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Felidae is the zoological family of what we commonly call "cats". There are currently approximately forty species in Felidae, living on every continent except Antarctica. People are owned by some species of Felidae.
All felids are descended from a common ancestor that lived approximately 10.8 million years ago in Asia. This ancestor crossed into other continents via land bridges. Tests of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA by Warren Johnson and Stephen O'Brien of the U.S. National Cancer Institute in 2006 after ten years of research showed that ancient cats evolved into eight main lineages that diverged in the course of at least ten migrations. This happened rapidly and frequently over the past eleven million years. The closest relatives of this family are the hyenas, civets, and mongooses.
One of the oldest cat-like ancestors was Proailurus, a carnivorous animal. Superficially, the animal resembled a cat, but there is much controversy over its taxonomic position. Some say that it is a cat, while other say it is the ancestor of mongooses, civets, hyenas, and cats (otherwise known as Feloidea).
Cats have been kept by humans, as pets and for vermin control, for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians domesticated - and venerated - cats, probably the African wildcat. Cats, epitomised by the cat goddess Bastet, were held in awe by the Egyptians, to the extent that those who killed a cat would be put to death, and if a cat died in a house, the family would be obliged to shave off their eyebrows.
By far the most widespread pet cat throughout the world is the common domestic cat, thought to be descended from self-domesticating wildcats in the Near East, approximately 10,000 years ago. Wildcats, a single species consisting of several subspecies, are native to parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. Domestic cats have been known to interbreed with wildcats, and it is now disputed whether they are truly two distinct species, or the domestic cat is simply another subspecies of wildcat.
There are now almost a hundred breeds of domestic cat, most of these having been selectively bred within the last hundred years or so. A few of these are hybrid results of interbreeding domestic cats with other wild species, such as the Bengal breed, which results from crossbreeding with the leopard cat. Similarly, the Savannah cat results from breeding domestic cats with servals.
A number of theories have arisen surrounding some domestic cat breeds, suggesting that they may have been the result of interbreeding with other cat species. For example, the Persian breed of cat has been cited as being a relative of the sand cat (Felis margarita. This cat has the distinction of a Latin name sounding a tiny bit like a cocktail.), native to the Sahara and Arabian Deserts, due to the fact that both both have hair on the pads of their feet, or of the manul (or Pallas' cat) (Felis manul), a non-domesticatable cat species native to the mountain's of Central Asia (and dead ringer for Garfield), due to the latter's flat face and dense fur. Both of these theories have now been refuted based on genetic evidence.
Some other cat species of similar size, although wild animals, can also be domesticated, including some wildcats, and the rusty-spotted cat in southern India and Sri Lanka. Larger wild cats are occasionally tamed as unusual pets. Eccentric surrealist painter Salvador Dali had a pet ocelot, and Asian fishing cats have sometimes been kept as house pets.
(all around the world)
- An article about cats
- Yet another article about cats. My, but they do pile up.
- An exciting and entirely not redundant article on one specific kind of cat
- Schrödinger's cat
- Long-eared jerboa
Don't see also
- Felidae at Animal Diversity Web