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Cat Info


The domestic cat is a small, usually furry, domesticated, and carnivorous mammal. It is often called the housecat when kept as an indoor pet, or simply the cat when there is no need to distinguish it from other felids and felines. Cats are often valued by humans for companionship, and their ability to hunt vermin and household pests.

Cats are similar in anatomy to the other felids, with strong, flexible bodies, 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.

Despite being solitary hunters, cats 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 rapid breeding rate. Under controlled breeding, they can be bred and shown as registered pedigree pets, a hobby known as cat fancy. Failure to control the breeding of pet cats by neutering, and the abandonment of former household pets, has resulted in large numbers of feral cats worldwide, requiring population control.

Since cats were cult animals 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 9500 years ago (7500 BC).

A genetic study in 2007 concluded that domestic cats are descended from African wildcats c. 8000 BC, in West Asia. Cats are the most popular pet in the world, and are now found in almost every place where humans live.

History

Traditionally, historians tended to think that 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 was excavated in Shillourokambos, Cyprus, that 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 (Felis silvestris lybica), rather than present-day domestic cats. This discovery, combined with genetic studies, suggest that 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 in China has been published by researchers. 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 warlike aspect of a lioness. The Romans are often credited with introducing the domestic cat from Egypt to Europe; in Roman Aquitaine, a 1st or 2nd century epitaph of a young girl holding a cat is one of two earliest depictions of the Roman domesticated cat. However, it is possible that cats were already kept in Europe prior to the Roman Empire, as they may have already 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.

Several ancient religions believed that cats are exalted souls, companions or guides for humans that they are all-knowing but are mute so they cannot influence decisions made by humans. In Japan, the maneki neko is a cat that is a symbol of good fortune. Although there are no sacred species in Islam, cats are revered by Muslims. Some writers have stated that Muhammad had a favorite cat, Muezza. He is reported to have loved cats so much that "he would do without his cloak rather than disturb one that was sleeping on it".

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. In many countries, they are believed to have nine lives, but in Italy, Germany, Greece and some Spanish-speaking regions they are said to have seven lives, while in Turkish and Arabic traditions the number of lives is six. The myth is attributed to the natural suppleness and swiftness cats exhibit to escape life-threatening situations. Also lending credence to this myth is the fact that falling cats often land on their feet, using an instinctive righting reflex to twist their bodies around. Nonetheless, cats can still be injured or killed by a high fall.

Cat Health

The average life expectancy for male indoor cats at birth is around 12 to 14 years, with females usually living a year or two longer. However, there have been reports of cats reaching into their 30s, with the oldest known cat, Creme Puff, dying at a verified age of 38. Feline life expectancy has increased significantly in recent decades. Having a cat neutered confers some health benefits, since castrated males cannot develop testicular cancer, spayed females cannot develop uterine or ovarian cancer, and both have a reduced risk of mammary cancer. The lifespan of feral cats is hard to determine accurately, although one study reported a median age of 4.7 years, with a range between 0 to 8.3 years.

Sociability

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 ten times larger than those of female cats and may overlap with several females' territories.[86] These territories are marked by urine spraying, by rubbing objects at head height with secretions from facial glands, and by defecation.[86] 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, cats do not have a social survival strategy, or a pack mentality and always hunt alone.

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. Their types of body language, including position of ears and tail, relaxation of whole body, and kneading of paws, are all indicators of mood. The tail and ears are particularly important social signal mechanisms in cats, e.g. with a raised tail acting as a friendly greeting, and flattened ears indicating 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.

However, some pet cats are poorly socialized. In particular, older cats may show aggressiveness towards newly arrived kittens, which may include biting and scratching; this type of behavior is known as Feline Asocial Aggression.

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

For cats, life in proximity to humans and other animals kept by them amounts to a symbiotic social adaptation. They may express great affection towards their human (and even other) companions, especially if they psychologically imprint on them at a very young age and are treated with consistent affection. It has been suggested that, ethologically, the human keeper of a cat functions as a sort of surrogate for the cat's mother, and that adult housecats live their lives in a kind of extended kitten hood, a form of behavioral neoteny. It has even been theorized that the high-pitched sounds housecats make to solicit food may mimic the cries of a hungry human infant, making them particularly hard for humans to ignore.

Grooming

Cats are known for their cleanliness, spending many hours licking their coats. The cat's tongue has backwards-facing spines about 500 micrometers long, which are called papillae. These are quite rigid, as they contain keratin. These spines allow cats to groom themselves by licking their fur, with the rows of papillae acting like a hairbrush. Some cats, particularly longhaired cats, occasionally regurgitate hairballs of fur that have collected in their stomachs from grooming. These clumps of fur are usually sausage-shaped and about two to three centimeters long. Hairballs can be prevented with remedies that ease elimination of the hair through the gut, as well as regular grooming of the coat with a comb or stiff brush. Some cats can develop a compulsive behavior known as psychogenic alopecia, or excessive grooming.

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