The family Felidae
(the felids) includes the lion
, the tiger
, the domestic cat
, and other felines
as its members. All of the fifteen families in the order Carnivora
are recognized as obligate carnivores
lacking the necessary enzymes required for the digestion and metabolism of plant matter. The first felids emerged during the Eocene
, about 40 million years ago. The most familiar feline is the domestic cat (Felis silvestris catus
), which first became associated with humans about 10,000 years ago. Its wild relative, the wildcat
, still lives in Europe, Africa and western Asia, although habitat destruction
has restricted their range.
The domestic cat (or simply "cat", although the term can refer to all felids) is a small carnivorous mammal descended from the African wildcat. The cat is a skilled predator and intelligent animal, known to hunt over 1,000 species for food, and intelligent enough that it can be trained (and can learn by itself) to obey simple commands and manipulate simple mechanisms. It has lived in close association with humans for at least 9,500 years, figuring prominently in the mythology and legends of many cultures.
The cougar (Puma concolor), also puma, mountain lion, or panther, is a mammal of the Felidae family, native to the Americas. This large, solitary cat has the greatest range of any wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere, extending from Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes of South America. An adaptable, generalist species, the cougar is found in every major New World habitat type. It is the second heaviest cat in the New World, after the jaguar, and the fourth heaviest in the world, after the tiger, lion, and jaguar, although it is most closely related to smaller felines.
A capable stalk-and-ambush predator, the cougar pursues a wide variety of prey. Primary food sources include ungulates such as deer and bighorn sheep, as well as domestic cattle, horses, and sheep, particularly in the northern part of its range, but it hunts species as small as insects and rodents. It prefers habitats with dense underbrush and rocky areas for stalking, but it can live in open areas. The cougar is territorial and persists at low population densities. Individual territory sizes depend on terrain, vegetation, and abundance of prey. While it is a large predator, it is not always the dominant species in its range, as when it competes for prey with animals such as the gray wolf, black bear, and the grizzly bear. It is a reclusive cat and usually avoids people. Attacks on humans remain rare, despite a recent increase in frequency.
Due to persecution following the European colonization of the Americas, and continuing human development of cougar habitat, populations have dropped in many parts of its historical range. In particular, the cougar was extirpated in eastern North America, except an isolated sub-population in Florida; the animal may be recolonizing parts of its former eastern territory. With its vast range, the cougar has dozens of names and various references in the mythology of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and in contemporary culture.
Selected topics about Cats
is a relatively new hybrid
breed of cat, which exhibits the "wild" markings (such as large spots, rosettes, and a light/white belly), and body structure reminiscent of the wild Asian Leopard Cat
(Prionailurus bengalensis). The Bengal cat has a desirable "wild" appearance with a gentle domestic cat temperament, provided it is separated by at least three generations from the original crossing between a domestic feline and an Asian Leopard Cat