CatsPosted on May 18, 2018 - Last modified: September 8, 2018
The felines are mammalsOf the Felidae family, there are about 37 species of cats that include, among others, the cheetah, the puma, the jaguar, the leopard, the lion, the lynx, the tiger and the domestic cat. Cats are native to almost every region on Earth, with the exception of Australia and Antarctica. They are carnivorous mammals that live in a wide variety of habitats, but are commonly forest animals.
Most cats have a spotted or striped pattern, but some, such as the cougar (Puma concolor), the jaguar (Herpailurus yaguarondi), and the lion (Panthera leo), are plain and uniform in color. Black or almost black coats occur in individuals of various species. Although the lynx (genus Lynx) has a stubby tail, most cats have a long tail that makes up about a third of the animal's total length.
The head is characterized by a short nose and a round face, usually with short ears. The only cat with a well-developed mane is the male African lion. Cat feet have sharp claws that are retractable except in the cheetah. In most cats the male is larger than the female.
Cats are characterized by purring when they are happy and by growling, howling or spitting when they come into conflict with others of their species. The so-called "big cats" (genus Panthera), especially the lion, often roar, growl or squeak. Cats are generally quiet.
Many cats use trees, on which they leave their claw marks as they stand and drag their front legs down with their claws extended. Whether such behavior is for the purpose of cleaning or sharpening the claws or simply for stretching is debatable, but the behavior is innate; young house cats soon begin to scratch objects.
The largest cats are strong, fierce, and extremely dangerous when hungry. Due to their large size, they occasionally attack humans. Although tigers and leopards are best known as man-eaters, lions and jaguars can also be dangerous. In North America, the cougar, also known as cougar or mountain lion, tends to avoid contact with humans, but a few attacks occur annually, especially in areas where development invades areas of high cougar density, such as the western United States. Similarly, attacks on livestock often require the elimination of these animals.
Felines are generally predators, hunters and carnivores, although we believe that cats are omnivorous animals, it is a very common mistake, since naturally, they are also hunters and if they were wild animals they would feed on small rodents and insects. They only eat grass to help them digest and cleanse their stomach.
The gestation period for most smaller felines is about two months, with the largest cats approaching four months. One to six kittens make up the usual litter. Females can have four to eight nipples.
The breeding season is usually in late winter or early spring. Some felines (lions, tigers, and leopards) are capable of reproducing at any time of the year, and many species are induced ovulators (ovulation induced by hormones released during copulation).
The size of the animal does not appear to determine the size of the litter, the number of litters, or the breeding season. The females may be three or four years old and the males five or six. The smallest felines can reproduce when they are less than a year old. Most litters are born in strange places, such as in a rocky cavern, under a fallen tree, or in a dense thicket.
In most species the male does not help in caring for the young, and in fact the female may have to protect herself against their attacks.
The agility of felines is evident in their anatomy. The clavicle is very small. It does not connect with other bones but is buried in the shoulder muscles. This allows the animal to jump on its prey without danger of breaking the bone.
The hind legs are well developed, with powerful muscles that propel them on their prey. In addition to the strength of the hind legs, the animal uses strong back muscles to straighten the spine and provide additional strength in the run.
The felines are generally nocturnal. Their large eyes are specially adapted to see at night. The retina has a layer of guanine called tapetum lucidum, which reflects light and makes the eyes glow at night when illuminated. They have good senses of sight and hearing, but their sense of smell is not as developed as that of canids, a fact suggested by the short snout.
The predisposition to cleanliness is well established among these animals. They clean themselves with their rough tongue. They cover their stool and urine as a habit. Felines differ in their reaction to water; most species are reluctant to enter it, but swim easily when necessary. The nervous wagging of the tail is common in all felines, from the lion to the house cat. Kittens learn it from their mother; the behavior is associated with gambling, which is a prelude to predation as an adult.
Felines are the most specialized of mammals land carnivores. They are of powerful build, with a large brain and strong teeth. The teeth are adapted to three functions: stabbing (canines), anchoring (canines) and cutting (carnassian molars). They do not have flat-crowned crushing teeth and therefore do not chew or grind their food, but instead cut it. All felines are adapted to be strict meat eaters, an assumption made primarily on the basis of their digestive tract and teething. According to a carnivorous habit, it has a simple intestine; the small intestine is only three times as long as the body. The tongue of all cats has a patch of sharp, backward-directed spines near the tip, which has the look and feel of a coarse file; These thorns help you drink fluids and clean yourself. There are five padded toes on the front foot and four on the rear. The first toe and its pad on the front foot are raised so that only four toes are registered on a track.
They have a reduced number of premolar and molar teeth; the typical dental formula includes only 30 teeth. The incisors are small and chisel-shaped, the canines long and pointed.
The premolars are sharp, and an upper premolar may occasionally be missing. The lower molar is long and sharp, the upper molar is rudimentary. Due to the reduction in the number and size of the cheek teeth, a gap remains between the canines and the premolars in all except the cheetah.
Felidae are the most strictly carnivorous group in the order Carnívora, and highly developed carnassial teeth reflect this specialized eating habit. There is little or no specialization in the teeth for grinding or chewing. Strong masseter muscles, which raise the lower jaw, restrict lateral movement. The jaw moves vertically primarily to hold prey with a visceral grip and to cut chunks of meat with the carnassials. The meat is thus cut and swallowed into relatively unchewed pieces that are broken down by enzymes and strong acids in the digestive tract.