cats, depending on breed, gender, age, and general health, may be more susceptible to disease than others. Regular visits to a vet can keep a cat alive many extra years by catching sickness and disease early.
Cats that roam outside will get fleas at some time. Cat fleas will not live on people, but fleas will not hesitate to bite anyone nearby. Owners may choose to buy anti-flea collars, but any areas where the cat normally sleeps need to be cleaned up. A vet or local pet shop may offer advice about fleas. It is recommended that people quickly take action when a cat gets fleas because fleas can make cats uncomfortable.
House cats can become overweight through lack of exercise and over-feeding. When they get spayed or neutered ("fixed"), they tend to exercise less. Spaying is done for queens, and neutering is done for toms. It is important to fix cats, and here are some reasons. First of all, if a female cat has kittens, they will need homes. Finding homes for kittens is often quite difficult. If a tom is not fixed, it develops a disgusting smell. Breeders who have entire toms keep them in a special hut outside the house, for that reason. Fixing also helps to avoid over-population. Over-population means that there are too many cats, and some will be put to sleep (put down) in animal pounds (animal shelters).
It is a good idea to adopt a cat from a vet or an animal shelter. The vet, shelter, or RSPCA will make sure they are healthy and spayed. Kittens are sometimes born with defects. People who receive cats as gifts are recommended to get them examined for their health. Some birth defects need attention. Others are harmless, like polydactyly. Polydactyly means many digits, or many "fingers" from poly (many) and dactyl (digit). Sometimes, there is a mutation (change) in cat families. Most cats have only four to five toes per paw, depending on whether it is the front or back paw. These mutated cats have six, seven, and in rare cases even more. All of these cats are called polydactyl cats. They can also be called Hemingway cats because author Ernest Hemingway owned some of these cats.
Citations[edit | edit source]
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