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Temporal range: PiacenzianHolocene 3.4–0 Ma
The six wild Felis species; from top-left, clockwise: European wildcat (F. silvestris), jungle cat (F. chaus), African wildcat (F. lybica), black-footed cat (F. nigripes), sand cat (F. margarita), Chinese mountain cat (F. bieti)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Felis
Linnaeus, 1758
Type species
Felis catus

See § Taxonomy

Native Felis range

Felis is a genus of small and medium-sized cat species native to most of Africa and south of 60° latitude in Europe and Asia to Indochina. The genus includes the domestic cat. The smallest of the seven Felis species is the black-footed cat with a head and body length from 38 to 42 cm (15 to 17 in). The largest is the jungle cat with a head and body length from 62 to 76 cm (24 to 30 in).[1]

Genetic studies indicate that the Felinae genera Felis, Otocolobus and Prionailurus diverged from a Eurasian progenitor of the Felidae about 6.2 million years ago, and that Felis species split off 3.04 to 0.99 million years ago.[2][3]


The generic name Felis is derived from Classical Latin fēlis meaning 'cat, ferret'.[4]


Carl Linnaeus considered Felis to comprise all cat species known until 1758.[5] Later taxonomists split the cat family into different genera. In 1917, the British zoologist Reginald Innes Pocock revised the genus Felis as comprising only the ones listed in the following table.[1] Estimated genetic divergence times of the listed species are indicated in million years ago (Mya), based on analysis of autosomal, xDNA, yDNA and mtDNA gene segments.[2]

Species Image IUCN Red List status and distribution
Domestic cat (F. catus) Linnaeus, 1758[5] NE
Worldwide in association with humans or feral[6]
European wildcat (F. silvestris) Schreber, 1777[7]

diverged 1.62 to 0.59 Mya


Jungle cat (F. chaus) Schreber, 1777[9]

diverged 4.88 to 2.41 Mya


African wildcat (F. lybica) Forster, 1780[11]

diverged 1.86 to 0.72 Mya


Black-footed cat (F. nigripes) Burchell, 1824[13]

diverged 4.44 to 2.16 Mya


Sand cat (F. margarita) Loche, 1858[15]

diverged 3.67 to 1.72 Mya


Chinese mountain cat (F. bieti) Milne-Edwards, 1892[17]

diverged 1.86 to 0.72 Mya


Pocock accepted the Pallas's cat as the only member of the genus Otocolobus.[1] Other scientists consider it also a Felis species.[19]

Several scientists consider the Chinese mountain cat a subspecies of F. silvestris.[20]


The phylogenetic relationships of living Felis species are shown in the following cladogram:[2]


Domestic cat (F. catus)

European wildcat (F. silvestris)

African wildcat (F. lybica)

Chinese mountain cat (F. bieti)

Sand cat (F. margarita)

Black-footed cat (F. nigripes)

Jungle cat (F. chaus)

other Felinae lineages


Extinct Felis species[edit]

Extinct Felis species in the fossil record include:


Felis species have high and wide skulls, short jaws and narrow ears with short tufts, but without any white spots on the back of the ears. Their pupils contract to a vertical slit.[1] A black cat from Transcaucasia described in 1904 as F. daemon by Satunin[23] turned out to be a feral cat, probably a hybrid of wildcat and domestic cat.[24] The Kellas cat is a hybrid between domestic cat and European wildcat occurring in Scotland.[25]

The Corsican wildcat is considered to have been introduced to Corsica before the beginning of the 1st millennium.[26][27] A genetic study of a dozen individuals showed that they are closely related to the African wildcat originating in the Middle East.[28]


  1. ^ a b c d Pocock, R. I. (1951). Catalogue of the genus Felis. London: British Museum of Natural History.
  2. ^ a b c Johnson, W. E.; Eizirik, E.; Pecon-Slattery, J.; Murphy, W. J.; Antunes, A.; Teeling, E.; O'Brien, S. J. (2006). "The Late Miocene Radiation of Modern Felidae: A Genetic Assessment". Science. 311 (5757): 73–77. Bibcode:2006Sci...311...73J. doi:10.1126/science.1122277. PMID 16400146. S2CID 41672825.
  3. ^ Pecon-Slattery, J.; O'Brien, S. J. (1998). "Patterns of Y and X chromosome DNA sequence divergence during the Felidae radiation". Genetics. 148 (3): 1245–1255. doi:10.1093/genetics/148.3.1245. PMC 1460026. PMID 9539439.
  4. ^ Valpy, F. E. J. (1828). "Felis". An Etymological Dictionary of the Latin Language. London: A. J. Valpy.
  5. ^ a b Linnaeus, C. (1758). "Felis". Systema naturae per regna tria naturae: secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin). Vol. 1 (10th reformed ed.). Holmiae: Laurentii Salvii. pp. 42–44.
  6. ^ Clutton-Brock, J. (1999) [1987]. "Cats". A Natural History of Domesticated Mammals (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 133–140. ISBN 9780521634953. OCLC 39786571.
  7. ^ Schreber, J. C. D. (1778). "Die wilde Kaze" [The Wild Cat]. Die Säugthiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur mit Beschreibungen (Dritter Theil). Erlangen: Expedition des Schreber'schen Säugthier- und des Esper'schen Schmetterlingswerkes. pp. 397–402.
  8. ^ Yamaguchi, N.; Kitchener, A.; Driscoll, C.; Nussberger, B. (2015). "Felis silvestris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2015: e.T60354712A50652361. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  9. ^ Schreber, J. C. D. (1778). "Der Kirmyschak". Die Säugethiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur, mit Beschreibungen (in German). Erlangen: Wolfgang Walther. pp. 414–416.
  10. ^ Gray, T. N. E.; Timmins, R. J.; Jathana, D.; Duckworth, J. W.; Baral, H.; Mukherjee, S. (2016). "Felis chaus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T8540A50651463.
  11. ^ Forster, G. R. (1780). "LIII. Der Karakal". Herrn von Büffons Naturgeschichte der vierfüssigen Thiere. Mit Vermehrungen, aus dem Französischen übersetzt. Sechster Band [Mr. von Büffon‘s Natural History of Quadrupeds. With additions, translated from French. Volume 6]. Berlin: Joachim Pauli. pp. 299–319.
  12. ^ Ghoddousi, A.; Belbachir, F.; Durant, S. M.; Herbst, M.; Rosen, T. (2022). "Felis lybica". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2022: e.T131299383A154907281.
  13. ^ Burchell, W. J. (1824). "Felis nigripes". Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa, Vol. II. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green. p. 592.
  14. ^ Sliwa, A.; Wilson, B.; Küsters, M.; Tordiffe, A. (2016). "Felis nigripes". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T8542A50652196.
  15. ^ Loche, V. (1858). "Description d'une nouvelle espèce de Chat par M. le capitaine Loche" [Description of a new species of cat, Mr. Captain Loche]. Revue et Magasin de Zoologie Pure et Appliquée. 2. X: 49–50.
  16. ^ Sliwa, A.; Ghadirian, T.; Appel, A.; Banfield, L.; Sher Shah, M.; Wacher, T. (2016). "Felis margarita". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T8541A50651884. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  17. ^ Milne-Edwards, A. (1892). "Observations sur les mammifères du Thibet". Revue Générale des Sciences Pures et Appliquées. III: 670–671.
  18. ^ Riordan, P.; Sanderson, J.; Bao, W.; Abdukadir, A.; Shi, K. (2015). "Felis bieti". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2015: e.T8539A50651398. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  19. ^ Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Genus Felis". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 538. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  20. ^ Driscoll, C. A.; Menotti-Raymond, M.; Roca, A. L.; Hupe, K.; Johnson, W. E.; Geffen, E.; Harley, E. H.; Delibes, M.; Pontier, D.; Kitchener, A. C.; Yamaguchi, N.; O'Brien, S. J.; Macdonald, D. W. (2007). "The Near Eastern Origin of Cat Domestication" (PDF). Science. 317 (5837): 519–523. Bibcode:2007Sci...317..519D. doi:10.1126/science.1139518. PMC 5612713. PMID 17600185.
  21. ^ Martelli, A. (1906). "Su due Mustelidi e un Felide del Pliocene Toscano" [About two Mustelids and one Felid of Pliocene Toscana]. Bollettino della Società Geologica Italiana. 25: 595–612.
  22. ^ Stach, Jan (1961). "On two carnivores from the Pliocene breccia of Węże". Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. 6 (4): 321–329.
  23. ^ Satunin, C. (1904). "The Black Wild Cat of Transcaucasia". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. II: 162–163. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1904.tb08325.x.
  24. ^ Bukhnikashvili, A.; Yevlampiev, I. (eds.). Catalogue of the Specimens of Caucasian Large Mammalian Fauna in the Collection (PDF). Tbilisi: Georgian National Museum.
  25. ^ Kitchener, C.; Easterbee, N. (1992). "The taxonomic status of black wild felids in Scotland". Journal of Zoology. 227 (2): 342−346. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1992.tb04832.x.
  26. ^ Vigne, J.-D. (1992). "Zooarchaeology and the biogeographical history of the mammals of Corsica and Sardinia since the last ice age". Mammal Review. 22 (2): 87–96. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2907.1992.tb00124.x.
  27. ^ Kitchener, A. C.; Breitenmoser-Würsten, C.; Eizirik, E.; Gentry, A.; Werdelin, L.; Wilting, A.; Yamaguchi, N.; Abramov, A. V.; Christiansen, P.; Driscoll, C.; Duckworth, J. W.; Johnson, W.; Luo, S.-J.; Meijaard, E.; O’Donoghue, P.; Sanderson, J.; Seymour, K.; Bruford, M.; Groves, C.; Hoffmann, M.; Nowell, K.; Timmons, Z.; Tobe, S. (2017). "A revised taxonomy of the Felidae: The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group" (PDF). Cat News. Special Issue 11: 17−20.
  28. ^ Saplakoglu, Y. (2019). "Meet the Cat-Fox, an Oddball Feline Roaming Around a French Island". Live Science. Retrieved 25 June 2019.

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