The cat or domestic cat (Felis catus) is a small carnivorous mammal. It is the only domesticated species in the family Felidae. Two main categories of domestic cat are distinguished: a house cat is kept as a pet and fed by a household; a feral cat is a freely ranging domestic cat that avoids human contact and is not closely attached to a household. A house cat is valued by humans for companionship and for its ability to hunt rodents. About 60 cat breeds are recognized by various cat registries.
Cats are similar in anatomy to the other felid species, with a strong flexible body, quick reflexes, sharp teeth and retractable claws adapted to killing small prey. They are predators who are most active at dawn and dusk. Cats can hear sounds too faint or too high in frequency for human ears, such as those made by mice and other small animals. Compared to humans, they see better in the dark (they see in near total darkness) and have a better sense of smell, but poorer color vision. Cats, despite being solitary hunters, are a social species. Cat communication includes the use of vocalizations including mewing, purring, trilling, hissing, growling and grunting as well as cat-specific body language. Cats also communicate by secreting and perceiving pheromones.
Female domestic cats called queens usually have kittens between spring and summer, with litter sizes ranging from two to five kittens. Under controlled breeding, domestic cats can be bred and shown as registered pedigreed cats, a hobby known as cat fancy. Failure to control the breeding of pet cats by spaying and neutering, as well as the abandonment of former household pets, has resulted in large numbers of feral cats worldwide, requiring population control. Feral cats have contributed to the extinction of many bird species.
It was long thought that cat domestication was initiated in Egypt as cats in ancient Egypt were venerated since the First Dynasty of Egypt. The earliest indication for the taming of an African wildcat (F. lybica) was found in Cyprus, where a cat skeleton was excavated close by a human Neolithic grave, dated to around 7500 BP. African wildcats were probably first domesticated in the Near East.
As of 2007, the domestic cat was the second-most popular pet in the U.S. by number of pets owned, after freshwater fish. As of 2010, it was ranked the third-most popular pet in the UK, after fish and dogs, with around 8 million being owned.