Cat

The domestic cat is now a popular pet around the world. Aside from companionship, cats are also valued as a means of curbing rodent populations.

Domestication of the cat began around 9500 years ago. Until the last century, all domestic bloodlines descended from African wild cat stock. In the late twentieth century, however, breeders crossed domestic cats with their smaller wild relatives, to transfer their distinctive patterning.

If abandoned, cats will revert to living wild, and this can have a serious impact on local wildlife because of the cat’s predatory habits. These are known as feral cats.

Cats are great fun to watch. They make good pets, but they do not act at all like dogs. Dogs are noisy, friendly, and lively. Cats are quiet. They may disappear for hours without your being able to find them. But cats can also be friendly and will sit on your lap purring contentedly while you stroke their fur. Learning about cats can help you select your pet cat and take better care of it.

In one ancient Egyptian cat cemetery, more than 300.000 cat mummies were found. From Egypt, pet cats began to spread across Asia and Europe. In Siam (Thailand today), only the king and royal family owned cats. The Siamese cat was the royal cat of Siam. By the Middle Ages, cats had become very popular in France and England. In the 1600s. they came to the Americas with the colonists. Nowadays, pet cats live with people in countries around the world.

Cats are not very big. Adults usually weigh between six and fifteen pounds. Cats have slim and flexible bodies. They can twist their bodies in amazing ways. The bones in a cat's back are much more loosely connected than the bones in your back. This makes a cat’s body very bendable.

Cats are great climbers and jumpers. They also use their tails for balance. When a cat jumps, its body uncoils like a spring. A cat absorbs the landing shock easily with its front legs and the cushioning pads on its front paws. When a cat falls several feet, it twists its body in midair and lands on all fours, usually without hurting itself. This may be why people sometimes say a cat has nine lives.

Distribution: Domestication began in the vicinity of Egypt, and cats were then taken to Asia, and north into Europe. They were frequently carried on ships.

Weight: 2.5 – 7 kg (5.5—16 lb); males are heavier.

Length: 91 – 114 cm (36—45 in), including tail, which can be 30 cm (12 in) long.

Maturity: Females about 4-10 months; males 5 – 7 months.

Gestation Period: 63 – 65 days.

Breeding: Averages 3 – 5; weaning occurs at around 45 days.

Food: Carnivorous; will hunt rodents, small birds and invertebrates.

Lifespan: Typically 15 – 17 years, exceptionally up to 36.

Eye colour

The eyes are a very variable feature, ranging from blue through shades of green to copper.

Mackerel tabby

Distinguishable by the narrow stripes on each side of the body.

Tail markings

All tabby cats have darker circles of fur on the tail, which ends in a dark tip.

M-shaped marking

Located in the centre of the forehead, this is a distinguishing feature of tabby varieties.

Facial features indicate a cat’s moods.

COLOUR VARIETIES

There are many different varieties of tabby. This is a tortoiseshell tabby, often known as a torbie.

Gallery of Cat