Domestic Cat Facts
Common Name: Domestic Cat, House Cat
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Misc.:One of the most popular pets of all times, there is currently more than 100 million animals in existence worldwide. Humans spend more than $1.5 billion dollars per year feeding their feline companions, and more than $200 million per year on cat litter!
There are more than 30 different breeds of domestic cat and it is believed that all originated from the African Wildcat. Domestication is thought to have occurred more than 4000 years ago in Egypt, and originally occurred for religious purposes.
The expression that most aptly describes the difference between the canine companion versus the feline companion is “My dog thinks he’s human, my cat thinks he’s god”.
Size and Appearance: Almost impossible to describe, the domestic cat comes in a wide variety of colors and coat lengths. There are longhaired breeds like the Persian, and cats with virtually no hair like the Mexican Hairless. There are even cats with almost no tail at all like the Manx cat, or very short legs like the Munchkin. They can be as varied in size, ranging from 5 pounds all the way up to more than 20.
Habitat: Everywhere, mostly associated with human dwellings. Sadly, due to the irresponsibility of man, there are now feral populations of domestic cats everywhere.
Reproduction and Offspring: Females tend to come in heat 3-4 times per year, and after a gestation of 63-66 days they produce litters of 1-8 kittens, most commonly 3-5. They weigh 3-4 ounces at birth, and their eyes open between 7-20 days. They learn to walk around 9-15 days, eat solid food at 4 weeks and are weaned between 8-10 weeks. Independence is around 6 months, with sexual maturity being reached around 10-12 months.
Social System and Communication: Solitary by nature, yet in areas with abundant food sources, they establish a social organization and hierarchies and tolerate each other quite well.
Hunting and Diet: Outdoor and feral cats prey on a variety of small mammals and birds, including mice, rats, squirrels, gophers, moles, shrews, hares and rabbits. As for birds, they prefer sparrows, starlings, robins, doves, and ground nesting birds like grouse, quail and pheasants. Cats will also include grass and other vegetation as part of their diet. Fish, insects and domestic chickens may also be taken.
Principal Threats: Because of their ability to survive so well and reproduce in large numbers, cats have become nuisances in areas of human populations. Each year, hundreds of thousands of unwanted or abandoned cats are euthanised here in the United States alone. Because humans are also irresponsible in their keeping of pets and do not spay and neuter, the number of unwanted kittens is astronomical, adding to the numbers of euthanised animals each year. Keeping animals as outdoor cats invites thousands of cats to be killed by automobiles each year, or by other predators.
How Did Cats Come To Live Among Us?
June 28, 2007 (HealthDay News) — Painstaking genetic research shows that the cat first became domesticated soon after humans began farming and building the first civilizations, somewhere in the ancient Near East.
And, in typical feline fashion, the decision to take up residence was theirs.
“Cats weren’t domesticated on purpose, they just kind of invited themselves in,” said study lead author Carlos Driscoll, a doctoral fellow at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. He conducted the research while at the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s Laboratory of Genomic Diversity, in Frederick, Md.
By now, the world’s Fluffys and Sylvesters have planted their paws firmly across the globe. But these millions of cats appear to share a common ancestor, according to researchers reporting in the June 29, 2007 issue of Science.
Driscoll’s team used genetic material gathered from cats worldwide to distinguish wild breeds from domesticated cats and hybrids, and to help determine when and where domestication first occurred.
“Cat domestication became complete by about 3,600 years ago, although the process probably began much earlier,” Driscoll said. “It probably began with the origins of agriculture, which was about 12,000 years ago.”
As farmland in the Fertile Crescent (modern-day Iraq) kept humans rooted in one locale, the first cities grew.
“Cats are very adaptable, and they adapted themselves to this new environment,” Driscoll said.
Still, outside of their talent for eating mice and rats, felines weren’t of any obvious value to humankind — not like pigs, goats and cattle, which people worked hard to domesticate.
Instead, cats likely won humans over with a charm offensive, Driscoll said.
“Cats are nice. They tame down well, and there was just no reason for people not to like them,” he said. As cats started to hang around cities and homes, “they were tolerated and encouraged,” he added. It appears to have been the perfect plan, since the house cat now outranks the dog as the world’s most populous pet.
The NCI study drew on genetic material from 979 domestic cats found “in Scotland, down though Cape Town, and all the way to Mongolia and lots of places in between,” Driscoll said. The researchers also sampled the DNA of the world’s remaining pockets of truly wild cats: Felis silvestris silvestris in Europe; Felis s. lybica in Africa and the Near East; Felis s. ornata in Central Asia; Felis s. cafra from the Sahara desert, and Felis s. bieti from the Chinese desert.
Prior to this work, specialists in feline evolution had based much of their theories on the archaeological and paleontological record. But, Driscoll said, cats’ bones and other remains can only tell scientists so much. “There’s actually very little physiological difference between wild cats and domestic cats,” he said. “It’s very difficult to tell them apart from their bones.”
The common house cat also varies little in behavioral terms from its wilder cousins, he said. “Just by knowing how [house] cats can survive in the wild, you can tell they’re not very much changed from their wild ancestors,” Driscoll said. “They hunt just as well as a wild cat, and they breed even more prolifically.”
Based largely on the archaeological record, some experts had speculated that the domestication of the cat occurred in separate places at separate times, giving rise to distinct lineages around the world.
But the new gene study tells a different tale.
“All [domestic] cats are related to one another, and they all come from the same place, and that’s the Near East” Driscoll said. Today’s domestic cats probably all descend from the wild cat native to the area, Felis s. lybica.
Looking much farther back into the record, Driscoll and his colleagues also discovered that the various lineages of wild cat began branching off from a common ancestor, Felis silvestris, more than 100,000 years ago — much earlier than was originally assumed.
The findings are more than an historical curiosity. “Of the 36 or 37 species of cat, all of them are threatened or endangered except for the domestic cat. There’s a real conservation aspect of this work,” Driscoll pointed out. That’s because one big problem facing the world’s wild cats is their tendency to breed with feral relatives of nearby domestic cats.
The new findings “give us more evidence for a genetic basis to differentiate wild cats from domestic cats and the hybrids of the two,” explained Bill Swanson, director of animal research at the Cincinnati Zoo. “So, if you are working to conserve wild cats, it gives you a way to determine if that population is genetically pure or if there have been domestic cat genes incorporated into that population,” he said.
Interbreeding is a particular problem for European varieties, such as the Scottish wildcat, a focus of Driscoll’s work in the field.
That the gene work was carried out at the National Cancer Institute points to its importance for human health, as well.
“Cats are great models for human genetic disease,” Driscoll explained. “Things like retinal atrophy, for example. The Laboratory of Genomic Diversity is interested in that. They’re interested in making the cat a better ‘model.’ This is a kind of genetic background check on the cat.”
Find out more about cat genome research at the NCI Laboratory of Genomic Diversity:
See why cats land on their feet in this interesting video.
Information reprinted With Permission from Feline Facts
For information on spaying and neutering a cat visit Spay and Play.
Watch this funny video of big cats being cats.
Before you buy a kitten or take your pet to a shelter
As I read this, I thought that so much of this sentiment applies to what we witness in our rescuing of wildcats. “DON’T BREED OR BUY WHILE SANCTUARIES FILL UP” – just changing a few words…it’s what we try to educate, too. (Having put in time volunteering at a shelter’s euthanasia department, crying my way home every day, believe me, this all rings very true and deserves sharing far and wide). These are some of the very same issues our staff deal with every day, too.
“I think our society needs a huge “Wake-up” call.
As a shelter manager, I am going to share a little insight with you all…a view from the inside if you will.
First off, all of you breeders/sellers should be made to work in the “back” of an animal shelter for just one day.
Maybe if you saw the life drain from a few sad, lost, confused eyes, you would change your mind about breeding and selling to people you don’t even know. That puppy or kitten you just sold will most likely end up in my shelter when it’s not cute anymore.
So, how would you feel if you knew that there’s about a 90% chance that pet will never walk out of the shelter it is going to be dumped at? Purebred or not! About 50% of all of the pets that are “owner surrenders” or “strays,” that come into my shelter are purebred.
The most common excuses I hear are;
“We are moving and we can’t take our dog (or cat).” Really? Where are you moving to that doesn’t allow pets?
Or they say “The dog got bigger than we thought it would.” How big did you think a German Shepherd would get?
“We don’t have time for her.” Really? I work a 10-12 hour day and still have time for my 6 dogs!
“She’s tearing up our yard.” How about making her a part of your family?
They always tell me: “We just don’t want to have to stress about finding a place for her. We know she’ll get adopted, she’s a good pet.” Odds are your pet won’t get adopted & how stressful do you think being in a shelter is?
Well, let me tell you, your pet has 72 hours to find a new family from the moment you drop it off. Sometimes a little longer if the shelter isn’t full and your dog manages to stay completely healthy. If it sniffles, it dies.
Your pet will be confined to a small run/kennel in a room with about 25 other barking or crying animals. It will have to relieve itself where it eats and sleeps. It will be depressed and it will cry constantly for the family that abandoned it.
If your pet is lucky, I will have enough volunteers in that day to take him/her for a walk or give them a loving pat. If not, your pet won’t get any attention besides having a bowl of food slid under the kennel door and the waste sprayed out of its pen with a high-powered hose.
If your pet is an adult, black, part exotic, or any of the “Bully” breeds (pit bull, rottie, mastiff, etc) it was pretty much dead when you walked it through the front door. Those pets just don’t get adopted.
It doesn’t matter how ‘sweet’ or ‘well behaved’ they are. If your pet doesn’t get adopted within its 72 hours and the shelter is full, it will be destroyed. If the shelter isn’t full and your pet is good enough, and of a desirable enough breed it may get a stay of execution, but not for long.
Most dogs get very kennel protective after about a week and are destroyed for showing aggression. Even the sweetest dogs will turn in this environment.
If your pet makes it over all of those hurdles, chances are it will get kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection and will be destroyed because shelters just don’t have the funds to pay for even a $100 treatment.
Here’s a little euthanasia 101 for those of you that have never witnessed a perfectly healthy, scared animal being “put-down:”
First, your pet will be taken from its kennel on a leash. They always look like they think they are going for a walk – happy, wagging their tails. Until they get to “The Room,” every one of them freaks out and puts on the brakes when we get to the door. It must smell like death or they can feel the sad souls that are left in there, it’s strange, but it happens with every one of them.
Your dog or cat will be restrained, held down by 1 or 2 vet techs depending on the size and how freaked out they are. Then a euthanasia tech or a vet will start the process. They will find a vein in the front leg and inject a lethal dose of the “pink stuff.” Hopefully, your pet doesn’t panic from being restrained and jerk. I’ve seen the needles tear out of a leg and been covered with the resulting blood and been deafened by the yelps and screams.
They all don’t just “go to sleep,” sometimes they spasm for a while, gasp for air and defecate on themselves. When it all ends, your pets corpse will be stacked like firewood in a large freezer in the back with all of the other animals that were killed waiting to be picked up like garbage.
What happens next? Cremated? Taken to the dump? Rendered into pet food? You’ll never know and it probably won’t even cross your mind. It was just an animal and you can always buy another one, right? I hope that those of you that have read this are bawling your eyes out and can’t get the pictures out of your head I deal with everyday on the way home from work.
I hate my job, I hate that it exists & I hate that it will always be there unless you people make some changes and realize that the lives you are affecting go much further than the pets you dump at a shelter.
Between 9 and 11 MILLION animals die every year in shelters and only you can stop it. I do my best to save every life I can but rescues are always full, and there are more animals coming in everyday than there are homes.
My point to all of this DON’T BREED OR BUY WHILE SHELTER PETS DIE!
Hate me if you want to. The truth hurts and reality is what it is. I just hope I maybe changed one person’s mind about breeding their pet, taking their loving pet to a shelter, or buying a pet. I hope that someone will walk into my shelter and say “I saw this and it made me want to adopt.”
THAT WOULD MAKE IT WORTH IT!!!!”
If you like what we are doing to promote responsible cat care you can help us do it:
Voice talent by Bonnie-Jean Creais 2006