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The domestic cat (Felis catus or Felis silvestris catus) is a small, usually furry, domesticated, and carnivorous mammal. It is often called the housecat when kept as an indoor pet, or simply the cat when there is no need to distinguish it from other felids and felines. Cats are often valued by humans for companionship and their ability to hunt vermin and household pests.
Cats are similar in anatomy to the other felids, with strong, flexible bodies, quick reflexes, sharp retractable claws, and teeth adapted to killing small prey. Cat senses fit a crepuscular and predatory ecological niche. Cats can hear sounds too faint or too high in frequency for human ears, such as those made by mice and other small animals. They can see in near darkness. Like most other mammals, cats have poorer color vision and a better sense of smell than humans.
Despite being solitary hunters, cats are a social species, and communication includes the use of a variety of vocalizations (mewing, purring, trilling, hissing, growling and grunting) as well as pheromones and types of cat-specific body language.
Cats have a rapid breeding rate. Under controlled breeding, they can be bred and shown as registered pedigree pets, a hobby known as fancy. Failure to control the breeding of pet by neutering, and the abandonment of former household pets, has resulted in large numbers of feral cats worldwide, requiring population control.
Since cats were cult animals in ancient Egypt, they were commonly believed to have been domesticated there, but there may have been instances of domestication as early as the Neolithic from around 9500 years ago (7500 BC).
A genetic study in 2007 concluded that domestic are descended from African wildcats (Felis silvestris lybica) c. 8000 BC, in the Near East. Cats are the most popular pet in the world, and are now found in almost every place where humans live.
Familiar and easily kept animals, their physiology has been particularly well studied; it generally resembles that of other carnivorous mammals but displays several unusual features probably attributable to cats' descent from desert-dwelling species. For instance, they are able to tolerate quite high temperatures: Humans generally start to feel uncomfortable when their skin temperature passes about 38 °C (100 °F), but they show no discomfort until their skin reaches around 52 °C (126 °F),:46 and can tolerate temperatures of up to 56 °C (133 °F) if they have access to water.
Cats conserve heat by reducing the flow of blood to their skin and lose heat by evaporation through their mouth. They have minimal ability to sweat, with glands located primarily in their paw pads, and pant for heat relief only at very high temperatures (but may also pant when stressed). A cat's body temperature does not vary throughout the day; this is part of cats' general lack of circadian rhythms and may reflect their tendency to be active both during the day and at night.:1 Cats' feces are comparatively dry and their urine is highly concentrated, both of which are adaptations that allow cats to retain as much fluid as possible. Their kidneys are so efficient that can survive on a diet consisting only of meat, with no additional water, and can even rehydrate by drinking seawater.
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