Cats: Domestic Cat

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  • Topic: Cat, Neutering, Cats
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  • Published : December 16, 2006
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The cat (or domestic cat, house cat) is a small domesticated carnivorous mammal. It is valued by humans for its companionship and its ability to destroy vermin. A skilled predator, the cat is known to hunt over 1,000 species for food. Intelligent, the cat can be trained to obey simple commands, and has been known to teach itself to manipulate simple mechanisms (see cat intelligence).

The trinomial name of the domestic cat is Felis silvestris catus. Its closest pre-domesticated ancestor is believed to be the African wild cat, Felis silvestris lybica.[1] Humans have developed several dozen breeds of cat, in a variety of colours.

Cats have lived in close association with humans for at least 9,500 years,[2]. Legends and myths about the cat exist in many cultures, from the ancient Egyptians and Chinese to the Vikings. They have been both revered and vilified by different cultures.

Cats use more than one hundred vocalizations and types of body language for communication, including mewing ("meow" or "miaou"), purring, hissing, growling, chirping, clicking, and grunting.[3] Cats have even been observed mimicking the calls of birds.

Like horses and other domesticated animals, cats can sometimes become feral, living effectively in the wild. Feral cats will often form small feral cat colonies. Animal welfare organizations note that few abandoned cats are able to survive long enough to become feral, most being killed by vehicles, or succumbing to starvation, predators, exposure, or disease. Cats typically weigh between 2.5 and 7 kg (5.5–16 pounds); however, some breeds, such as the Maine Coon can exceed 11.3 kg (25 pounds). Some have been known to reach up to 23 kg (50 pounds) due to overfeeding. Conversely, very small cats (less than 1.8 kg / 4.0 lbs) [8] have been reported. General anatomy of a cat.

General anatomy of a cat.

In captivity, indoor cats typically live 14 to 20 years, though the oldest-known cat lived to age 36.[9] Domestic cats tend to live longer if they are not permitted to go outdoors (reducing the risk of injury from fights or accidents and exposure to diseases) and if they are spayed or neutered. Some such benefits are: neutered male cats cannot develop testicular cancer, spayed female cats cannot develop ovarian cancer, and both have a reduced risk of mammary cancer. [10]

Cats also possess rather loose skin; this enables them to turn and confront a predator or another cat in a fight, even when it has a grip on them. This is also an advantage for veterinary purposes, as it simplifies injections [11]. In fact, the life of cats with kidney failure can sometimes be extended for years by the regular injection of large volumes of fluid subcutaneously, which serves as an alternative to dialysis.[12][13].

The particular loose skin at the back of the neck is known as the scruff, and is the area by which a mother cat grips her kittens to carry them. As a result, cats have a tendency to relax and become quiet and passive when gripped there. This tendency often extends into adulthood, and can be useful when attempting to treat or move an uncooperative cat. However, since an adult cat is quite a bit heavier than a kitten, a pet cat should never be carried by the scruff, but should instead have their weight supported at the rump and hind legs, and also at the chest and front paws. Often (much like a small child) a cat will lie with it's head and front paws over a person's shoulder, and its back legs and rump supported under the person's arm.

Like almost all mammals, cats possess seven cervical vertebrae. They have thirteen thoracic vertebrae (compared to twelve in humans), seven lumbar vertebrae (compared to five in humans), three sacral vertebrae like most mammals (humans have five because of their bipedal posture), and twenty-two or twenty-three caudal vertebrae (humans have three to five, fused into an internal coccyx). The extra lumbar and thoracic vertebrae account for the cat's enhanced...
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