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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

Introduction to Description and Physical Characteristics of Cats

By John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhD ; Susan Aiello, DVM, ELS

People have associated with cats for thousands of years. Cats were first domesticated in Egypt between 1600 and 1500 bc. Even earlier, they were worshiped as gods: the Egyptian gods of fertility and war were given feline personalities. Feline images can also be found on early Greek and Roman vases, statues, and coins.

Wild cats (such as tigers, leopards, civets, and bobcats, for example) are among the best hunters in the animal kingdom. Domestic cats share these characteristics and are still valued “mousers” around barns, granaries, and warehouses. However, most cats in the United States are primarily pets that provide companionship, typically with fewer demands than are associated with dog ownership. The population of pet cats in the United States has steadily increased since the early 1970s, rivaling and now exceeding the number of pet dogs.