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Any member of the family Felidae, the most highly specialized group of mammalian carnivores. Modern-type cats appeared in the fossil record about 10 million years ago. Cats in the genus Panthera (leopard, jaguar, tiger, and lion) roar but cannot purr, and their pupils are round. Other cats, including the snow leopard and cougar, can purr but do not roar; the pupil is usually vertical. Cats have sharp, retractable (except in the cheetah) claws, and their teeth are adapted for stabbing, anchoring, and cutting. They almost always land on their feet when they fall from a height. Most species are nocturnal, and their eyes are adapted for seeing in low light. Cats are known for their habit of grooming themselves with their rasplike tongue. Small cats have been domesticated for some 3,500 years (see domestic cat). Other cat species include the bobcat, caracal, lynx, ocelot, serval, and wildcat.
Variants of CAT
cat or feline
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on cat, visit Britannica.com.