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Temporal range: MessinianHolocene 6.2–0 Ma
Wildkatze MGH.jpg
Wildcat, Felis silvestris
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Felis
Linnaeus, 1758
Felis range.png
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.[1]

The genus includes the domestic cat. The smallest 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] Felis species inhabit a wide range of different habitats, from swampland to desert, and generally hunt small rodents, birds and other small animals, depending on their local environment. The worldwide introduction of the domestic cat also made it common to urban landscapes around the globe.[citation needed]

Genetic studies indicate that Felis, Otocolobus and Prionailurus diverged from a Eurasian progenitor 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 means "cat" in Latin.[4] The term "feline" is derived from the adjective form felinus ("of the cat").[citation needed]


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]


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:[1]

Image Name Distribution
Jungle cat (5).jpg Jungle cat F. chaus (Güldenstädt, 1776)[6][7] Egypt, Middle East, Indian subcontinent, Central and Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka and southern China.
Blackfooted2.jpg Black-footed cat F. nigripes Burchell, 1824 South Africa, Namibia, marginally into Zimbabwe
European Wildcat Nationalpark Bayerischer Wald 03.jpg European wildcat F. silvestris Schreber, 1777 Europe
Felis margarita harrisoni - Sandkatze.jpg Sand cat F. margarita Loche, 1858 northern Africa and southwest and central Asia
Chinese Mountain Cat (Felis Bieti) in XiNing Wild Zoo.jpg Chinese mountain cat F. bieti Milne-Edwards, 1892 Tibetan Plateau
Felis silvestris lybica 1.jpg African wildcat F. lybica Forster, 1780 Africa, Central Asia into India, western China and Mongolia
Neighbours Siamese.jpg Domestic cat F. catus Linnaeus, 1758 Worldwide (domesticated)

Pocock accepted the Pallas's cat as the only member of the genus Otocolobus.[1] Other scientists consider it also a Felis species.[8]

Several scientists consider the Chinese mountain cat a subspecies of F. silvestris.[9]

A black cat from Transcaucasia described in 1904 as F. daemon by Satunin[10] turned out to be a feral cat, probably a hybrid of wildcat and domestic cat.[11] The Kellas cat is a hybrid between domestic cat and European wildcat occurring in Scotland.[12]

Fossil Felis species[edit]

Fossil Felis species include:



Jungle cat (F. chaus)

Black-footed cat (F. nigripes)

European wildcat (F. silvestris silvestris)

Sand cat (F. margarita)

African wildcat (F. silvestris lybica)

Domestic cat (F. silvestris catus)

The Felis lineage[15]


  1. ^ a b c d e Pocock, R. I. (1951). Catalogue of the genus Felis. London: British Museum (Natural History).
  2. ^ 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.
  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. PMC 1460026. PMID 9539439.
  4. ^ Valpy, F. E. J. (1828). "Felis". An Etymological Dictionary of the Latin Language. London: A. J. Valpy.
  5. ^ Linnaeus, C. (1758). "Felis". Systema naturae per regna tria naturae: secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin). 1 (Tenth reformed ed.). Holmiae: Laurentii Salvii. pp. 42–44.
  6. ^ Güldenstädt, J. A. (1776). "Chaus – Animal feli adfine descriptum". Novi Commentarii Academiae Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitanae (in Latin). 20: 483–500.
  7. ^ Sanderson, J. (2009). A Matter of Very Little Moment? The mystery of who first described the jungle cat. Feline Conservation Federation Volume 53, Issue 1 (January/February 2009): 12–18.
  8. ^ Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Satunin, C. (1904). "The Black Wild Cat of Transcaucasia". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. II: 162–163.
  11. ^ Bukhnikashvili, A.; Yevlampiev, I. (eds.). Catalogue of the Specimens of Caucasian Large Mammalian Fauna in the Collection (PDF). Tbilisi: National Museum of Georgia.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Wagner, A. (1857). "Neue Beiträge zur Kenntnis der fossilen Säugetier-Überreste von Pikermi". Abhandlungen der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. 3: 153−170.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Mattern, M.Y.; McLennan, D.A. (2000). "Phylogeny and speciation of felids". Cladistics. 16 (2): 232–53. doi:10.1111/j.1096-0031.2000.tb00354.x.

External links[edit]