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The domestic cat, Felis catus, has lived with or around humans for at least 9,500 years. In addition to providing companionship, the cat is also appreciated for its ability to keep populations of rats, mice and other types of vermin in check. Our domesticated pet cat hails from the African wildcat, Felis silvestris lybica, and still retains plenty of traits from its wild ancestor.
Cat taxonomyKingdom: Animalia
Species: Felis catus
A cats’ need of attention, grooming and exercise varies from breed to breed, and also between individual specimens. Some breeds do for instance need to be brushed on a daily basis, while others handle both cleaning and untangling of fur on their own.
It is a good idea to start handling the kitten from a young age to make it more accustomed to things such as cleaning, bathing and claw maintenance. Instead of only cuddle your kitten; make it accustomed to you checking its ears, handling its paws, placing it inside a carrier etc. This will make it much easier for you to help your cat if ever develops any health problem in the future.
All cats need some amount of exercise to stay happy and healthy. If you keep an indoor cat, make sure that it is provided with enough room to run around and play. You can also encourage an active lifestyle by playing with your cat and giving it toys. Regular exercise will prevent muscle deterioration and obesity, and provide your cat with an outlet for its feline energy and hunting instincts.
The cat is a carnivore species and its metabolism is adapted to processing animal matter, especially flesh. The cat is for instance unable to produce the essential organic acid taurine and must therefore get taurine from its food to stay healthy. Without sufficient amounts of taurine in the diet, a cat can develop a series of health problems, including macular degeneration, a condition where the cats’ retina slowly degenerates, eventually causing irreversible blindness.
Despite being a carnivore, the domestic cat is actually quite fond of ingesting small amounts of grass, shrubs and other types of plant matter – including houseplants. The reason behind this behavior is still not fully understood, but it might be a way for the cat to get more fiber or trace minerals in its diet. It may also be a way of inducing regurgitation.
Changes to a cats’ diet should ideally be done gradually, otherwise the cat may embark on a hunger-strike.
Several types of human food are somewhat toxic to cats, e.g. chocolate, onion and garlic.
The domestic cat is a seasonally polyestrous species, which means that the female may undergo several periods of heat within a year. A heat period typically lasts from four to seven days if she has someone to mate with. Without mating, the heat period lasts longer.
When a female cat is in heat she will attract the surrounding male cats and they will fight over her. The winner will try to mate with her, but it is common for the female to reject his advances at first.
Simply being in heat doesn’t mean that the female will become fertilized as the male mates with her. The penis of a cat is equipped with backward pointing spines that rake the walls of the vagina as the male cat pulls his penis out of the female after mating, and this raking may cause ovulation. Since this does not always occur, it is uncommon for any egg to be fertilized during the first mating of a heat period.
If the female cat is impregnated, she will give birth after roughly 60-65 days. The size of a litter varies greatly, but the average number is 3-5 kittens. The first litter is usually also the smallest one. Cats are superfecund, which means that different kittens in the same litter can have different fathers.
Kittens are typically weaned when they are 6-7 weeks old but should ideally be allowed to stay with their mother until they are at least 12 weeks old.
A cat colony can multiply rapidly, because the offspring reaches sexually maturity within their first year (4-10 months for females, 5-7 months for males). If you don’t want to breed cats and don’t know for sure that you will be able to find suitable homes for a litter, it is best to have your kitten spayed or castrated as soon as possible. Cats can be surgically spayed or castrated as early as 6-8 weeks. Sterilizing your kitten will also prevent urine spraying (territory marking) in males and yowling (calling/screaming) in females. If you put off sterilization until later, your cat may start spraying or yowling and retain this behaviour even after surgery. Also keep in mind that non-sterilized male cats risk serious injury as they will fight other males.
A healthy cat will usually have a body temperature of 38-39 °C (101-102.2 °F). If the temperature exceeds 39.5 °C (103 °F), the cat is considered febrile.
The normal heart rate for a healthy cat is 140-220 beats/minute, and will of course vary depending on how exited or active the cat is when you check its heart rate. If your cat is resting, the heart rate should ideally be no higher than 180 beats/minute.
Compared to many other animals, including dogs and humans, the liver of a cat is not very good at detoxification. Many compounds that can be consumed by humans without problem are therefore toxic to cats, such as onions and garlic. It is also important never to feed a cat paracetamol / acetaminophen (found in painkillers) or apply minoxidil (Rogaine). Aspirin is sometimes used to threat painful conditions in cats, but the dose must be kept extremely low. Just like dogs, cats should stay away from chocolate.
Several types of houseplants should be avoided or kept out of reach since they are known to be toxic to cats, e.g. the easter lily which can cause kidney failure and the oleander which can induce cardiovascular problems. Poinsettias will usually only lead to excess salivation but should nevertheless be kept out of reach for cats.
Unfortunately, cats are often very fond of licking ethylene glycol, a liquid used as antifreeze in cars. A teaspoon of ethylene glycol from a leaking car can be enough to kill a cat.
Cat fact # 1
Cats have a natural tendency to like catnip, a group of flowering plants found in the genus Nepeta. Catnip stimulates the cats' pheromonic receptors and cats presented with catnip will usually roll in it, paw at it, or even start chewing the herb.
Cat fact # 2
Most cats dislike swimming or even getting wet, but the Turkish Van is actually fond of bathing and can go for a swim on its own. The Turkish Van is an ancient cat breed that originated in the area around Lake Van in Turkey.
Cat facts # 3
A 2007 study published in the journal Science asserts that Felis catus can trace its ancestry back to a group of Felis silvestris lybica (African wildcats) that underwent self-domestication in the Near East roughly 9 500 years ago.
Cat fact # 4
An exaggerated fear of cats is known as ailurophobia.
Cat facts # 5
In Norse mythology, Freyja – the goddess of love and fertility – has a chariot driven by cats.
A well cared for cat will usually live for at least 15 years. Some cats live for over 20 years and there are even some cats that lived to celebrate their 30 birthday. Such a high age is however very unusual in cats. The genetic make up of a cat can be a factor in determining its life span, and some cat breeds appear to be more long-lived than others.