With over 500 million existing, the domestic housecat (Felis catus) is the most popular pet in the world today. Their ease of care and small size make them popular choices as companions, and their prowess as hunters means they’re also employed by farmers, ranchers and homeowners for pest control. Cats were first domesticated at least 6000 years ago or possibly earlier and were revered by ancient societies like the Egyptians as a cult animal. Cats have since spread throughout nearly the entire world with a fanatical following by many owners.
Most adult cats weigh between 8 and 11lbs and average 2-3 feet in length. Very flexible and nimble, cats have the ability to pass through any space large enough for their heads to fit through. Cats have incredible night vision and are able to see in one-sixth the light necessary for humans to see. Almost purely carnivorous, cats have sharp teeth and powerful jaws for eating the small mammals they prefer to hunt. Domestic cats also possess retractable claws, usually five on each front foot and four on each rear. When not in use their claws stay sheathed in their feet, but can voluntarily be extended for hunting or climbing as necessary.
To further equip them for night hunting, cats have excellent hearing, among the best of any mammal, and can hear frequencies higher than even dogs can detect. Their movable ears also allow them to hear what direction a sound is coming from. Though not as sensitive as dogs, cats also have a powerful sense of smell, roughly twice that of humans. Another sense cats use are their whiskers, which allow them to sense air currents as well as the width of spaces they are navigating through, triggering a blink reflex to protect the eyes if necessary. Hairs similar to these whiskers are also located throughout the cat’s body, performing the same functions.
Most domestic cats feed primarily on commercially available cat food, though many with outside access will supplement their diets with small rodents, lizards and birds. Cats are usually trained by their mothers how to use a litter box, and afterwards will rarely “do their business” anywhere else. Cats can also be taught to use the toilet, open windows or fetch items for their owner. However unlike dogs, cats can be extremely hard to train and will usually only perform a task if there is a tangible reward for doing so, such as food.
Female cats are capable of producing litters up to three times per year averaging 3-5 kittens. The kittens will usually stay with their mother until 12 weeks of age, at which point they are ready to go home with their new owners. Indoor cats will live an average of 12-16 years, though some do occasionally live into their 20’s or 30’s.
- The oldest cat in the world was named Crème Puff, and lived to be 38 years of age.
- Most purebred cats have amber eyes, while mixed breeds will usually have green eyes.
- Cats sleep 12-16 hours each day.