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cat, name applied broadly to the carnivorous mammals constituting the family Felidae, and specifically to the domestic cat, Felis catus. The great roaring cats, the lion, tiger, and leopard are anatomically very similar to one another and constitute the genus Panthera, which also includes the jaguar and, in some systems, the snow leopard. The clouded leopards, Neofelis, and the cheetah, Acinonyx, are big cats that, like the jaguar and snow leopard, do not roar. The medium-sized and small cats are classified by most zoologists in different genera, but they were previously all put in the single genus Felis, despite the great variation among them. Among these cats are the puma (or cougar) and the jaguarundi, genus Puma, the lynx (including the bobcat), Lynx, the ocelot, Leopardus, the serval, Leptailurus, and many small species described by the name cat or wildcat, such as the several golden cats and European wildcat, as well as the domestic cat. The small cats are generally ticked, striped, or spotted. The largest member of genus Felis is the jungle cat, F. chaus, of N Africa and Asia, found as far E as Indochina. It lives in a variety of habitats, especially open woodlands and scrub. It is also known as the jungle lynx but is not a true lynx.

Anatomy and Behavior

Of all the carnivores, cats are the most exclusive flesh-eaters and are the most highly adapted for hunting and devouring their prey. All cats have rounded heads, short muzzles, large eyes, sensitive whiskers about the mouth, and erect pointed ears. They have short, wide jaws equipped with long canine teeth and strong molars with sharp cutting edges. Their tongues are coated with sharp recurved projections called papillae that aid in drinking and grooming.

Cats have five toes on the forefeet and four on the hind feet. The fifth toe is set high on the forefoot and does not touch the ground during walking, but it is used in grooming and capturing prey. The ends of the toes bear strong, sharp, curved claws. In all but the cheetah the claws are completely retractile, being withdrawn into protective sheaths when not in use. This mechanism is a distinguishing feature of the cat family, although it occurs in a less developed form in some civets.

All cats, with the exception of the lynx and related species, have long tails which they use for balance. The musculo-skeletal system is extremely flexible, allowing cats to arch and twist their bodies in a variety of ways. Most cats have good vision and are able to see well in very dim light; their color vision is weak. Their sense of hearing is excellent and, at least in the small cats, can detect frequencies of up to 40,000 Hz or higher. The sense of smell is not as highly developed as in the dog; its keenness may vary from one species to another.

Cats are extremely agile; they can run faster than any other mammal for short distances and are remarkable jumpers. They are also good swimmers and members of many species appear to enjoy bathing. All are able to climb trees, but they vary in their behavior from almost exclusively terrestrial (e.g., the lion) to largely arboreal (e.g., the clouded leopards). Most cats stalk their victims with great stealth and silence; even the lion, which lives in open country, usually lies in concealment until it can pounce on its victim. Only the cheetah, the swiftest of all mammals, runs down its prey.

Most are more or less solitary, but cheetahs live in family groups and lions live in groups, called prides, of up to 30 individuals. Cats live in a wide variety of habitats, although they are most numerous in warm climates. Even a single species, such as the tiger, may range from cold northern regions to the tropics. All continents except Australia and Antarctica have native species.

Domestic Cats

Cats have been domesticated since prehistoric times, perhaps for 10,000 years; there is evidence (from a Neolithic grave on Cyprus) of some sort of association with humans dating back to the 8th cent. B.C. Cats have been greatly valued as destroyers of vermin, as well as for their ornamental qualities. The ancient Egyptian domestic cat, which spread to Europe in historic times, was used as a retriever in hunting as well as for catching rats and mice. It and the modern domestic cat, F. catus, are descended from Felis silvestris lybica, the Near Eastern subspecies of the wildcat. The domestic cat can and does interbreed with the subspecies of wildcat found in Eurasia and Africa. Cats were venerated in the ancient Egyptian and Norse religions, and they have also been the object of superstitious fear, especially in the Middle Ages, when they were tortured and burned as witches.

Cats vary considerably in size; males commonly weigh 9 to 14 lb (4.1–6.4 kg) and females 6 to 10 lb (2.2–4.5 kg). They have coats of varying length and a wide variety of colors: black, white, and many shades of red, yellow, brown, and gray. A cat may be solid-colored or have patches or shadings of a second color. An extremely common pattern, probably derived from wild ancestors, is tabby: a red, brown, or gray background, striped with a lighter shade of the same color. The tortoiseshell pattern is a mixture of red, yellow, and black patches. The calico pattern is similar, but with large patches of white.

Recognized Breeds

Besides the common house cat, with its natural variation, the species F. catus includes recognized breeds with characteristics maintained by breeders and fanciers through selective mating. Breeds are established when particular traits breed true for several generations; the known lineage of an animal is called its pedigree. Cat fanciers' associations set standards, establish pedigrees, and conduct cat shows. There are seven such associations in the United States, one in Canada, and one in Great Britain. The short-haired breeds are in general more slender and active than the long-haired.

The long-haired breeds are the Persian and Himalayan; angora is an old term denoting any long-haired cat. Persians may be black, white, or any of a great variety of colors, including calico, tortoiseshell, tabby, and cameo (cream with red shadings). The Himalayan breed resulted from the crossing of a Siamese with a Persian cat; Himalayans have the stocky bodies and long hair of Persians, with Siamese coloring.

All other breeds are short-haired. Abyssinians have long bodies and ruddy brown coats with ticking (marking on each hair) of darker brown or black. They are thought to be the most unchanged descendants of the ancient Egyptian domestic cat. Siamese are slender cats with almond-shaped blue eyes, and white, cream, or fawn-colored coats with brown or gray areas, called points, on the feet, tail, ears, and face. Show Siamese are divided according to color of their coats and markings into seal-, chocolate-, blue-, lilac-, and red-point types. Burmese are small, muscular, roundheaded cats with medium to dark brown coats. Manx are tailless cats of various colors; their hind legs are longer than their forelegs, so that the rump is elevated. They probably arose by mutation on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, although tailless cats also occur in the Orient. The Russian Blue has bright green eyes and an evenly blue-gray coat, distinguished for having two layers of short, thick fur. The Rex is a recent breed resulting from mutation and is the only curly-haired cat. Its short, woolly coat may be any color. Domestic shorthair is also a recognized category in American cat shows; cats of this group differ from the common household cat only in having known parentage for at least two generations.

The Maine coon cat is a non-pedigreed strain of large domestic cats found in Maine and believed to be descended from Persians; coon cats weigh up to 25 lb (11.3 kg). Maltese does not connote a breed but is a name applied indiscriminately to gray cats. In 2006 an American biotechnology firm began selling cats that did not have the glycoprotein that causes an allergic response in humans; the animals had been selectively bred from cats that naturally lacked the allergen.


Cats are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Felidae.


See M. Boorer, Wild Cats (1970); C. Necker, The Natural History of Cats (1970); G. N. Henderson and D. J. Coffey, ed., The International Encyclopedia of Cats (1973); R. Caras, ed., Harper's Illustrated Handbook of Cats (1985); D. Turner and P. Bateson, ed., The Domestic Cat (1988).

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Abbrev. for Cosmic Anisotropy Telescope.
Collins Dictionary of Astronomy © Market House Books Ltd, 2006

Cat (Rabbit)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The Cat is one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. It refers to one of the 12 earthly branches, which are used in Chinese astrology, together with the 10 heavenly stems. Such a branch designates one day every 12 days: the days are named according to a sexagesimal (60) cycle, made of 10 series of 12 branches.

Lucky and hedonistic, this socialite avoids problems; looking for his comfort, he is a refined gentleman. Not very ambitious, not really cut out for fierce struggles, he is, on the other hand, very clever. Suspicious, selfish, careful, easily hedging, and tactically skilled, he proves to be very adaptable: he will always land on his feet. Studious and cultured, the Cat is also a sensitive person.

—Michele Delemme

The Astrology Book, Second Edition © 2003 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about a cat?

Cats symbolize independence and power. They also represent the animal self. Cats are symbols of the feminine, prosperity, sexuality, and power. In dreams cats often represent some of their more common attributes or associations, such as “sleek,” “cunning,” “cat burglar.” The witch with her black cat commonly denotes evil and bad luck. “Catty” describes a person who makes mean or malicious remarks. Both positive and negative connotations surround the mystique of the cat. As with all dream symbols, the tone and setting of the dream indicate which meaning is appropriate.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


(naval architecture)
A sturdy tackle used for bringing an anchor up to a ship's cathead.
To hoist an anchor up to the cathead of a ship.
(vertebrate zoology)
The common name for all members of the carnivoran mammalian family Felidae, especially breeds of the domestic species, Felis domestica.


McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


On drawings, abbr. for “catalog.”


A roll of straw and clay; used as filling between timbers in a wall.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


continually “washes” itself. [Animal Symbolism: Jobes, 296]


evil being, demonic in nature. [Animal Symbolism: Mercatante, 46]
See: Demon


symbol of egotism because of its aloofness and independence. [Animal Symbolism: Mercatante, 49]
See: Egotism
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a small domesticated feline mammal, Felis catus (or domesticus), having thick soft fur and occurring in many breeds in which the colour of the fur varies greatly: kept as a pet or to catch rats and mice
2. any of the larger felines, such as a lion or tiger
3. any wild feline mammal of the genus Felis, such as the lynx or serval, resembling the domestic cat
4. Nautical a heavy tackle for hoisting an anchor to the cathead
5. a short sharp-ended piece of wood used in the game of tipcat


a. short for catalytic converter
b. (as modifier): a cat car
2. short for catalytic
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


Common Abstract Tree Language. R. Voeller & Uwe Schmidt, U Kiel, Germany 1983. Universal intermediate language, used by Norsk Data in their family of compilers. "A Multi-Language Compiler System with Automatically Generated Codegenerators, U. Schmidt et al, SIGPLAN Notices 19(6):202-2121 (June 1984).


(From "catenate") Unix's command which copies one or more entire files to the screen or some other output sink without pause.

See also dd, BLT.

Among Unix fans, cat is considered an excellent example of user-interface design, because it delivers the file contents without such verbosity as spacing or headers between the files (the pr command can be used to do this), and because it does not require the files to consist of lines of text, but works with any sort of data.

Among Unix haters, cat is considered the canonical example of *bad* user-interface design, because of its woefully unobvious name. It is far more often used to blast a file to standard output than to concatenate files. The name "cat" for the former operation is just as unintuitive as, say, LISP's cdr.

Of such oppositions are holy wars made.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (


(1) (CATegory X) See cable categories.

(2) (conCATenate) See concatenating text files.

(3) A Unix command that displays the contents of a text file. It is equivalent to the type command in Windows and DOS. See Unix commands.
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.


Cats have both positive and negative connotations. You need to consider all of the details in the dream in order to obtain accurate interpretation. The cat can be a symbol of sexuality, femininity, prosperity, and power. A cat is also an independent animal, and in your dream you may be associating yourself or someone else with these characteristics. Usually the dream is telling you about yourself and not others. Historically black cats have been symbols of evil and bad luck. If you are a cat lover and have one as a pet, the symbolism may not apply to your dream. Old, superstitionbased dream interpretations say that a cat is a bad omen and that you can expect deceit from those who you trust.
Bedside Dream Dictionary by Silvana Amar Copyright © 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.