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Felidae () is a
family In human society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically subject to the same Politics, ...
of
mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'breast') are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class (biology), class Mammalia (), and characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in Female#Mammalian female, females produce milk ...
s in the
order Order or ORDER or Orders may refer to: * Orderliness Orderliness is associated with other qualities such as cleanliness Cleanliness is both the abstract state of being clean and free from germs, dirt, trash, or waste, and the habit of achieving a ...
Carnivora Carnivora is an order of placental mammals that have specialized in primarily eating flesh. Its members are formally referred to as carnivorans, though some species are omnivorous, such as raccoons and bears, and quite a few species such as pand ...
, colloquially referred to as cats, and constitutes a
clade A clade (), also known as a monophyletic group or natural group, is a group of organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organisms are composed of cells (cell t ...
. A member of this family is also called a felid (). The term "cat" refers both to felids in general and specifically to the
domestic cat The cat (''Felis catus'') is a domestic species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined a ...
(''Felis catus''). Felidae
species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mechanis ...

species
exhibit the most diverse
fur Fur is a thick growth of hair Hair is a protein filament that grows from follicles found in the dermis. Hair is one of the defining characteristics of mammals. The human body, apart from areas of glabrous skin, is covered in follicles ...

fur
pattern of all terrestrial carnivores. Cats have retractile
claws A domestic cat's retractable claw in protracted position A claw is a curved, pointed appendage found at the end of a toe or finger in most amniote Amniotes (from Greek ἀμνίον ''amnion'', "membrane surrounding the fetus", earlier "bo ...
, slender muscular bodies and strong flexible forelimbs. Their teeth and facial muscles allow for a powerful bite. They are all
obligate carnivores A carnivore , meaning "meat Meat is animal flesh that is eaten as food. Humans have hunted and killed animals for meat since prehistoric times. The advent of civilization allowed the domestication of animals such as chickens, sheep, rabbi ...
, and most are solitary
predator Predation is a biological interaction In ecology Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study of") is the study of the relationships between living organisms, including humans, and their physical env ...

predator
s ambushing or stalking their prey. Wild cats occur in
Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are ...

Africa
,
Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered from largest ...

Europe
,
Asia Asia () is a landmass variously described as part of Eurasia Eurasia () is the largest continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict crite ...
and the
Americas The Americas (also collectively called America) is a landmass comprising the totality of North North is one of the four compass points or cardinal directions. It is the opposite of south and is perpendicular to East and West. ''North'' ...
. Some wild cat species are adapted to
forest A forest is an area of land dominated by trees. Hundreds of definitions of forest are used throughout the world, incorporating factors such as tree density, tree height, land use, legal standing and ecological function. The Food and Agricult ...

forest
habitat Ibex in an alpine habitat In ecology, the term habitat summarises the array of resources, physical and biotic factors that are present in an area, such as to support the survival and reproduction of a particular species. A species habitat c ...

habitat
s, some to
arid A region is arid when it is characterized by a severe lack of available water, to the extent of hindering or preventing the growth and development Development or developing may refer to: Arts *Development hell, when a project is stuck in de ...
environments, and a few also to
wetland A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently (for years or decades) or seasonally (for weeks or months). Flooding results in oxygen-free (Anoxic waters, anoxic) processes prevailing, especially in the soils. ...

wetland
s and
mountain A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. A mountain differs from a plateau in having a limited summit area, and is larger than a hill, typically rising at least ...

mountain
ous terrain. Their activity patterns range from
nocturnal Nocturnality is an animal behavior Ethology is the scientific Science (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was original ...
and
crepuscular An adult firefly (''Photuris lucicrescens'') or "lightning bug" – a crepuscular beetle A crepuscular animal is one that is active primarily during the twilight period. This is distinguished from diurnality, diurnal and nocturnality, noc ...
to
diurnal Diurnal ("daily Daily or The Daily may refer to: Journalism * Daily newspaper A newspaper is a Periodical literature, periodical publication containing written News, information about current events and is often typed in black ink with a ...
, depending on their preferred prey species.
Reginald Innes Pocock Reginald Innes Pocock F.R.S. (4 March 1863 – 9 August 1947) was a British zoologist. Pocock was born in Clifton, Bristol, the fourth son of Rev. Nicholas Pocock and Edith Prichard. He began showing interest in natural history at St. Edwa ...
divided the
extant Extant is the opposite of the word extinct. It may refer to: * Extant hereditary titles * Extant literature, surviving literature, such as ''Beowulf'', the oldest extant manuscript written in English * Extant taxon, a taxon which is not extinct, s ...
Felidae into three subfamilies: the
Pantherinae Pantherinae is a subfamily within the family Felidae; it was named and first described by Reginald Innes Pocock in 1917 as only including the ''Panthera'' species. The Pantherinae Genetic divergence, genetically diverged from a common ancestor be ...
, the
Felinae The Felinae are a subfamily of the family Felidae. This subfamily comprises the small cats having a bony hyoid, because of which they are able to purr but not roar. Other authors proposed an alternative definition for this subfamily: as co ...
and the Acinonychinae, differing from each other by the
ossification Image:Bonemetabolism.svg, 300 px, Bone is broken down by osteoclasts, and rebuilt by osteoblasts, both of which communicate through cytokine (TGF-β, Insulin-like growth factor, IGF) signalling. Ossification (or osteogenesis) in bone remodeling ...
of the
hyoid apparatus The hyoid apparatus is the collective term used in veterinary anatomy for the bones which suspend the tongue and larynx The larynx (), commonly called the voice box, is an organ in the top of the neck The neck is the part of the body on many ...
and by the cutaneous sheaths which protect their claws. This concept has been revised following developments in
molecular biology Molecular biology is the branch of biology that seeks to understand the molecule, molecular basis of biological activity in and between Cell (biology), cells, including biomolecule, molecular synthesis, modification, mechanisms, and interactions ...
and techniques for analysis of morphological data. Today, the living Felidae are divided in two subfamilies: the Pantherinae and Felinae, with the Acinonychinae subsumed into the latter. Pantherinae includes five ''
Panthera ''Panthera'' is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of extant taxon, living and fossil organisms as well as Virus classification#ICTV classification, viruse ...

Panthera
'' and two ''
Neofelis ''Neofelis'' is a genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification. The term may also refer to a ...
''
species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mechanis ...

species
, while Felinae includes the other 34 species in ten
genera Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification. The term may also ref ...
. The first cats emerged during the
Oligocene The Oligocene ( ) is a geologic epoch (geology), epoch of the Paleogene Geologic time scale, Period and extends from about 33.9 million to 23 million years before the present ( to ). As with other older geologic periods, the rock beds that define ...
about , with the appearance of '' Proailurus'' and '' Pseudaelurus''. The latter
species complex In biology, a species complex is a group of closely related organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system that embodies the Life#Biology, properties ...
was ancestral to two main lines of felids: the cats in the extant subfamilies and a group of
extinct Extinction is the termination of a kind of organism or of a group of kinds (taxon), usually a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the endling, last individual of the species, although the Functional extin ...
cats of the subfamily
Machairodontinae Machairodontinae is an extinct subfamily of carnivoran mammals of the family Felidae (true cats). They were found in Asia, Africa, North America, South America, and Europe from the Miocene to the Pleistocene, living from about 16 million until ab ...
, which include the
saber-toothed cat A saber-tooth (alternatively spelled sabre-tooth) is any member of various extinct groups of predatory Predation is a biological interaction In ecology Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study ...
s such as the ''
Smilodon ''Smilodon'' is a genus of the extinct machairodont subfamily of the felids. It is one of the most famous prehistoric mammals and the best known saber-toothed cat. Although commonly known as the saber-toothed tiger, it was not closely related ...

Smilodon
''. The "false sabre-toothed cats", the
Barbourofelidae Barbourofelidae is an extinct family (biology), family of carnivorans of the suborder Feliformia that lived in North America, Eurasia and Africa during the Miocene epoch (16.9—9.0 million years ago) and existed for about . Taxonomy The type ge ...
and
Nimravidae Nimravidae is an extinct family (biology), family of carnivorans, sometimes known as false saber-toothed cats, whose fossils are found in North America and Eurasia. Not considered to belong to the true cats (family Felidae), the nimravids are gene ...
, are not true cats, but are closely related. Together with the Felidae,
Viverridae Viverridae is a family In human society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically subj ...
,
hyaena ''Hyaena'' is a genus comprising two of the living species of hyenas: the striped hyena (''Hyaena hyaena'') from Western Asia, India, Central Asia, East Africa and North Africa, Northern Africa and the brown hyena (''Hyaena brunnea'') from Sout ...
s and
mongoose A mongoose is a small terrestrial carnivorous A carnivore , meaning "meat Meat is animal flesh that is eaten as food. Humans have hunted and killed animals for meat since prehistoric times. The advent of civilization allowed the domes ...

mongoose
s, they constitute the
Feliformia Feliformia is a suborder within the order Carnivora Carnivora is an order of placental mammals that have specialized in primarily eating flesh. Its members are formally referred to as carnivorans, though some species are omnivorous, such as ra ...
.


Characteristics

Lion roaring All members of the cat family have the following characteristics in common: * They are
digitigrade A digitigrade () is an animal that stands or walks on its digits, or toes. Digitigrades include walking birds (what many assume to be bird knees are actually ankle The ankle, or the talocrural region, is the region where the foot and the human leg ...
, have five toes on their forefeet and four on their hind feet. Their curved claws are protractile and attached to the terminal with
ligament A ligament is the fibrous connective tissue Connective tissue is one of the four basic types of animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the Kingdom (biology), biological kingdom Animalia. Wit ...

ligament
s and
tendon A tendon or sinew is a tough, high-tensile-strength band of dense fibrous connective tissue that connects muscle Skeletal muscles (commonly referred to as muscles) are organs An organ is a group of tissues with similar functions. Plant l ...

tendon
s. The claws are guarded by
cutaneous Skin is the layer of usually soft, flexible outer tissue covering the body of a vertebrate Vertebrates () comprise all species of animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the Kingdom (biolo ...
sheaths, except in the '' Acinonyx''. * The
plantar Standard anatomical terms of location deal unambiguously with the anatomy Anatomy (Greek ''anatomē'', 'dissection') is the branch of biology concerned with the study of the structure of organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient ...
pads of both fore and hind feet form compact three-lobed cushions. * They actively protract the claws by contracting muscles in the toe, and they passively retract them. The
dewclaw of a dog: A. Claw, B. Digital pads, C. Metacarpal pad, D. Dewclaw, E. Carpal pad A dewclaw is a Digit (anatomy), digit – vestigial is a vestigial structure; it has lost much of its ancestral function. Vestigiality is the retention during ...
s are expanded but do not protract. * They have lithe and flexible bodies with muscular limbs. * Their skull is foreshortened with a rounded profile and large orbits. * They have 30 teeth with a
dental formula Dentition pertains to the development of teeth and their arrangement in the mouth In animal anatomy Anatomy (Greek ''anatomē'', 'dissection') is the branch of biology concerned with the study of the structure of organism In biolo ...

dental formula
of . The upper third premolar and lower molar are adapted as
carnassial Carnassials are paired upper and lower teeth modified in such a way as to allow enlarged and often self-sharpening edges to pass by each other in a shearing manner. This adaptation is found in the Order (biology), Order Carnivora, where the carnas ...
teeth, suited to tearing and cutting flesh. The
canine teeth In mammalian oral anatomy, the canine teeth, also called cuspids, dog teeth, or (in the context of the upper jaw) fangs, eye teeth, vampire teeth, or vampire fangs, are the relatively long, pointed tooth, teeth. They can appear more flattened how ...
are large, reaching exceptional size in the extinct saber-toothed species. The lower carnassial is smaller than the upper carnassial and has a crown with two compressed blade-like pointed cusps. * Their
tongue The tongue is a muscular MUSCULAR (DS-200B), located in the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Brita ...

tongue
is covered with horny papillae, which rasp meat from prey and aid in grooming. * Their nose projects slightly beyond the lower jaw. * Their eyes are relatively large, situated to provide
binocular vision In biology, binocular vision is a type of visual perception, vision in which an animal has two eyes capable of facing the same direction to perceive a single stereopsis, three-dimensional image of its surroundings. Neurological researcher Manfred ...

binocular vision
. Their night vision is especially good due to the presence of a ''
tapetum lucidum The ''tapetum lucidum'' (; from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the ...
'', which reflects light back inside the eyeball, and gives felid eyes their distinctive shine. As a result, the eyes of felids are about six times more light-sensitive than those of humans, and many species are at least partially
nocturnal Nocturnality is an animal behavior Ethology is the scientific Science (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was original ...
. The
retina The retina (from la, rete "net") is the innermost, light-sensitive layer of tissue of the eye of most vertebrates and some Mollusca, molluscs. The optics of the eye create a Focus (optics), focused two-dimensional image of the visual world on ...

retina
of felids also contains a relatively high proportion of
rod cell Rod cells are photoreceptor cells in the retina of the eye that can function in lower light Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation within the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that can be visual perception, perceived by ...
s, adapted for distinguishing moving objects in conditions of dim light, which are complemented by the presence of
cone cell Cone cells, or cones, are photoreceptor cells in the retinas of vertebrate eyes including the human eye. They respond differently to light of different Visible spectrum, wavelengths, and are thus responsible for color vision, and function best i ...

cone cell
s for sensing colour during the day. * They have well-developed and highly sensitive
whiskers showing four major cranial groups of vibrissae: supraorbital (above the eye), mystacial (where a moustache would be), genal (on the cheek, far left), and mandibular (pointing down, under the snout). may be vibrissae. ''. with large macrovibrissa ...

whiskers
above the eyes, on the cheeks, on the muzzle, but not below the chin. Whiskers help to navigate in the dark and to capture and hold prey. * Their external ears are large and especially sensitive to high-frequency sounds in the smaller cat species. This sensitivity allows them to locate small
rodent Rodents (from Latin , 'to gnaw') are mammals of the Order (biology), order Rodentia (), which are characterized by a single pair of continuously growing incisors in each of the upper and lower jaws. About 40% of all mammal species are rodents ...

rodent
prey. * The penis is subconical, facing backward when not erect. The
baculum The baculum (also penis bone, penile bone, or ''os penis'', ''os genitale'' or ''os priapi'') is a bone A bone is a Stiffness, rigid tissue (anatomy), tissue that constitutes part of the skeleton in most vertebrate animals. Bones protect the ...
is small or vestigial, and shorter than in the
Canidae Canidae (; from Latin, ''canis'', "dog") is a family (biology), biological family of dog-like carnivorans, colloquially referred to as dogs, and constitutes a clade. A member of this family is also called a canid (). There are three subfamily, ...
. * Felids have a
vomeronasal organ The vomeronasal organ (VNO), or Jacobson's organ, is the paired auxiliary olfactory (smell) sense organ located in the soft tissue of the nasal septum, in the nasal cavity just above the roof of the mouth (the hard palate). The name is derived from ...

vomeronasal organ
in the roof of the mouth, allowing them to "taste" the air. The use of this organ is associated with the
Flehmen response The flehmen response (; from German ''flehmen'', to bare the upper teeth, and Upper Saxon German ''flemmen'', to look Spite (sentiment), spiteful), also called the flehmen position, flehmen reaction, flehmen grimace, flehming, or flehmening, is a be ...
. * They cannot detect the
sweetness Sweetness is a Taste#Basic tastes, basic taste most commonly Perception, perceived when eating foods rich in sugars. Sweet tastes are generally regarded as pleasure, pleasurable, except when in excess. In addition to sugars like sucrose, many ot ...

sweetness
of sugar, as they lack the sweet-
taste receptor A taste receptor is a type of cellular receptor In biochemistry and pharmacology, receptors are chemical structures, composed of protein, that receive and Signal_transduction, transduce signals that may be integrated into biological systems. Th ...
. * They share a broadly similar set of vocalisations, but with some variation between species. In particular, the pitch of calls varies, with larger species producing deeper sounds; overall, the frequency of felid calls ranges between 50 and 10,000 hertz. The standard sounds made by all felids include meowing, spitting, hissing, snarling and
growling Growling is a low, guttural Guttural speech sound In phonetics and linguistics, a phone is any distinct speech sound or gesture, regardless of whether the exact sound is critical to the meanings of words. In contrast, a phoneme is a speech sound ...
. Meowing is the main contact sound, whereas the others signify an aggressive motivation. * They can
purr A purr is a tonal fluttering sound made by some species of felid Felidae () is a Family (biology), family of mammals in the Order (biology), order Carnivora, colloquially referred to as cats, and constitutes a clade. A member of this family ...
during both phases of
respiration Respiration may refer to: Biology * Cellular respiration, the process in which nutrients are converted into useful energy in a cell ** Anaerobic respiration, cellular respiration without oxygen ** Maintenance respiration, the amount of cellular ...
, though pantherine cats seem to purr only during
oestrus The oestrous cycle or estrous cycle (derived from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as La ...
and
copulation Sexual intercourse (or coitus or copulation) is sexual activity typically involving the insertion and thrusting of the penis A penis (plural ''penises'' or ''penes'' ) is the primary sexual organ that male Male (♂) is the sex of a ...
, and as cubs when suckling. Purring is generally a low pitch sound of less than 2
kHz The hertz (symbol: Hz) is the derived unit of frequency Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit of time. It is also referred to as temporal frequency, which emphasizes the contrast to spatial frequency and an ...
and mixed with other vocalization types during the expiratory phase. The ability to roar comes from an elongated and specially adapted larynx and
hyoid apparatus The hyoid apparatus is the collective term used in veterinary anatomy for the bones which suspend the tongue and larynx The larynx (), commonly called the voice box, is an organ in the top of the neck The neck is the part of the body on many ...
. When air passes through the larynx on the way from the lungs, the cartilage walls of the larynx vibrate, producing sound. Only lions, leopards, tigers, and jaguars are truly able to roar, although the loudest mews of snow leopards have a similar, if less structured, sound. The colour, length and density of their fur is very diverse. Fur colour covers the gamut from white to black, and fur pattern from distinctive small spots, stripes to small blotches and rosettes. Most cat species are born with a spotted fur, except the
jaguarundi The jaguarundi (''Herpailurus yagouaroundi'') is a wild cat native to the Americas. Its range extends from central Argentina in the south to northern Mexico, through Central and South America east of the Andes The Andes, Andes Mountains or A ...

jaguarundi
(''Herpailurus yagouaroundi''),
Asian golden cat The Asian golden cat (''Catopuma temminckii'') is a medium-sized Felidae, wild cat native to the northeastern Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and southern China. It has been listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List since 2008, and is t ...

Asian golden cat
(''Catopuma temminckii'') and
caracal The caracal (''Caracal caracal'') is a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles ...

caracal
(''Caracal caracal''). The spotted fur of lion (''Panthera leo'') and
cougar The cougar (''Puma concolor'') is a large cat The cat (''Felis catus'') is a domestic species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as ...

cougar
(''Puma concolor'') cubs change to a uniform fur during their
ontogeny Ontogeny (also ontogenesis) is the origination and development of an organism (both physical and psychological, e.g., moral development), usually from the time of fertilization of the ovum, egg to adult. The term can also be used to refer to th ...
. Those living in cold environments have thick fur with long hair, like the
snow leopard The snow leopard (''Panthera uncia''), also known as the ounce, is a felid Felidae () is a Family (biology), family of mammals in the Order (biology), order Carnivora, colloquially referred to as cats, and constitutes a clade. A member of t ...

snow leopard
(''Panthera uncia'') and the
Pallas's cat The Pallas's cat (''Otocolobus manul'', also known as the manul, is a small wild cat with long and dense light grey fur. Its rounded ears are set low on the sides of the head. Its head-and-body length ranges from with a long bushy tail. The P ...
(''Otocolobus manul''). Those living in tropical and hot climate zones have short fur. Several species exhibit
melanism The term melanism refers to black pigment and is derived from the gr, μελανός. Melanism is the increased development of the dark-colored pigment A pigment is a colored material that is completely or nearly insoluble in water. In contra ...
with all-black individuals. In the great majority of cat species, the tail is between a third and a half of the body length, although with some exceptions, like the ''
Lynx A lynx (; plural lynx or lynxes) is any of the four species (the Canada lynx, Iberian lynx, Eurasian lynx, or bobcat) within the medium-sized wild cat genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is ...

Lynx
'' species and
margay The margay (''Leopardus wiedii'') is a small wild cat native to Central and South America South America is a continent entirely in the Western Hemisphere and mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the No ...

margay
(''Leopardus wiedii''). Cat species vary greatly in body and skull sizes, and weights: * The largest cat species is the
tiger The tiger (''Panthera tigris'') is the largest extant taxon, living Felidae, cat species and a member of the genus ''Panthera''. It is most recognisable for its dark vertical stripes on orange fur with a white underside. An apex predator, it ...

tiger
(''Panthera tigris''), with a head-to-body length of up to , a weight range of at least , and a skull length ranging from . Although the maximum skull length of a lion is slightly greater at , it is generally smaller in head-to-body length than the former. * The smallest cat species are the
rusty-spotted cat The rusty-spotted cat (''Prionailurus rubiginosus'') is one of the cat family's smallest members, of which historical records are known only from India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia ...
(''Prionailurus rubiginosus'') and the
black-footed cat The black-footed cat (''Felis nigripes''), also called the small-spotted cat, is the smallest wild Felidae, cat in Africa, having a head-and-body length of . Despite its name, only the soles of its feet are black or dark brown. With its bold sma ...
(''Felis nigripes''). The former is in length and weighs . The latter has a head-to-body length of and a maximum recorded weight of . Most cat species have a
haploid Ploidy () is the number of complete sets of chromosome A chromosome is a long DNA molecule with part or all of the genetic material of an organism. Most eukaryotic chromosomes include packaging proteins called histones which, aided by ...
number of 18 or 19. Central and South American cats have a haploid number of 18, possibly due to the combination of two smaller
chromosome A chromosome is a long DNA The structure of part of a DNA double helix Deoxyribonucleic acid (; DNA) is a molecule File:Pentacene on Ni(111) STM.jpg, A scanning tunneling microscopy image of pentacene molecules, which consist of ...

chromosome
s into a larger one. Most cat species are also induced ovulators, although the margay appears to be a spontaneous ovulator.


Evolution

The family Felidae is part of the
Feliformia Feliformia is a suborder within the order Carnivora Carnivora is an order of placental mammals that have specialized in primarily eating flesh. Its members are formally referred to as carnivorans, though some species are omnivorous, such as ra ...
, a suborder that diverged probably about into several families. The Felidae and the
Asiatic linsang The Asiatic linsang (''Prionodon'') is a genus comprising two species native to Southeast Asia: the banded linsang (''Prionodon linsang'') and the spotted linsang (''Prionodon pardicolor''). ''Prionodon'' is considered a sister taxon of the Felida ...
s are considered a sister group, which split about . The earliest cats probably appeared about . '' Proailurus'' is the oldest known cat that occurred after the Eocene–Oligocene extinction event about ; fossil remains were Excavation (archaeology), excavated in France and Mongolia's Hsanda Gol Formation. Fossil occurrences indicate that the Felidae arrived in North America earliest . This is about later than the Ursidae and the
Nimravidae Nimravidae is an extinct family (biology), family of carnivorans, sometimes known as false saber-toothed cats, whose fossils are found in North America and Eurasia. Not considered to belong to the true cats (family Felidae), the nimravids are gene ...
, and about 10 million years later than the
Canidae Canidae (; from Latin, ''canis'', "dog") is a family (biology), biological family of dog-like carnivorans, colloquially referred to as dogs, and constitutes a clade. A member of this family is also called a canid (). There are three subfamily, ...
. In the Early Miocene about , '' Pseudaelurus'' lived in Africa. Its fossil jaws were also excavated in geological formations of Europe's Vallesian, Asia's Middle Miocene and North America's late Hemingfordian to late Barstovian epochs. In the Early or Middle Miocene, the sabre-toothed
Machairodontinae Machairodontinae is an extinct subfamily of carnivoran mammals of the family Felidae (true cats). They were found in Asia, Africa, North America, South America, and Europe from the Miocene to the Pleistocene, living from about 16 million until ab ...
evolved in Africa and migrated northwards in the Late Miocene. With their large upper Canine tooth, canines, they were adapted to prey on large-bodied Megafauna, megaherbivores. ''Miomachairodus'' is the oldest known member of this subfamily. ''Metailurus'' lived in Africa and Eurasia about . Several ''Paramachaerodus'' skeletons were found in Spain. ''Homotherium'' appeared in Africa, Eurasia and North America around , and ''Megantereon'' about . ''
Smilodon ''Smilodon'' is a genus of the extinct machairodont subfamily of the felids. It is one of the most famous prehistoric mammals and the best known saber-toothed cat. Although commonly known as the saber-toothed tiger, it was not closely related ...

Smilodon
'' lived in North and South America from about . This subfamily became extinct in the Late Pleistocene. Results of Mitochondrial DNA, mitochondrial analysis indicate that the living Felidae species descended from a common ancestor, which originated in Asia in the Late Miocene epoch. They migrated to Africa, Europe and the Americas in the course of at least 10 Migration (ecology), migration waves during the past ~11 million years. Low sea levels, interglacial and glacial periods facilitated these migrations. ''Panthera blytheae'' is the oldest known pantherine cat dated to the late Messinian to early Zanclean ages about . A fossil skull was excavated in 2010 in Zanda County on the Tibetan Plateau. ''Panthera palaeosinensis'' from North China probably dates to the Late Miocene or Early Pliocene. The skull of the holotype is similar to that of a lion or leopard. ''Panthera zdanskyi'' dates to the Gelasian about . Several fossil skulls and jawbones were excavated in northwestern China. ''Panthera gombaszoegensis'' is the earliest known pantherine cat that lived in Europe about . Living felids fall into eight Lineage (evolution), evolutionary lineages or species
clade A clade (), also known as a monophyletic group or natural group, is a group of organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organisms are composed of cells (cell t ...
s. Genotyping of nuclear DNA of all 41 felid species revealed that Hybrid (biology), hybridization between species occurred in the course of evolution within the majority of the eight lineages. Modelling of felid coat pattern transformations revealed that nearly all patterns evolved from small spots.


Classification

Traditionally, five subfamilies have been distinguished within the Felidae based on Phenotype, phenotypical features: the
Pantherinae Pantherinae is a subfamily within the family Felidae; it was named and first described by Reginald Innes Pocock in 1917 as only including the ''Panthera'' species. The Pantherinae Genetic divergence, genetically diverged from a common ancestor be ...
, the
Felinae The Felinae are a subfamily of the family Felidae. This subfamily comprises the small cats having a bony hyoid, because of which they are able to purr but not roar. Other authors proposed an alternative definition for this subfamily: as co ...
, the Acinonyx#Taxonomy, Acinonychinae, and the extinct
Machairodontinae Machairodontinae is an extinct subfamily of carnivoran mammals of the family Felidae (true cats). They were found in Asia, Africa, North America, South America, and Europe from the Miocene to the Pleistocene, living from about 16 million until ab ...
and Proailurinae.


Phylogeny

The following cladogram based on Piras et al. (2013) depicts the phylogeny of basal living and extinct groups. The phylogenetic relationships of living felids are shown in the following cladogram:


See also

* Cat gap * Felid hybrid * List of felids * List of largest cats


References


External links

* * {{Authority control Felids, * Mammal families Extant Chattian first appearances Taxa named by Gotthelf Fischer von Waldheim