The cat (Felis catus), also known as the domestic cat or housecat to distinguish it from other felines and felids, is a small domesticated carnivorous mammal that is valued by humans for its companionship and its ability to hunt vermin and household pests. Cats have been associated with humans for at least 9,500 years, and are currently the most popular pet in the world. Due to their close association with humans, cats are now found almost everywhere on Earth. This extreme adaptability and their worrying impacts on native animals has led to them being classed as an invasive species. Most of these problems are caused by the large number of feral cats worldwide, with a population of up to 60 million of these animals in the United States alone.
Cats are similar in size and anatomy to the other felids, with light, flexible bodies and teeth adapted to killing small prey. A skilled predator, the cat hunts using its excellent eyesight and hearing.
Unusually, cats have lost the ability to taste sugar. Some breeds show hereditary deafness.
Despite being solitary hunters, cats are a social species and use a variety of vocalizations, pheromones and types of body language for communication. These include meowing, purring, trilling, hissing, growling, and grunting. They are also bred and shown as registered pedigree pets. This hobby is known as cat fancy.
As The New York Times wrote in 2007, "Until recently the cat was commonly believed to have been domesticated in ancient Egypt, where it was a cult animal." A study that year found that the lines of descent of all house cats probably run through as few as five self-domesticating African Wildcats (Felis silvestris lybica) circa 8000 BC, in the Near East. The earliest direct evidence of cat domestication is a kitten that was buried with its owner 9,500 years ago in Cyprus.
· 10 years ago