.mw-parser-output .hidden-begin{box-sizing:border-box;width:100%;padding:5px;border:none;font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .hidden-title{font-weight:bold;line-height:1.6;text-align:left}.mw-parser-output .hidden-content{text-align:left}@media all and (max-width:500px){.mw-parser-output .hidden-begin{width:auto!important;clear:none!important;float:none!important))You can help expand this article with text translated from the corresponding article in German. (January 2024) Click [show] for important translation instructions. View a machine-translated version of the German article. Machine translation, like DeepL or Google Translate, is a useful starting point for translations, but translators must revise errors as necessary and confirm that the translation is accurate, rather than simply copy-pasting machine-translated text into the English Wikipedia. Consider adding a topic to this template: there are already 9,095 articles in the main category, and specifying|topic= will aid in categorization. Do not translate text that appears unreliable or low-quality. If possible, verify the text with references provided in the foreign-language article. You must provide copyright attribution in the edit summary accompanying your translation by providing an interlanguage link to the source of your translation. A model attribution edit summary is Content in this edit is translated from the existing German Wikipedia article at [[:de:Katzen]]; see its history for attribution. You should also add the template ((Translated|de|Katzen)) to the talk page. For more guidance, see Wikipedia:Translation.

Temporal range:
OligocenePresent, 30.8–0 Ma[1]
TigerCanada lynxServalCougarFishing catAsian golden catOcelotEuropean wildcat
Clockwise, a tiger (Panthera tigris), Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), European wildcat (Felis silvestris), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Asian golden cat (Catopuma temminckii), serval (Leptailurus serval), and cougar (Puma concolor).
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Superfamily: Feloidea
Family: Felidae
Fischer von Waldheim, 1817
Type genus
Genera and Subfamilies
The native distribution and density of extant felid species.

Felidae (/ˈfɛlɪd/) is the family of mammals in the order Carnivora colloquially referred to as cats. A member of this family is also called a felid (/ˈflɪd/).[3][4][5][6] The term "cat" refers both to felids in general and specifically to the domestic cat (Felis catus).[7]

The 41 extant Felidae species exhibit the greatest diversity in fur patterns of all terrestrial carnivores.[8] Cats have retractile claws, slender muscular bodies and strong flexible forelimbs. Their teeth and facial muscles allow for a powerful bite. They are all obligate carnivores, and most are solitary predators ambushing or stalking their prey. Wild cats occur in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas. Some wild cat species are adapted to forest and savanna habitats, some to arid environments, and a few also to wetlands and mountainous terrain. Their activity patterns range from nocturnal and crepuscular to diurnal, depending on their preferred prey species.[9]

Reginald Innes Pocock divided the extant Felidae into three subfamilies: the Pantherinae, the Felinae and the Acinonychinae, differing from each other by the ossification of the hyoid apparatus and by the cutaneous sheaths which protect their claws.[10] This concept has been revised following developments in molecular biology and techniques for the analysis of morphological data. Today, the living Felidae are divided into two subfamilies: the Pantherinae and Felinae, with the Acinonychinae subsumed into the latter. Pantherinae includes five Panthera and two Neofelis species, while Felinae includes the other 34 species in 12 genera.[11]

The first cats emerged during the Oligocene about 25 million years ago, with the appearance of Proailurus and Pseudaelurus. The latter species complex was ancestral to two main lines of felids: the cats in the extant subfamilies and a group of extinct "saber-tooth" felids of the subfamily Machairodontinae, which range from the type genus Machairodus of the late Miocene to Smilodon of the Pleistocene. The "false saber-toothed cats", the Barbourofelidae and Nimravidae, are not true cats but are closely related. Together with the Felidae, Viverridae, hyenas and mongooses, they constitute the Feliformia.[7]


Domestic cat purring
Domestic cat meowing
Lion roaring
Close-up photo of a cat paw with extended claws
Extended claws on a house cat
Lionesses grooming each other

All members of the cat family have the following characteristics in common:

The colour, length and density of their fur are very diverse. Fur colour covers the gamut from white to black, and fur patterns from distinctive small spots, and stripes to small blotches and rosettes. Most cat species are born with spotted fur, except the jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi), Asian golden cat (Catopuma temminckii) and caracal (Caracal caracal). The spotted fur of lion (Panthera leo) and cougar (Puma concolor) cubs change to uniform fur during their ontogeny.[8] Those living in cold environments have thick fur with long hair, like the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) and the Pallas's cat (Otocolobus manul).[14] Those living in tropical and hot climate zones have short fur.[9] Several species exhibit melanism with all-black individuals.[25]

In the great majority of cat species, the tail is between a third and a half of the body length, although with some exceptions, like the Lynx species and margay (Leopardus wiedii).[9] Cat species vary greatly in body and skull sizes, and weights:

Most cat species have a haploid number of 18 or 19. Central and South American cats have a haploid number of 18, possibly due to the combination of two smaller chromosomes into a larger one.[30]

Most cat species are also induced ovulators, although the margay appears to be a spontaneous ovulator.[15]

Felidae have type IIx muscle fibers three times more powerful than the muscle fibers of human athletes.[31]


Feliform evolutionary timeline
Artist's reconstruction of Smilodon fatalis
Graphical reconstruction of an American lion (Panthera atrox)

The family Felidae is part of the Feliformia, a suborder that diverged probably about 50.6 to 35 million years ago into several families.[32] The Felidae and the Asiatic linsangs are considered a sister group, which split about 35.2 to 31.9 million years ago.[33]

The earliest cats probably appeared about 35 to 28.5 million years ago. Proailurus is the oldest known cat that occurred after the Eocene–Oligocene extinction event about 33.9 million years ago; fossil remains were excavated in France and Mongolia's Hsanda Gol Formation.[7] Fossil occurrences indicate that the Felidae arrived in North America around 18.5 million years ago. This is about 20 million years later than the Ursidae and the Nimravidae, and about 10 million years later than the Canidae.[34]

In the Early Miocene about 20 to 16.6 million years ago, Pseudaelurus lived in Africa. Its fossil jaws were also excavated in geological formations of Europe's Vallesian, Asia's Middle Miocene and North America's late Hemingfordian to late Barstovian epochs.[35]

In the Early or Middle Miocene, the saber-toothed Machairodontinae evolved in Africa and migrated northwards in the Late Miocene.[36] With their large upper canines, they were adapted to prey on large-bodied megaherbivores.[37][38] Miomachairodus is the oldest known member of this subfamily. Metailurus lived in Africa and Eurasia about 8 to 6 million years ago. Several Paramachaerodus skeletons were found in Spain. Homotherium appeared in Africa, Eurasia and North America around 3.5 million years ago, and Megantereon about 3 million years ago. Smilodon lived in North and South America from about 2.5 million years ago. This subfamily became extinct in the Late Pleistocene.[36]

Results of mitochondrial analysis indicate that the living Felidae species descended from a common ancestor, which originated in Asia in the Late Miocene epoch. They migrated to Africa, Europe and the Americas in the course of at least 10 migration waves during the past ~11 million years. Low sea levels and interglacial and glacial periods facilitated these migrations.[39] Panthera blytheae is the oldest known pantherine cat dated to the late Messinian to early Zanclean ages about 5.95 to 4.1 million years ago. A fossil skull was excavated in 2010 in Zanda County on the Tibetan Plateau.[40] Panthera palaeosinensis from North China probably dates to the Late Miocene or Early Pliocene. The skull of the holotype is similar to that of a lion or leopard.[41] Panthera zdanskyi dates to the Gelasian about 2.55 to 2.16 million years ago. Several fossil skulls and jawbones were excavated in northwestern China.[42] Panthera gombaszoegensis is the earliest known pantherine cat that lived in Europe about 1.95 to 1.77 million years ago.[43]

Living felids fall into eight evolutionary lineages or species clades.[44][45] Genotyping of the nuclear DNA of all 41 felid species revealed that hybridization between species occurred in the course of evolution within the majority of the eight lineages.[46]

Modelling of felid coat pattern transformations revealed that nearly all patterns evolved from small spots.[47]


Traditionally, five subfamilies had been distinguished within the Felidae based on phenotypical features: the Pantherinae, the Felinae, the Acinonychinae,[10] and the extinct Machairodontinae and Proailurinae.[48] Acinonychinae used to only contain the genus Acinonyx but this genus is now within the Felinae subfamily.[11]


The following cladogram based on Piras et al. (2013) depicts the phylogeny of basal living and extinct groups.[49]


Proailurus bourbonnensis

Proailurus lemanensis

Proailurus major

Pseudaelurus lineage

Pseudaelurus quadridentatus

Pseudaelurus cuspidatus

Pseudaelurus guangheesis


Hyperailurictis lineage

Hyperailurictis intrepidus

Hyperailurictis marshi

Hyperailurictis stouti

Hyperailurictis validus

Hyperailurictis skinneri


Sivaelurus chinjiensis

Styriofelis lineage

Styriofelis turnauensis

Styriofelis romieviensis




Miopanthera lorteti

Miopanthera pamiri


sensu lato

The phylogenetic relationships of living felids are shown in the following cladogram:[46]

Panthera lineage

Leopard (P. pardus)

Lion (P. leo)

Jaguar (P. onca)

Snow leopard (P. uncia)

Tiger (P. tigris)


Clouded leopard (N. nebulosa)

Sunda clouded leopard (N. diardi)

Caracal lineage

Caracal (C. caracal)

African golden cat (C. aurata)


Serval (L. serval)

Ocelot lineage

Geoffroy's cat (L. geoffroyi)

Kodkod (L. guigna)

Southern tiger cat (L. guttulus)

Oncilla (Northern tiger cat, L. tigrina)

Pampas cat (L. colocola)

Andean mountain cat (L. jacobita)

Ocelot (L. pardalis)

Margay (L. wiedii)

Bay cat lineage

Bay cat (C. badia)

Asian golden cat (C. temminckii)


Marbled cat (P. marmorata)

Lynx lineage

Eurasian lynx (L. lynx)

Iberian lynx (L. pardinus)

Canada lynx (L. canadensis)

Bobcat (L. rufus)

Puma lineage

Cougar (P. concolor)


Jaguarundi (H. yagouaroundi)


Cheetah (A. jubatus)

Leopard cat lineage

Sunda leopard cat (P. javanensis)

Leopard cat (P. bengalensis)

Fishing cat (P. viverrinus)

Flat-headed cat (P. planiceps)

Rusty-spotted cat (P. rubiginosus)


Pallas's cat (O. manul)

Domestic cat lineage

Jungle cat (F. chaus)

Black-footed cat (F. nigripes)

Sand cat (F. margarita)


Chinese mountain cat (F. bieti)

African wildcat (F. lybica)

European wildcat (F. silvestris)

Domestic cat (F. catus)

See also


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