The history of the cat and the cat family is one of a four legged species that made its first appearance around 25 million years ago. This was the time of the saber tooth tigers. Now extinct these creatures roamed the earth for a period of 42 million years and are not related to the cat of today.
The cat as we know it originated 70,000 to 100,000 years ago. These cats were solitary hunters and unlike pack animals like dogs, they weren’t as useful to humans as dogs. However, over time they evolved into a more sociable species. It is only in recent history that cats moved from being solitary hunters, chasing mice and rodents, to entering the world of humans and evolving to become domestic pets.
Cats are mammals (warm blooded animals), part of the feline family and include in their family tree lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards and the common domestic cat. In all there are 37 species of cats in this family. They are all carnivores and are built for hunting. They are native to all continents except Australia and Antarctica The common features of the members of this group are fur (not feathers or skin), sharp claws which they can retract, long tails which typically make up about a third of their length, short nose, pointed ears and the purr or roar that they exhibit when contented or angry.
The cat family as a species are agile, with quick reflexes, and are able to leap and run with ease. Their strong bodies are flexible. They have powerful hind legs that help them jump and chase prey. They have strong teeth which are adapted to rip and tear food and as a species they are flesh eating mammals. Their teeth number 30 and consist of incisors and canines. Generally nocturnal in habit they have large eyes that can see well in the dark. Their hearing is good but their sense of smell is less pronounced so their noses are smaller. Despite not appearing to like water all members of this family can swim.