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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. In Japan, the maneki neko cat is a symbol of good fortune.[245]

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A group of cats is referred to as a "clowder" or a "glaring",[40] a male cat is called a "tom" or "tomcat"[41] (or a "gib",[42] if neutered), an unaltered female is called a "queen",[43] and a juvenile cat is referred to as a "kitten". The male progenitor of a cat, especially a pedigreed cat, is its "sire",[44] and its female progenitor is its "dam".[45] In Early Modern English, the word 'kitten' was interchangeable with the now-obsolete word 'catling'.[46]

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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[230]) and over the net,[231][232] 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.[233][234][235][236][237][238]

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Cat illustration by the German artist Fedor Flinzer, called Raphael of Cats.

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.

As domestic cats are little altered from wildcats, they can readily interbreed. This hybridization poses a danger to the genetic distinctiveness of some wildcat populations, particularly in Scotland and Hungary and possibly also the Iberian Peninsula.[32]

Cats conserve energy by sleeping more than most animals, especially as they grow older. The daily duration of sleep varies, usually between 12 and 16 hours, with 13 and 14 being the average. Some cats can sleep as much as 20 hours. The term "cat nap" for a short rest refers to the cat's tendency to fall asleep (lightly) for a brief period. While asleep, cats experience short periods of rapid eye movement sleep often accompanied by muscle twitches, which suggests they are dreaming.[130]

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All the cats in this genus share a common ancestor that probably lived around 6–7 million years ago in Asia.[26] The exact relationships within the Felidae are close but still uncertain,[27][28] e.g. the Chinese mountain cat is sometimes classified (under the name Felis silvestris bieti) as a subspecies of the wildcat, like the North African variety F. s. lybica.[3][27]

Since cats lack lips[168] to create suction, they use a lapping method with the tongue to draw liquid upwards into their mouths. Lapping at a rate of four times a second, the cat touches the smooth tip of its tongue to the surface of the water, and quickly retracts it, drawing water upwards.[169]

Because ovulation is not always triggered by a single mating, females may not be impregnated by the first male with which they mate.[181] Furthermore, cats are superfecund; that is, a female may mate with more than one male when she is in heat, with the result that different kittens in a litter may have different fathers.[179]

The domestic cat[1][5] (Latin: Felis catus) or the feral cat[5][3] (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.[6] 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.

Although no species are sacred in Islam, cats are revered by Muslims. Some Western writers have stated Muhammad had a favorite cat, Muezza.[246] He is reported to have loved cats so much, "he would do without his cloak rather than disturb one that was sleeping on it".[247] 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.[248]

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.[53]:47

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.[97]:35 Having a cat neutered confers health benefits, because castrated males cannot develop testicular cancer, spayed females cannot develop uterine or ovarian cancer, and both have a reduced risk of mammary cancer.[102]

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.[179]

As of a 2007 study, cats are the second most popular pet in the United States by number of pets owned, behind freshwater fish.[16]

In January 1931 the then Cats Protection League launched their own magazine, The Cats’ Mews-sheet. Find out about The Cat magazine through the ages by reading some of our archive copies.

Cats are common pets in Europe and North America, and their worldwide population exceeds 500 million.[11] Although cat guardianship has commonly been associated with women,[221] a 2007 Gallup poll reported that men and women in the United States of America were equally likely to own a cat.[222]

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.[74]

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.[134]


Domestic cats, especially young kittens, are known for their love of play. This behavior mimics hunting and is important in helping kittens learn to stalk, capture, and kill prey.[170] Cats also engage in play fighting, with each other and with humans. This behavior may be a way for cats to practice the skills needed for real combat, and might also reduce any fear they associate with launching attacks on other animals.[171]

At 124 hours after conception, the morula forms. At 148 hours, early blastocysts form. At 10–12 days, implantation occurs.[182][183]

About The Cat magazineSince 1931, The Cat has been informing and entertaining cat lovers all over the UK. The Cat is a widely-read publication with the distinction of being part of the UK’s largest feline welfare charity, Cats Protection.

Is the term we are now using when an animal has had interest shown and we are reviewing the suitability of that home. If you are also interested in an animal please do enquire, as the first interest may not work out for a multitude of reasons. 

The average lifespan of pet cats has risen in recent years. In the early 1980s it was about seven years,[97]:33[98] rising to 9.4 years in 1995[97]:33 and 12–15 years in 2014.[99] However, cats have been reported as surviving into their 30s,[100] with the oldest known cat, Creme Puff, dying at a verified age of 38.[101]

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.[133] Cats use two hunting strategies, either stalking prey actively, or waiting in ambush until an animal comes close enough to be captured. Although it is not certain, the strategy used may depend on the prey species in the area, with cats waiting in ambush outside burrows, but tending to actively stalk birds.[159]:153

Freyja, the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility in Norse mythology, is depicted as riding a chariot drawn by cats.[249]

Cats from Unai no tomo by Shimizu Seifu. Japan, 1891-1923. Brooklyn Museum

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. This behavior is due to an instinctive imperative to ensure that the prey is weak enough to be killed without endangering the cat.[160] This behavior is referred to in the idiom "cat-and-mouse game" or simply "cat and mouse".

Cat sculpture The Witness by Henk Visch, Peace Palace, The Hague

Though cats and dogs are believed to be natural enemies, they can live together if correctly socialized.[135]

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).[250]

Figure of a Cat made by Meissen Porcelain Factory, Saxony c. 1800. Brooklyn Museum

An Ancient Egyptian bronze statue featuring a cat and a kitten.

Felis silvestris catus (subjective synonym)[3] Felis catus domestica (invalid junior synonym)[4]