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mammals of the family Felidae of the order Carnivora. All members of living and fossil species of Felidae have a small head, a lithe and muscular body, short yet powerful legs, and fully or partially retractile claws. Most species have a long tail. Cats range in size from small (domestic cat) to large (lion, tiger). The coat is short; the coat of northern and high mountain species is more downy than that of cats found in the tropics. Cats dwelling in tropical forests often have bright coloration (black spots or stripes on a gray, orange, or smoke-colored background); those in the northern steppes and desert regions are yellow or sand-colored, with a white belly. The most well developed senses are those of sound and sight; the sense of smell is weak in most species. Ancestors of the Felidae were known in the Oligocene epoch, when two subfamilies became distinct: typical cats and sabertooths.

There are 37 species of modern cats, belonging to three genera. The genus Panthera includes the snow leopard, jaguar, lion, and tiger. Felis includes the domestic cat, European wildcat, Bengal tiger, northern lynx, and caracal lynx. The third genus is Acinonyx, which contains the cheetah. In the USSR there are 11 species. Wild members of the family are found on all continents and large islands except Australia, New Guinea, Sulawesi, Antarctica, Greenland, and Madagascar. Cats are found primarily in the tropics. The taiga zone has only tigers, pumas, and lynx, and some Bengal cats (in the Primor'e).

Cats lead a predominantly crepuscular and nocturnal mode of existence. They feed on mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and sometimes insects. Most species hunt alone or with their whole group; lions, however, often hunt with temporary associative groups, or prides. The small species reproduce once a year; only the domestic cat bears young more frequently. The big cats reproduce less than once a year. Small species give birth to five or six young, and the big cats bear only two to four cubs at a time. Cats are sought for their skins or are captured for zoos. In some regions they harm livestock. Tigers and lions are protected species in a number of countries.


Brem, A. Zhizn' zhivotnykh, vol. 5. Moscow, 1941.
Mlekopitaiushchie Sovetskogo Soiuza, vol. 2, part 2. Moscow, 1972.
Denis, A. Cats of the World. London, 1964.



Cemetery (See BURIAL GROUND.)
cat, Dick Whittington’s
sent to Morocco, its purchase by the king gives the future Lord Mayor his stake to success. [Br. Legend: Benét, 1088]
lonely star-crossed fantasist, fights against fate in strange worlds. [Comics: “Felix the Cat” in Horn, 246]
lazy gourmand, impudent to its master. [Amer. Comics: Garfield]
aggressive cat, hoodwinks fishmongers and upsets milkmen. [Amer. Comics: Heathcliff]
Krazy Kat
perennially involved in conflict with his friend Ignatz the mouse. [Comics: Horn, 436]
mysterious feline, “Napoleon of crime.” [Br. Lit.: T. S. Eliot Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats in Drabble, 714]
unladylike cat; its motto, “toujours gai.” [Am. Lit.: archy and mehitabel in Hart, 525]
Old Deuteronomy
elderly cat whose comfort is seen to by the entire village. [Br. Lit.: T. S. Eliot Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats in Drabble, 714]
pet of a brutal alcoholic who mutilates and hangs it, with dire consequences to himself. [Am. Lit.: Poe “The Black Cat”]
Puss in Boots
cleverly secures a fortune for its penniless master. [Fr. Fairy Tale: “Puss in Boots” in Benét, 829]
taught to speak fluently, it proves insolent and catty. [Br. Lit.: The Short Stories of Saki in Magill IV, 1148]
References in classic literature ?
She was a large, sleek, gray-and-white cat, with an enormous dignity which was not at all impaired by any consciousness of her plebian origin.
What sort of a cat was this who had boxed his ears?
Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, `if you only walk long enough.
In THAT direction,' the Cat said, waving its right paw round,
The cat, I think, will attack the parrot of which Miss
Should he 'op out and proceed to the floor where is the cat, that is his affair.
As Dan said, the thing should be done properly, since Paddy was no common cat.
It's in the Bible; but I don't think you should repeat it in connection with a cat," said Felicity dubiously.
The cat turned his head toward the man, eyeing him steadily--questioningly.
It won't please you any better,' said the Cat, 'he was called Clean Gone.
The Glass Cat yawned and stretched herself upon the floor.
Bunny had driven the cat into the green-house, he locked the door.