The cat (or domestic cat, house cat) is a small carnivorous mammal. A skilled predator, the cat is known to hunt over 1,000 species for food. Intelligent, the cat can be trained to obey simple commands, and has been known to teach itself to manipulate simple mechanisms.
Cats use more than one hundred vocalizations and types of body language for communication. Like horses and other domesticated animals, cats can sometimes become feral, living effectively in the wild. Feral cats will often form small feral cat colonies when the food supply can support several cats in a concentrated area. An immature cat is called a kitten.
Cats typically weigh between 5.5 to 16 pounds (2.5 and 7 kg). Some breeds, such as the Maine Coon can exceed 25 pounds (11.3 kg). Some have been known to reach up to 50 pounds (23 kg) due to overfeeding.
In captivity, indoor cats typically live 14 to 20 years, though the oldest-known cat lived to age 36. Domestic cats tend to live longer if they are not permitted to go outdoors (reducing the risk of injury from fights or accidents and exposure to diseases) and if they are spayed or neutered.
The particular loose skin at the back of the neck is known as the scruff, and is the area by which a mother cat grips her kittens to carry them. As a result, cats have a tendency to relax and become quiet and passive when gripped there. This tendency often extends into adulthood, and can be useful when attempting to treat or move an uncooperative cat.
Cats conserve energy by sleeping more than most animals, especially as they grow older. Daily durations of sleep vary, usually 12 to 16 hours, with 13 to 14 being the average. Some cats can sleep as much as 20 hours in a 24-hour period. The term catnap refers to the cat’s ability to fall asleep (lightly) for a brief period.
Hunting and diet
Much like the big cats, domestic cats are very effective predators. They ambush and immobilize vertebrate prey using tactics similar to those of leopards and tigers by pouncing. They deliver a lethal neck bite with their long canine teeth that severs the victim’s spinal cord, causes fatal bleeding by puncturing the carotid artery or the jugular vein. The domestic cat can hunt and eat about one thousand species, many of them invertebrates.
Even well fed domestic cats hunt and kill birds, mice, rats, scorpions, cockroaches, grasshoppers, and other small animals in the vicinity. They often present such trophies to their owner. The motivation is not entirely clear, but friendly bonding behaviors are often associated with such an action.