Temporal range: Late Oligocene–Early Miocene
Proailurus (meaning "first cat") was a prehistoric carnivore that lived in Europe and Asia approximately 25 million years ago in the Late Oligocene and Miocene. Fossils have been found in Mongolia, Germany, and Spain. One recent phylogeny places it as a basal member of the Feloidea, the superfamily that includes mongooses, civets, hyenas, and cats; but other studies suggest that it instead was a felid (a true cat).
Proailurus was a compact and small animal, just a little larger than the domestic cat, weighing about 20 lb (9 kg). It had a long tail, large eyes and sharp claws and teeth, with similar proportions to the modern viverrids. Its claws would have been retractable to some extent. Like the viverrids, Proailurus was at least partially arboreal.
Proailurus, a likely ancestor of Pseudaelurus which lived 20-10 million years ago, probably gave rise to the major felid lines, including the extinct machairodontines and the extant felines and pantherines, although the phylogeny of the cats is still not precisely known.
- Paleobiology Database: Proailurus
- Wesley-Hunt, Gina D.; Flynn, John J. (2005). "Phylogeny of the Carnivora: basal relationships among the Carnivoramorphans, and assessment of the position of ‘Miacoidea’ relative to Carnivora". Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 3 (3): 1–28. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.2005.00194.x.
- Rothwell, Tom (2003). "Phylogenetic Systematics of North American Pseudaelurus (Carnivora: Felidae)". American Museum Novitates 2403: 1–64. doi:10.1206/0003-0082(2003)403<0001:PSONAP>2.0.CO;2.
- Turner, Alan (1997). The Big Cats and their fossil relatives. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 25. ISBN 0-231-10228-3.
- Christiansen, Per (2008). "Phylogeny of the great cats (Felidae: Pantherinae), and the influence of fossil taxa and missing characters". Cladistics 24 (6): 977. doi:10.1111/j.1096-0031.2008.00226.x.