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Cats

99. Cats

  1. cat, Dick Whittingtons sent to Morocco, its purchase by the king gives the future Lord Mayor his stake to success. [Br. Legend: Benét, 1088]
  2. Felix lonely star-crossed fantasist, fights against fate in strange worlds. [Comics: Felix the Cat in Horn, 246]
  3. Garfield lazy gourmand, impudent to its master. [Amer. Comics: Garfield ]
  4. Heathcliff aggressive cat, hoodwinks fishmongers and upsets milkmen. [Amer. Comics: Heathcliff ]
  5. Krazy Kat perennially involved in conflict with his friend Ignatz the mouse. [Comics: Horn, 436]
  6. Macavity mysterious feline, Napoleon of crime. [Br. Lit.: T. S. Eliot Old Possums Book of Practical Cats in Drabble, 714]
  7. Mehitabel unladylike cat; its motto, toujours gai. [Am. Lit.: archy and mehitabel in Hart, 525]
  8. Old Deuteronomy elderly cat whose comfort is seen to by the entire village. [Br. Lit.: T. S. Eliot Old Possums Book of Practical Cats in Drabble, 714]
  9. Pluto pet of a brutal alcoholic who mutilates and hangs it, with dire consequences to himself. [Am. Lit.: Poe The Black Cat]
  10. Puss in Boots cleverly secures a fortune for its penniless master. [Fr. Fairy Tale: Puss in Boots in Benét, 829]
  11. Tobermory taught to speak fluently, it proves insolent and catty. [Br. Lit.: The Short Stories of Saki in Magill IV, 1148]

Cemetery (See BURIAL GROUND. )

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Cats

70. Cats

See also 16. ANIMALS .

ailuromania
an abnormal love of cats.
ailurophile, aelurophile
a lover of cats. Also called felinophile, philofelist, philogalist .
ailurophobia, aelurophobia, elurophobia
an abnormal fear of cats. Also called felinophobia .
felinophile
ailurophile.
galeophilia
an excessive fondness for cats.
gatophobia
an abnormal fear of cats.
grimalkin
1. a cat, particularly an old female cat.
2. a bad-tempered old woman.
kitling
British dialect, the young of an animal, especially a kitten or young cat.
malkin
British dialect, a cat or hare. Also spelled mawkin .
philofelist
ailurophile.
philogalist
ailurophile.

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CATS

CATS n. Credit Accumulation Transfer Scheme: a system in educational establishments in which credit ratings are awarded at various levels of achievement (certificate, diploma, and first-degree level). See also APEL.

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CATS

CATS Education credit accumulation transfer scheme

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Cats

CATS

CATS seem to be surrounded by a special power. Their graceful movements, their liveliness at night, and their inaudible steps as well as their independent spirit have enchanted poets and painters and storytellers in many cultures, but these very traits account also for the aversion many people have had to them. Throughout history, cats have rarely been regarded with indifference; they have generally been considered either sacred or demonic. The earliest known center of their veneration, and probably also of their domestication, was ancient Egypt, where they are documented from 1600 bce onward. Bast, a popular goddess of pleasure, was represented with a cat's head. Numerous sacred cats lived around her sanctuary in Bubastis, and thousands of mummified cats have been found in that area.

Other goddesses with feline attributes have also been connected with cats. In a Roman myth, Diana assumes the form of a cat, and in Germanic mythology, Freyja's carriage is drawn by cats. In Bengali Hinduism, Śai rides or stands on a (usually black) cat. Should a mother be disrespectful to the goddess, a cat will kill her children; such revenge can be averted by pouring sour milk over a black cat and licking it off.

Cats are frequently perceived as malevolent creatures. The idea that a cat can "suck the breath" of sleeping children (i.e., suffocate them) is widely prevalent, and in some myths the cat is represented even as a bloodsucking ogre. Some people think that to swallow a cat's hair will result in tuberculosis. But a cat's tooth can serve as a talisman, for cats have not only "nine lives" but supernatural powers. In Ireland, for example, it is thought that the devil can assume the form of a cat; in China, it is believed that cats can see spirits at night and that a dead cat can turn into a demon. In many places it is thought that cats can sense the presence of death, that they can smell the guiding spirit come to conduct away the departing soul. Because of their supernatural abilities, cats are connected with witches and sorcerers; in fact, they areespecially black onestypical familiars of witches. In medieval Europe, every owner of such an animal was therefore suspect.

As an agent of the supernatural, the cat became a sacrificial animal in some cultures. In medieval Europe, cats were killed as an expiation in times of plague or were thrown into the Saint John's fire at the summer solstice. As late as the mid-seventeenth century, in the ceremony of the Taigheirm in the West Highlands of Scotland, black cats were roasted on spits to raise the infernal spirits. In Japan, however, as in ancient Egypt and other cultures, it has been thought inadvisable to kill a cat, owing to its special power. Such an act would bring misfortune, or would have to be atoned for (in Muslim Bengal, with five pounds of salt).

In European lore, cats can function as house goblins and are also counted among the shapeshifters; they can assume enormous proportions in case of danger or in order to rescue their benefactor from equally enormous rats. Thus their role can be beneficial as well: friendly cat demons can produce gold and treasures for those who have been kind to them, and catsespecially tricolored cats (which are believed to be always female)can protect a house from fire and guarantee marital happiness.

In many cultures it is considered a bad omen to see a cat, especially a black one, when leaving a house; likewise, to dream of a black cat, or to cross its path, means misfortune. But the black cat's body serves both medical and magical purposes; a meal of cat's brains may arouse love in someone, or strengthen a man's sexual power, or restore sight. Pulverized cat's gall rubbed into the eyes enables one to see at night, or to see jinn. Certain parts of a black cat, prepared with other ingredients, can make a person invisible.

The behavior of cats is also often regarded as an omen. In Germany, if a cat washes itself, a guest will come. In China, the arrival of a strange cat in a house portends poverty, because that cat is believed to have a premonition that many mice will come to live in that house. The cat's sensitivity to atmospheric changes has led, in many places, to belief that it can predictor, indeed, is responsible forthe weather. In Turkey, if a cat purrs loudly, a severe winter is impending; in England, if a cat sits with its back to the fire, there will be frost. In Java and Sumatra, bathing two cats or throwing one into a river can bring rain.

Folklore often talks about the hypocritical cat. "The cat weeps at the mouse's death," according to a Chinese proverb. The story of the "repentant" cat that appears as a pious ascetic in order to cheat the mice has been told from ancient Egypt to modern Mongolia, and it occurs frequently in Persian literature (see ʿUbayd-i Za-kānī's little epic Mouse and Cat from the fourteenth century). Hence, in Persian and Ottoman Turkish urban poetry, the term cat is sometimes used to characterize a sly person of high rank. The friendship of a cat with a mouse or other weaker animal, or with its archenemy the dog, lasts only so long as both are in danger, as Ka-līlah wa-Dimnah (The fables of Bidpai) tells us; once safe, the cat usually eats the mouse. This "hypocrisy" has been expressed in many proverbs that warn against trusting the cat, which may first lick one's hand and then scratch it. The motto of the Mackintosh clan of Scotland is "Touch not a cat but [i.e., without] a glove."

Nevertheless, the cat has many positive aspects. In ancient Rome, the cat was a symbol of liberty, for no animal has so independent a spirit or is so resistant to restraint as a cat. In China, the association of the sign for cat, mao, with that for the number eighty has made the cat a symbol of long life.

In Islamic tradition, the cat is born in Noah's ark from the lioness's sneeze, or else she is the lion's, or tiger's, aunt who teaches him various tricks but withholds the last one, that is, how to climb a tree. The positive evaluation of cats in the Islamic world is due to the prophet Muammad's fondness for cats. Because he stroked the back of a cat that saved him from a snake's wiliness, cats never fall on their backs, and the trace of his fingers is visible in the dark stripes that appear on the foreheads of most cats. The cat is clean and does not spoil man's purity for prayer (as does the dog), and its drinking water can be used for ritual ablutions. Many ūfīs have had cats as companions, animals that have sometimes performed wonderful feats of clairvoyance or self-sacrifice to save others from danger or death. The most remarkable cult of cats is connected with the North African beggars' order of the Heddawa, in which cats are treated like humans; however, once in a while a cat is ritually killed by the brethren. Cats can assume the shape of saints or helpers, as in pre-Islamic Arabia, where desert demons, ghūl, were visualized with cats' heads. Even the Sakīnah, God's presence, appeared to the Prophet in the shape of a white cat.

Caterwauling, not always appreciated by most people, has sometimes been interpreted as mysterious music. An early Arabian musician learned some superb songs from a black cat in his dreams. Nursery rhymes sing of the cat's fiddling, and the cat's purr has sometimes been interpreted as its prayer.

Benevolent cats occur frequently in folk tales. The Dick Whittington motif of the cat that proves useful in a country without cats is known in the East and the West. The friendly, clever tomcat, manifested in Puss in Boots, is a common topic of folk tradition. It is always the youngest of three sons who inherits the resourceful cat. Thus, the cat often uses its magic properties for positive ends and appears as a mediator between the hero and the supernatural world. This expresses best the good side of the cat's ambivalent character and of its role as an animal that is powerful in the three realms of activity: demonic, human, and divine.

Bibliography

Carl Van Vechten's The Tiger in the House, 3d ed. (New York, 1936), includes interesting chapters on cats in the occult and in folklore as well as an extensive, classified bibliography. Since publication of this work, the literature about cats has increased enormously and at present is growing almost daily. Excellent surveys can be found in Nine Lives: The Folklore of Cats, by Katharine M. Briggs (New York, 1980), and in Le chat dans la tradition spirituelle, by Robert de Laroche (Paris, 1984). For Islamic cat lore, see my discussion in Die orientalische Katze (Cologne, 1983).

New Sources

Loibl, Elisabeth. Deuses Aimais. São Paulo, 1984.

Annemarie Schimmel (1987)

Revised Bibliography

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Cats

Cats

Pantherinae

Acinonychinae

Felinae

Senses

Behavior

Evolution and history

Domestic cats

Resources

Cats are mammals in the family Felidae of the order Carnivora, which includes all of the carnivores. The highly predatory instincts of species in the cat family are easily seen in domestic cats, for even well-fed individuals will aggressively hunt small mammals and birds.

The cat family includes both large species (jaguar, leopard, lion, and tiger) and small ones (bobcat, lynx, ocelot, and serval). Small species of cats purr but do not roar, whereas big cats roar but do not purr. The reason for this is that the tongue muscles of large cats are attached to a pliable cartilage at the base of the tongue, which allows roaring, while those of small cats are attached to the hyoid bone, which only allows purring.

Most cats have 30 teeth, including large canine and carnassal teeth, but few in their cheek. This arrangement is suited to crushing bones and tearing, cutting, and gripping the flesh of their prey. Their jaws are mostly adapted to vertical movement, and the chewing action is aided by sharp, backward projections on the tongue (known as papillae), which help to grip and manipulate food.

Members of the cat family occur naturally in all parts of the world, except Antarctica, Australia, and New Zealand (although domestic cats have been introduced and are now wild in the latter two places). The most recent taxonomy of the Felidae places the 36 living species of cats in 18 genera. These 18 genera are divided into three subfamilies: Pantherinae (four genera), Acinonychinae (one genus), Felinae (13 genera).

Pantherinae

There are seven species of so-called big cats, which includes the lion (Panthera leo ), tiger (P. tigris ), leopard (P. pardus ), jaguar (P. onca ), snow leopard (Uncia uncia ), clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa ), and marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata ).

The lion

Lions were once distributed over much of southern Europe, Asia, and Africa. Today, lions are found only in sub-Saharan Africa and in the Gir Forest, a wildlife sanctuary in India. Lions prefer open grassland and savanna to forest, and are also found in the Kalahari Desert. Adult male lions weigh from 300500 lb (135225 kg), while females weigh about 300 lb (135 kg). Lions are a light tawny color with black markings on the abdomen, legs, ears, and mane. They live up to 15 years, reaching sexual maturity in their third year. Male lions have been observed to kill cubs that they have not fathered.

Lions are the most social of the cats. They live in family groups called prides, which consists of four to 12 related adult females, their young, and one to six adult males. The size of the pride usually reflects the amount of available food. Where prey is abundant, lion prides tend to be larger, making them better able to protect their kills from hyenas and other scavengers. Most lion kills are made by the females, while the males defend the prides territory, which may range from 8 sq mi (20 sq km) to more than 150 sq mi (385 sq km).

The tiger

The tiger is the largest member of the cat family, with males weighing from 400 to 600 lb (180-275 kg) and females 300350 lb (135160 kg). Tigers range from a pale yellow to a reddish orange background color (depending on habitat), overlain by vertical stripes. They live in habitats with a dense cover of vegetation, commonly forest and swamps (or forested wetlands) on the Indian subcontinent, southern China, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia. A century ago, tigers commonly inhabited areas as far north as southern Siberia, all of India and Southeast Asia, and regions along the eastern part of China. Today, however, their range is much reduced and fragmented and all eight subspecies of tigers are endangered.

Tigers live a solitary life and systematically protect their territory by marking its boundary with urine, feces, glandular secretions, and scrape marks on trees. Tigers are solitary nocturnal hunters, approaching their prey stealthily in a semi-crouching position. When close enough, the tiger makes a sudden rush for the prey, attacking from the side or the rear. The tiger keeps its hind feet on the ground while using its front paws and jaws to seize its prey by the shoulder or neck. The tiger applies a throat bite that suffocates its victim, which is then carried into cover and consumed.

The leopard

Male leopards weigh about 155 lb (70 kg), with females weighing about half that mass. Leopards are found in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Southeast Asia. There are also small populations in Arabia and North Africa. Leopards have a distinctive coloring of black spots over a pale brown coat. Their habitat includes tropical rainforest, dry savanna, and cooler mountainous areas.

Leopards feed on a variety of small and mediumsized prey, usually hunting at night by ambush. Leopards use trees as resting places and frequently drag their catch up there for feeding. The number of leopards is declining worldwide due to hunting and habitat destruction resulting from human population pressure.

The jaguar, clouded leopard, snow leopard, and marbled cat

The other big cats include the jaguar, snow leopard, clouded leopard, and marbled cat. These cats inhabit forested wilderness, and all are solitary, nocturnal predators. Jaguars are found in Central and South America, while the clouded leopard occurs in southern China, India, and Southeast Asia. The snow leopard occurs at higher elevations in the Himalayas of Central Asia, and the small marbled cat is found from Nepal and India through Southeast Asia to Sumatra and Borneo. The clouded leopard weighs 2444 lb (1120 kg); its coat is silvery gray to tawny with distinctive darker cloud-shaped markings that give the species its common name. The snow leopard weighs 77120 lb (3555 kg), and its thick coat is a yellow-tinged, smoky gray marked with darker rosettes and black spots. The clouded leopard and the snow leopard have a rigid hyoid bone in their throat which prevents them from roaring. Jaguars weigh 125250 lb (57113 kg); their yellowish brown coats are marked with dark rosettes around small black spots. The black panther is a melanistic (or black) form of the jaguar; its spots are barely discernable within its dark coat. The diminutive marbled cat weighs 4.511 lb (25 kg) and the pattern of its coat is strikingly similar to that of the clouded leopard. Little information is known about this species in the wild, but it is thought to be arboreal.

Acinonychinae

Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus ) can reach a speed of up to 70 mph (112 km/h), and are the fastest animals on land. They resemble leopards in having a black spotted pattern over a tawny coat, but are distinguished by a long, lithe body, large black tear stripes under their eyes, and a relatively small head. Cheetahs are the only members of the cat family that do not have retractable claws. Cheetahs are solitary hunters, feeding mostly on gazelles and impala. They hunt mainly in the morning and early afternoon, when other big cats are usually sleeping, thereby enabling them to share hunting areas with other large carnivores. Cheetahs are found in North and East Africa, in eastern parts of southern Africa, and in certain areas of the Middle East and South Asia. There is a considerable trade in cheetah skins, and hunting of these animals, together with the loss of habitat, threatens their survival in the wild.

Felinae

Smaller wild cats are native to most areas of the world, except Australasia and Antarctica. These cats are characterized by an inability to roar, retractable claws, and a hairless strip along the front of their nose. Examples of small wild cats are the Eurasian wild cat (Felis silvestris ), the African wild cat (F. lybica ; in some taxonomies classified as a subspecies of F. silvestris ), the sand cat (F. margarita ) of the Sahara, the African tiger cat (Profelis aurata ) of tropical forests, the Asiatic golden cat (Catopuma temminckii ), and the Pallas cat (Otocolobus manul ) of central Asia. Medium-sized cats include the African serval (Leptailurus serval ) and the caracal or desert lynx (Caracal caracal ). Medium-sized cats of the New World include the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis ) of South and Central America and the jaguarundi (Herpailurus yaguarondi ).

The bobcat or wildcat (Lynx rufus ) of North America is colored to blend into the rocky, densely vegetated background of its habitat. Bobcats rely more on hearing and smell than on sight to catch their prey. The lynx (Lynx lynx ) lives in cold climates and has long legs and big feet to make trekking through deep snow easier. The Canada lynx (L. canadensis ) has long hair and does not have a spotted coat.

The cougar, also known as the puma or mountain lion, is about the size of a leopard and ranges from western Canada to Argentina. It has an unpatterned, silvery gray to reddish coat and is found in mountains, plains, deserts, and forests, where it preys on deer and medium-sized mammals.

The other species of smaller cats live mainly in forests and feed on small prey, such as squirrels and other rodents, hares, small deer, birds, snakes, lizards, fish, and insects. Most species have a spotted or striped coat and usually a rounded head. Small wild cats are either solitary in habit or form small groups, depending on the abundance of the food supply. Most species are hunted for their spotted or striped skin and some are in danger of becoming extinct.

Senses

Cats have excellent binocular vision, which allows them to judge distance well. Cats can see well at night, using dim light to distinguish objects and prey. Their eyes have a special reflective layer behind the retina that aids in low-light perception. This tapetal layer makes their eyes appear to glow in the dark when light shines on them.

The senses of smell and taste in cats are closely connected, as they are in all mammals. Distinctive to cats is an avoidance of foods that taste sweet. Their taste buds are located along the front and side edges of their tongue. Their vomeronasal organ, also known as Jacobsons organ, is a saclike structure located in the roof of the mouth, that is believed to be involved in sensing chemical cues associated with sexual activity. When a male cat smells a females urine, which contains hormones indicating sexual receptiveness, he may wrinkle his nose and curl back his upper lip in a gesture known as flehmening. He will also raise his head and bare his teeth.

Cats have the ability to hear high-frequency sounds that humans are unable to perceive. This ability is particularly helpful when cats are stalking such prey as mice, since the cats can detect the high-frequency sounds emitted by these rodents. The external ears of cats are flexible and can turn as much as 180 degrees to locate sounds more precisely.

A cats whiskers have a sensory function, helping it to avoid objects in its path in the dimmest light. If a cat passes an object that touches its whiskers, it will blink, thus protecting the eyes from possible injury. Besides the long cheek whiskers, cats have thicker whiskers above their eyes. Cats use their nose to determine the temperature, as well as the smell, of food. The hairless pads of their feet are an important source of tactile information gained from investigating objects with their paws.

Behavior

In the wild, most forest-living members of the cat family tend to be solitary hunters. Some species live in pairs, while others, such as lions, live in family groups. Cats engage in daily grooming that not only keeps their fur in good condition, but also helps regulate their body temperature (fur licking helps cool the cat through evaporation), and spreads oils to keep their coat waterproof.

Cats need a great deal of sleep, which is consistent with the large amounts of energy they expend when hunting. They typically sleep intermittently almost two-thirds of the day. Because of a slight decrease in their body temperature when they sleep, cats often look for warm, sunny places for dozing.

Most cats are excellent climbers, great jumpers, and have remarkable balance. Except for the cheetah, cats have retractable claws that are curved, sharp, and sheathed. The claws are particularly useful when climbing trees. The bones of their feet (like those of dogs) are arranged in a digitigrade posture, meaning that only their toes make contact with the ground, which increases their speed of running. Cats have the a remarkable ability to right themselves when falling, when first the head, then the rest of the body turns toward the ground so that the cat lands on its feet.

Cats follow a well-defined hunting sequence that begins with the sighting or smelling of prey. The hunting skills that cats display are in some aspects instinctual and in others learned. Cats begin learning how to hunt through the play they engage in when young. Mother cats teach hunting skills to their young, first by bringing back dead prey, later by bringing back immobilized prey, allowing the young to kill it themselves. Still later, the mother cat will take the young on stalking and killing missions. Cats that do not have the opportunity to learn to hunt from their mother do not become good hunters.

Cats are territorial, marking their territory by spraying its boundary with urine. Cats also scratch and rub against fixed objects to mark their territory. Within the territorial boundary of a male cat, there may be several female territories. During mating, the male will seek out or be lured to nearby females that are in heat (estrous). Females may vocalize loudly when they are ready to mate, thus attracting males. Frequent scenting and rubbing against trees by the female cat also help the male know she is ready to mate. Frequent sexual intercourse during estrous is also important to ensure successful ovulation.

The gestation (pregnancy) period in cats depends upon their body size. Gestation ranges from slightly less than 60 days for smaller species to about 115 days for large cats, such as lions. The number in the litter varies from one to seven. The body size is not a consistent factor determining litter size; it may have more to do with the availability of food and the survival rate in the ecosystem the cat inhabits. With the exception of lions, the care and training of the cubs or kittens are left to the mother. Nursing continues until the young are weaned and learn to eat meat.

Evolution and history

The emergence of modern cats began about 25 million years ago during the Miocene epoch. Much more recently, the saber-toothed cat (Smilodon fatalis ) lived in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, and had extremely long, upper canine teeth for stabbing its prey. The remains of saber-toothed cats have been found to be as recent as 13,000 years old.

Cats were probably first domesticated in ancient Egypt about 5,000 years ago. The Egyptians used cats to protect grain supplies from rodents. They also worshiped cats, and mummified large numbers of them and placed then in tombs so they could continue to serve their owners in the afterlife. Since that time, the domestic cat has been carried by people throughout most of the world. The breeding of cats into numerous specific pedigrees was particularly active beginning with the middle of the nineteenth century.

Domestic cats

The breeding of the domestic cat (Felis cattus ) involves basic principles of heredity, with consideration of dominant and recessive traits. It was in England that this breeding first became serious enough that so-called purebred cats were displayed at shows and a system of authenticating the genetic lineage was begun by issuing pedigree certificates. Special associations were established to regulate the validation of cat pedigrees and to sponsor the shows.

Cat breeds can be categorized as either longhaired or short-haired. Within each group, the breeds are distinguished by their color and pattern, head and ear shape and size, body shape, hair color and length, eye color and shape, and special markings like stripes and color variations on the feet, tail, face, and neck.

More than a hundred different breeds of domestic cats are recognized, subdivided into five broad groups. One group includes Persian longhairs, another the rest of the long-haired cats, a third the British short-haired cats, a fourth the American short-haired cats, and a fifth the Oriental short-haired cats.

The Persian cat, highly prized among cat fanciers, has a rounded body, face, eyes, and head, with a short nose and legs. Its fur is long and woolly, and its tail is fluffy and bushy. Persian cats vary from black to white, cream, blue, red, blue-cream, cameo, tortoise-shell, smoke, silver, tabby, calico, pewter, chocolate, and lilac. Other popular long-haired cats include the Balinese, the ragdoll, the Turkish angora, and the Maine coon cat. Among the short-haired cats, the Manx, British shorthair, American shorthair, Abyssinian, Burmese, and Siamese are popular. One breed is hairless: the sphynx, bred from a mutant kitten in 1966, does not even have whiskers.

The domestic cat is rivaled only by the domestic dog as a household pet, and in recent years has outnumbered the dog in urban areas. Cats are more self-sufficient than

Key Terms

Digitigrade posture Walking on the toes, as cats and dogs do, as opposed to walking on the ball of the feet, as humans do.

Estrus A condition marking ovulation and sexual receptiveness in female mammals.

Flehmening A gesture of cats that involves curling the lips upwards, baring the teeth, wrinkling the nose, and raising the head.

Righting reflex The ability of a cat to land on all fours during a fall.

Vomeronasal organ A pit on the roof of the mouth in most vertebrates that serves to detect odor molecules that are not as volatile as those detected by the nose.

dogs in that they self-groom, need little if any training to use a litter box, and do not have to be walked. Cats are generally quiet and aloof, but will display affection to their owners. They have a reputation of being fussy eaters, but will usually adapt quickly to a particular kind of food.

See also Marsupial cats.

Resources

BOOKS

Alderton, David. Wildcats of the World. New York: Facts on File, 1993.

Bailey, Theodore N. The African Leopard: Ecology and Behavior. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. Bailey, Theodore. Wild Cats of the World. New York:

Sterling Publications, 1998. Kitchener, Andrew. The Natural History of the Wild Cats.

Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998. Loxton, Howard. The Noble Cat: Aristocrat of the Animal World. London: Merehurst, 1990.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walkers Mammals of the World. 6th ed. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Savage, R. J. G., and M. R. Long. Mammal EvolutionAn Illustrated Guide. New York: Facts on File, 1986. Sunquist, Mel, and Fiona Sunquist. Wild Cats of the World.

Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. Taylor, David. The Ultimate Cat Book. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989.

Turner, A. The Big Cats and Their Fossil Relatives: An Illustrated Guide to Their Evolution and Natural History. Columbia University Press, 1997.

Turner, Dennis C., and P.P.G. Bateson. The Domestic Cat: the Biology of Its Behavior. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Vita Richman

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Cats

Cats

Cats are mammals in the family Felidae of the order Carnivora, which includes all of the carnivores. The highly predatory instincts of species in the cat family are easily seen in domestic cats, for even well-fed individuals will aggressively hunt small mammals and birds .

The cat family includes both large species (jaguar, leopard, lion, and tiger) and small ones (bobcat, lynx, ocelot, and serval). Small species of cats purr but do not roar, whereas big cats roar but do not purr. The reason for this is that the tongue muscles of large cats are attached to a pliable cartilage at the base of the tongue, which allows roaring, while those of small cats are attached to the hyoid bone, which only allows purring.

Most cats have 30 teeth, including large canine and carnassal teeth, but few in their cheek. This arrangement is suited to crushing bones and tearing, cutting, and gripping the flesh of their prey . Their jaws are mostly adapted to vertical movement, and the chewing action is aided by sharp, backward projections on the tongue (known as papillae), which help to grip and manipulate food.

Members of the cat family occur naturally in all parts of the world, except Antarctica , Australia , and New Zealand (although domestic cats have been introduced and are now wild in the latter two places). There are 36 species of cats in four genera. The genus Panthera includes the jaguar, leopard, lion, and tiger. The cheetah is the sole member of the genus Acinonyx, while the clouded leopard is the only species of Neofelis. The puma, lynx, and smaller cats, including the domestic cat, are placed in the genus Felis.


Species of big cats

There are eight species of so-called "big cats," which includes the lion (Panthera leo), tiger (P. tigris), leopard (P. pardus), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), jaguar (P. onca), snow leopard (Uncia uncia), clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), and cougar (Puma concolor).


The lion

Lions were once distributed over much of southern Europe , Asia , and Africa . Today, lions are found only in sub-Saharan Africa and in the Gir Forest, a wildlife sanctuary in India. Lions prefer open grassland and savanna to forest, and are also found in the Kalahari Desert. Adult male lions weigh from 300–500 lb (135–225 kg), while females weigh about 300 lb (135 kg). Lions are a light tawny color with black markings on the abdomen, legs, ears, and mane. Lions live up to 15 years, reaching sexual maturity in their third year. Male lions have been observed to kill cubs that they have not fathered.

Lions are the most social of the cats. They live in family groups called a pride, which consists of 4-12 related adult females, their young, and 1-6 adult males. The size of the pride usually reflects the amount of available food: where prey is abundant, lion prides tend to be larger, making them better able to protect their kills from hyenas and other scavengers. Most lion kills are made by the females, while the males defend the pride's territory, which may range from 8 sq mi (20 sq km) to more than 150 sq mi (385 sq km).

The tiger

The tiger is the largest member of the cat family, with males weighing from 400 to 600 lb (180-275 kg) and females 300-350 lb (135-160 kg). Tigers range from a pale yellow to a reddish orange background color (depending on habitat ), overlain by vertical stripes. Tigers live in habitats with a dense cover of vegetation, commonly forest and swamps (or forested wetlands ) on the Indian subcontinent, southern China, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia. A century ago, tigers commonly inhabited areas as far north as southern Siberia, all of India and Southeast Asia, and regions along the eastern part of China. Today, however, their range is much reduced and fragmented and all eight subspecies of tigers are endangered.

Tigers live a solitary life and systematically protect their territory by marking its boundary with urine, feces, glandular secretions, and scrape marks on trees. Tigers are solitary nocturnal hunters, approaching their prey stealthily in a semi-crouching position. When close enough, the tiger makes a sudden rush for the prey, attacking from the side or the rear. The tiger keeps its hind feet on the ground while using its front paws and jaws to seize its prey by the shoulder or neck. The tiger applies a throat bite that suffocates its victim, which is then carried into cover and consumed.


The leopard

Male leopards weigh about 200 lb (90 kg), with females weighing about half that amount. Leopards are found in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Southeast Asia. There are also small populations in Arabia and North Africa. Leopards have a distinctive coloring of black spots over a pale brown coat. Their habitat includes tropical rainforest , dry savanna, and cooler mountainous areas.

Leopards feed on a variety of small and medium-sized prey, usually hunting at night by ambush. Leopards use trees as resting places and frequently drag their catch up there for feeding. The number of leopards is declining worldwide due to hunting and habitat destruction resulting from human population pressure.


The cheetah

Cheetahs can reach a speed of up to 70 MPH (112 km/h), and are the fastest animals on land. Cheetahs resemble leopards in having a black spotted pattern over a tawny coat, but are distinguished by a long, lithe body, large black "tear" stripes under their eyes, and a relatively small head. Cheetahs are the only members of the cat family that do not have retractable claws. Cheetahs are solitary hunters, feeding mostly on gazelles and impala. They hunt mainly in the morning and early afternoon, when other big cats are usually sleeping, thereby enabling them to share hunting areas with other large carnivores. Cheetahs are found in North and East Africa, in eastern parts of southern Africa, and in certain areas of the Middle East and South Asia. There is a considerable trade in cheetah skins, and hunting of these animals, together with the loss of habitat, threatens their survival in the wild.


Other big cats

Among the other large cats are the jaguar, snow leopard, and clouded leopard. These cats inhabit forested wilderness, and all are solitary, nocturnal predators. Jaguars are found in Central and South America , while the clouded leopard occurs in Southeast Asia, and the snow leopard at higher elevations in the Himalayas of Central Asia. The clouded leopard and the snow leopard have a rigid hyoid bone in their throat which prevents them from roaring. The black panther is a melanistic (or black) form of the jaguar; its spots are barely discernable within its dark coat. The cougar, also known as the puma or mountain lion, is about the size of a leopard and ranges from western Canada to Argentina. The cougar is found in mountains , plains, deserts, and forests and preys on deer and medium-sized mammals.


The smaller wild cats

Smaller wild cats are native to most areas of the world, except Australasia and Antarctica. Smaller cats are characterized by an inability to roar, retractable claws, and a hairless strip along the front of their nose. Examples of small wild cats are the Eurasian wild cat (Felis sylvestris), the African wild cat (F. lybica), the sand cat (F. margarita) of the Sahara, the African tiger cat (Profelis aurata) of tropical forests, the golden cat (P. temminckii), and Pallas' cat (Otocolobus manul) of central Asia. Medium-sized cats include the African serval (Leptailurus serval) and the caracal or desert lynx (Caracal caracal). Medium-sized cats of the New World include the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) of South and Central America and the jaguarundi (Herpailurus jaguarundi).

The bobcat or wildcat (Lynx rufus) of North America is colored to blend into the rocky, densely vegetated background of its habitat. Bobcats rely more on hearing and smell than on sight to catch their prey. The lynx (Lynx lynx) lives in cold climates and has long legs and big feet to make trekking through deep snow easier. The Canada lynx (L. canadensis) has long hair and does not have a spotted coat.

The other 26 species of smaller cats live mainly in forest and feed on small prey, such as squirrels and other rodents , hares, small deer, birds, snakes , lizards, fish , and insects . Most species have a spotted or striped coat and usually a rounded head. Small wild cats are either solitary in habit or form small groups, depending on the abundance of the food supply. Most species are hunted for their spotted or striped skin and some are in danger of becoming extinct.


Senses

Cats have excellent binocular vision , which allows them to judge distance well. Cats can see well at night, using dim light to distinguish objects and prey. Their eyes have a special reflective layer behind the retina that aids in low-light perception . This tapetal layer makes their eyes appear to glow in the dark when a light is shone on them.

The senses of smell and taste in cats are closely connected, as they are in all mammals. Distinctive to cats is an avoidance of foods that taste sweet. Their taste buds are located along the front and side edges of their tongue. Their vomeronasal organ , also known as Jacobson's organ, is a saclike structure located in the roof of the mouth, that is believed to be involved in sensing chemical cues associated with sexual activity. When a male cat smells a female's urine, which contains hormones indicating sexual receptiveness, he may wrinkle his nose and

curl back his upper lip in a gesture known as flehmening. He will also raise his head and bare his teeth.

Cats have the ability to hear high-frequency sounds that humans are unable to perceive. This ability is particularly helpful when cats are stalking such prey as mice , since the cats can detect the high-frequency sounds emitted by these rodents. The external ears of cats are flexible and can turn as much as 180 degrees to locate sounds more precisely.

A cat's whiskers have a sensory function, helping to avoid objects in its path in the dimmest light. If a cat passes an object that touches its whiskers, it will blink, thus protecting the eyes from possible injury. Besides the long cheek whiskers, cats have thicker whiskers above their eyes. Cats use their nose to determine the temperature , as well as the smell, of food. The hairless pads of their feet are an important source of tactile information gained from investigating objects with their paws.


Behavior

In the wild, most forest-living members of the cat family tend to be solitary hunters. Some species live in pairs, while others, such as lions, live in family groups. Cats engage in daily grooming which not only keeps their fur in good condition, but also helps regulate their body temperature (fur licking helps cool the cat through evaporation ), and spreads oils to keep their coat waterproof.

Cats need a great deal of sleep , which is consistent with the large amounts of energy they expend when hunting. They typically sleep intermittently almost twothirds of the day. Because of a slight fall in their body temperature when they sleep, cats often look for warm, sunny places for dozing.

Most cats are excellent climbers, great jumpers, and have remarkable balance. Except for the cheetah, cats have retractable claws that are curved, sharp, and sheathed. The claws are particularly useful when climbing trees. The bones of their feet (like those of dogs) are arranged in a digitigrade posture, meaning that only their toes make contact with the ground, which increases their speed of running. Cats have the a remarkable ability to right themselves when falling, when first the head, then the rest of the body turns toward the ground so that the cat lands on its feet.

Cats follow a well-defined hunting sequence that begins with the sighting or smelling of prey. The hunting skills that cats display are in some aspects instinctual and in others learned. Cats begin learning how to hunt through the play they engage in when young. Mother cats teach hunting skills to their young, first by bringing back dead prey, later by bringing back immobilized prey, allowing the young to kill it themselves. Still later, the mother cat will take the young on stalking and killing missions. Cats that do not have the opportunity to learn to hunt from their mother do not become good hunters.

Cats are territorial, marking their territory by spraying its boundary with urine. Cats also scratch and rub against fixed objects to mark their territory. Within the territorial boundary of a male cat, there may be several female territories. During mating, the male will seek out or be lured to nearby females that are in heat (estrous). Females may vocalize loudly when they are ready to mate, thus attracting males. Frequent scenting and rubbing against trees by the female cat also help the male know she is ready to mate. Frequent sexual intercourse during estrous is also important to ensure successful ovulation.

The gestation (pregnancy) period in cats depends upon their body size. Gestation ranges from slightly less than 60 days for smaller species to about 115 days for large cats, such as lions. The number in the litter varies from one to seven. The body size is not a consistent factor determining litter size; it may have more to do with the availability of food and the survival rate in the ecosystem the cat inhabits. With the exception of lions, the care and training of the cubs or kittens are left to the mother. Nursing continues until the young are weaned and learn to eat meat.


Evolution and history

The emergence of modern cats began about 25 million years ago during the Miocene epoch. Much more recently, the saber-toothed tiger (Smilodon fatalis) lived in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, and had extremely long, upper canine teeth for stabbing its prey. The remains of saber-toothed tigers have been found to be as recent as 13,000 years old.

Cats were probably first domesticated in ancient Egypt about 5,000 years ago. The Egyptians used cats to protect grain supplies from rodents. They also worshiped cats, and mummified large numbers of them and placed them in tombs so they could continue to serve their owners in their afterlife. Since that time, the domestic cat has been carried by people throughout most of the world. The breeding of cats into numerous specific pedigrees was particularly active beginning with the middle of the nineteenth century.

Domestic cats

The breeding of the domestic cat (Felis cattus) involves basic principles of heredity, with consideration of dominant and recessive traits. It was in England that this breeding first became serious enough that so-called "purebred" cats were displayed at shows and a system of authenticating the genetic lineage was begun by issuing pedigree certificates. Special associations were established to regulate the validation of cat pedigrees and to sponsor the shows.

Cat breeds can be categorized as either long-haired or short-haired. Within each group, the breeds are distinguished by their color and pattern, head and ear shape and size, body shape, hair color and length, eye color and shape, and special markings like stripes and color variations on the feet, tail, face, and neck.

More than a hundred different breeds of domestic cats are recognized, subdivided into five broad groups. One group includes Persian longhairs, another the rest of the long-haired cats, a third the British short-haired cats, a fourth the American short-haired cats, and a fifth the Oriental short-haired cats.

The Persian cat, highly prized among cat fanciers, has a rounded body, face, eyes, and head, with a short nose and legs. Its fur is long and woolly, and its tail is fluffy and bushy. Persian cats vary from black to white, cream, blue, red, blue-cream, cameo, tortoiseshell, smoke, silver, tabby, calico, pewter, chocolate, and lilac. Other popular long-haired cats include the Balinese, the ragdoll, the Turkish angora, and the Maine coon cat. Among the short-haired cats, the Manx, British shorthair, American shorthair, Abyssinian, Burmese, and Siamese are popular. One breed is hairless: the sphynx, bred from a mutant kitten in 1966, does not even have whiskers.

The domestic cat is rivaled only by the domestic dog as a household pet, and in recent years has outnumbered the dog in urban areas. Cats are more self-sufficient than dogs in that they self-groom, need little if any training to use a litter box, and don't have to be walked. Cats are generally quiet and aloof, but will display affection to their owners. They have a reputation of being fussy eaters, but will usually adapt quickly to a particular kind of food.

See also Marsupial cats.


Resources

books

Alderton, David. Wildcats of the World. New York: Facts on File, 1993.

Bailey, Theodore N. The African Leopard: Ecology and Behavior. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

Bailey, Theodore. Wild Cats of the World. New York: Sterling Publications, 1998.

Loxton, Howard. The Noble Cat: Aristocrat of the Animal World. London: Merehurst, 1990.

Savage, R. J. G., and M. R. Long. Mammal Evolution—An Illustrated Guide. New York: Facts on File, 1986.

Taylor, David. The Ultimate Cat Book. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989.

Turner, A. The Big Cats and Their Fossil Relatives: An Illustrated Guide to Their Evolution and Natural History. Columbia University Press, 1997.

Turner, Dennis C., and P. P. G. Bateson. The Domestic Cat: the Biology of Its Behavior. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.


Vita Richman

KEY TERMS

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Digitigrade posture

—Walking on the toes, as cats and dogs do, as opposed to walking on the ball of the feet, as humans do.

Estrus

—A condition marking ovulation and sexual receptiveness in female mammals.

Flehmening

—A gesture of cats that involves curling the lips upwards, baring the teeth, wrinkling the nose, and raising the head.

Righting reflex

—The ability of a cat to land on all fours during a fall.

Vomeronasal organ

—A pit on the roof of the mouth in most vertebrates that serves to detect odor molecules that are not as volatile as those detected by the nose.

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"Cats." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Retrieved September 23, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cats-0

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