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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 ?
Cuddle your cats and get over your headache, Bethy.
She pulled them out of corners and came bringing them like a mother cat bringing in her kittens.
All night there were coaches in my broken sleep, going to wrong places instead of to London, and having in the traces, now dogs, now cats, now pigs, now men - never horses.
But it'll perhaps rain cats and dogs to-morrow, as it did yesterday, and then you can't go," said Godfrey, hardly knowing whether he wished for that obstacle or not.
You see, I'd send all the old women who had sick cats or dogs to you.
And yet I wish I could show you our cat Dinah: I think you'd take a fancy to cats if you could only see her.
Such was the din of the bells and the squalling of the cats, that though the duke and duchess were the contrivers of the joke they were startled by it, while Don Quixote stood paralysed with fear; and as luck would have it, two or three of the cats made their way in through the grating of his chamber, and flying from one side to the other, made it seem as if there was a legion of devils at large in it.
In speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise.
Yet, in general, I like cats and dogs very much indeed.
I give you good place in my hotel, and you spend your time flinging cats.
They would not compromise as long as the cats held out.
The only subject on which Montmorency and I have any serious difference of opinion is cats.