Domestic cat

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Domestic cat
Domestic cat long hair.jpg

Domestic cat ( Felis catus )

Order : Predators (Carnivora)
Subordination : Feline (Feliformia)
Family : Cats (Felidae)
Subfamily : Small cats (Felinae)
Genre : Real cats ( Felis )
Type : Domestic cat
Scientific name
Felis catus
Linnaeus , 1758

The domestic cat ( Felis catus ) is the domestic animal form of the falcon cat . It is one of the most popular pets . In pedigree cat breeding , often only those animals are referred to as house cats that do not belong to a recognized cat breed.

Body features

External features

The characteristics of the house cat vary depending on the distribution area. In the bred forms they are dependent on the breed standards , in the domestic cats that follow the culture they are subject to the respective selection pressure , which depends on the natural environmental conditions.

House cats are on average around 50 centimeters long ( head-torso length ) and 4 kilograms in weight, with a wide range of variation from around 2.5 kg to around 8 kg. Males are slightly larger than females. The length of the tail is about 25 to 30 cm. One exception is the tailless Manx cat from the Isle of Man . The shoulder height is 30 to 35 cm. In areas of distribution with colder climates, cats are generally heavier and larger, while in warmer areas they are lighter.

The National Geographic Society (1981) gives the average head-torso length of several popular cat breeds as 46 cm and the tail length as 30 cm. The heaviest house cat documented so far was the heavily obese "Himmy" from Australia with 21.2 kg.

Various domestic cat breeds

The domestic cat in the wild type has an M-shaped drawing on the forehead, "kohl" lines that go from the eyes to the side, a dark eel line and dark horizontal stripes (or dots) on the sides of the body. The legs and tail are also banded dark. Their color varies from gray-black to warm brown tones. The fur drawings that are typical of house cats are called tabby . In addition to the wild type described above, called mackerel, other drawings and a variety of coat colors have developed. In Europe, North America and Australia the brindle pattern predominates, which is often associated with a partial white coloration.

The ears of the house cat stand upright, are broad at the base, triangular and slightly rounded at the tips. They can be rotated independently of one another in different directions and placed completely flat on the back of the head . The eyes are directed forward and thus enable spatial vision.

Musculoskeletal system

The skeleton

The domestic cat's skeleton consists of over 230  bones . The cat's skull is short and sturdy. The eye socket is not completely closed, the posterior part is closed by a band of connective tissue . The spine consists of seven cervical , 13  thoracic , seven lumbar , three sacral vertebrae and 20 to 23  caudal vertebrae . The collarbone is simply a bone embedded in the brachiocephalicus muscle that is not connected to the rest of the skeleton. At the lower end of the scapular bone ( spina scapulae ), the so-called acromion , cats have a downward hamatus process and a suprahamatus process that is typical for cats . At its lower end, the humerus has a hole ( foramen supracondylare ) on the inside for the arteria brachialis and the median nerve to pass through . The strong hind legs specialize in jumping rather than fast running. Thanks to its strong muscles, the cat can jump and sprint very well. As a typical hide hunter , however, it is not a persistent runner.

The house cat, like all small cats, is a toe walker. She has five toes on her front legs, one of which is not in contact with the ground, and four on her hind legs. The sharp, curved claws are used, among other things, to catch and hold the prey. In the resting position, they are pulled back by elastic straps in a skin pocket. They can be "extended" for catching prey, for climbing, to mark the territory with scratch marks or for defense.

Digestive system

Cat's teeth

The permanent set of teeth in cats has 30  teeth . It has three incisors ( Incisivi , I ) and a canine or hook tooth ( Caninus , C ) in each half of the jaw . There are three anterior molars ( premolars , P ) in the upper jaw and only two in the lower jaw . In each half of the jaw only a rear molar tooth (is molar , M ) present.

This results in this tooth formula :

upper jaw
I1 I2 I3 C1 P1 P2 P3 M1
I1 I2 I3 C1 P1 P2 - M1
Lower jaw
Schematic anatomy of the domestic cat (male)

The milk teeth of cats have 26 teeth. The change of teeth takes place at about six months . During this time, "double teeth" can occur if the milk teeth do not fall out. The posterior molars have no deciduous predecessors and the tooth formula can be represented as follows:

upper jaw
i1 i2 i3 c1 p1 p2 p3
i1 i2 i3 c1 p1 p2 -
Lower jaw

Typical of carnivorous predators are their strong jaw muscles and sharp teeth. With the strongly developed fangs, in the upper jaw the last premolar, in the lower jaw the first molar, i.e. P3 | M1, also known as crushing scissors , (and their pressure sensors located at the base), meat and small bones can be minced. The canines, better known as fangs , are mainly used to catch prey and to hold and carry the prey, they are also used in territorial fights and for grooming. The backward-facing, strongly keratinized mechanical papillae on the tongue are used both for drinking and for grooming, as liquids and loose hairs get caught in the hooks.

The gastrointestinal tract is typical of mammals. The stomach is composed of one cavity. The appendix is 2 to 4 cm long. A worm extension , however, is not developed. The colon , as in humans, in the form of a simple, designed for open-back U, however, has no tape strips . As is typical of predators, the entire digestive tract is short.


Like most mammals (including humans), cats need retinol (or vitamin A 1 ), but they occupy a special position because, unlike almost all other animals, they cannot convert β-carotene into retinol. It is therefore naturally dependent on sufficient consumption of liver in order to be able to supply itself with vitamin A. Furthermore - in contrast to almost all other animals - the cat can not synthesize arachidonic acid from the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid and must therefore ingest it through food.

Life expectancy

Cats living in the house typically reach an age of 15 to 20 years when cared for by humans. According to Desmond Morris , however, ages of more than 20 years have also been documented. As an exception, he mentions the case of a tabby cat named “Puss”, who lived from 1903 to 1939, i.e. 36 years.

The oldest known house cat was the Creme Puff cat from Austin, Texas . She was born on August 3, 1967 and died at the age of 38 years and three days on August 6, 2005. The owner, Jake Perry, was the holder of the previous record holder, a tomcat named Grandpa Rex Allen .

In free-range cat populations without human attention or medical care, the life expectancy of a cat is between 1.4 and 3.2 years (males) and 3.3 and 4.2 years (females). These figures come from research carried out by Liberg (1980) in a rural area of ​​Sweden and Legay and Pontier (1983) in the French city of Lyon .


As a domestic or domestic animal, the house cat is found in almost all human-populated areas worldwide. As a wild or feral animal, it can only live in climatically warm or temperate zones, regardless of subsidiary human influences. It is considered a cultural follower .

Even in the biogeographically long isolated habitats of Australia and New Zealand, into which it was introduced by humans, it was able to adapt relatively quickly, but there, together with a large number of other neozoa , it influences the unique ecosystems that exist .

It is currently (2012–2014) that there are 8.4 million domestic cats in Germany, 27.4 million in all of Central and Western Europe and more than one billion animals worldwide (including feral and semi-wild populations).


General genetics

The house cat, like the wild cat, has 2n = 38 chromosomes . Around 20,000 genes are located in the chromosome set. The first sketch of the cat genome published in 2007 was of an Abyssinian cat with a length of about 2,700,000,000 bp . A genetic fingerprint can be taken from domestic cats, e.g. for forensic purposes .

In contrast to closely related Carnivora (e.g. dogs), domestic cats, like cheetahs and tigers, cannot perceive the sweet taste. The reason is a mutation in the Tas1r2 gene, more precisely a 247 bp deletion .

Genetics of coat colors

European shorthair with one of the most common coat schemes

All of the cat's coat colors are based on two pigments : eumelanin (black) and pheomelanin (red). Both dyes appeared in the striped drawings of the wild ancestors.

The coat pattern of cats is determined by the tabby gene. Every cat is predisposed to one of the typical fur patterns: mackerel, brindle, spotted or ticked. The monochrome cat like the blue Carthusian also has such a disposition, but it masks the non- agouti gene (abbr. Aa).

Black cats have a mutation in the agouti locus, through which the pheomelanin is completely displaced by eumelanin, so that the fur pattern is no longer visible. Red cats, on the other hand, lack any eumelanin, as the non-agouti gene causes the phaeomelanin to suppress eumelanin all over their bodies. This has no effect on the coat pattern of red cats: they always show the tabby pattern.

Both colors can be lightened by other genes. The color black is lightened by mutating the brown locus to chocolate (Chocolate) or to the color of cinnamon (Cinnamon). The dilution gene (maltese dilution, abbreviation dd) turns black into blue (blue, the color of the Carthusian cat ), chocolate into lilac (or lavender or frost), cinnamon into fawn and red (orange) into cream. In 1974 another dilution gene was discovered, the dilution modifier (abbreviation Dm). This changes the colors blue, purple and fawn to caramel and cream to apricot.

White or piebald cats arise from the fact that the skin lacks the pigment-forming cells ( melanocytes ), so they are completely or partially leucistic . Completely white cats are often deaf, pied cats are not.

A three-colored cat can be recognized as a female cat at first glance, as the gene for the coat color is located on the X chromosome . As in all mammals, the distinction between male and female is based on the karyotype of the sex chromosomes , according to which XX is female and XY is male. Therefore, some female cats can have the gene for the coat color black on one X chromosome and the gene for the coat color red on the other and therefore develop a three-colored coat ( codominant inheritance ). The white part of the coat color is not controlled by the X chromosome, the responsible allele series is inherited as an autosomal .

Sensory performances

It is assumed that the visual sense of cats is mainly specialized in the perception of movement and that the acuity and detail perception is rather average. In efficient hunting, fine hearing helps with the function of directional hearing when locating prey . The sense of smell, on the other hand, is comparatively less highly developed, but still significantly better than that of humans.

Sense of sight

Open pupils of a domestic cat

The large eyes are aligned frontally, which enables spatial vision as well as precise assessment of distances. The cat is particularly good at perceiving rapid movements, and in the dark it only needs a sixth of the amount of light in relation to humans to receive an image. This is made possible by the high density of rods on the retina and a reflective layer in the fundus. The rod / cone ratio of the retinal receptors is around 63: 1 (in humans 20: 1), but varies greatly between the center of the retina (10: 1) and the periphery (200: 1). Another reason is the tapetum lucidum , a layer of cells lying directly behind the retina , which reflects the light not absorbed by the photopigment molecules in the rods and cones and radiates it again onto the sensory cells. This layer is also the reason why cat eyes appear to glow in the dark when lit. Cats can see very well even at dusk and at night as long as there is residual light. In a completely darkened room, on the other hand, cats are also blind. Since the cat can only move its eyes slightly to the left or right, it has to move its head in order to look in a different direction. The forward-facing eyes result in a strong overlap of the visual axes, which means good spatial vision. The cat's viewing angle is 200 ° to 220 °. In order to better capture the residual light, the vertically slit-shaped pupils open circularly as the brightness decreases , which at the same time reduces visual acuity.

Because of the narrowing of the pupils in the shape of a slit, the visual acuity of cats is different for horizontal and vertical structures and movements at brightness. They see vertical lines more sharply than horizontal lines and can therefore perceive horizontal movements better than vertical ones, which is one of the reasons for the typical sloping head posture of cats as soon as they fix certain things. Apart from the fact that cats see horizontal lines less clearly than humans under the same conditions, their ability to perceive color differences is also less well developed. The reason for this is the fact that the proportion of color-sensitive cones in the cat's retina is much lower than in humans and the cat's eye, like that of the dog, only has two different types of cones ( dichromates ), one for green and blue, but not sensitive to red. So red is a color that neither dogs nor cats can see (see also: Dog's sense of sight ), and which is probably perceived as a shade of yellow.

For this, cats can perceive their surroundings in shades of blue and green of various intensities and combinations, whereby the preferred color of cats, to which their eyes are also most sensitive, is blue. This was found in over 2000 tests by the Institute for Zoology at the University of Mainz . Under different lighting conditions, the cats had the choice between yellow and blue to get their food. 95 percent opted for the color blue.

All cats have a light blue iris at birth, but the adult eye color does not develop until the next three months.


Auricle of a cat with the tragus and antitragus (bag for directional hearing)

The cat's hearing is particularly well developed and is one of the best among mammals . The perception threshold is at a sound pressure level of −10 dB SPL and thus lower than that of domestic dogs (0 dB SPL). The frequency range of the cat's hearing ranges from 55 Hz to 79 kHz (in humans 20 Hz to 20 kHz). The upper frequency limit is in the range of the noises emitted by mice as the most important prey animals. It is also a frequency range in which the sound sources can be localized much better. The cat remains immobile and directs the mostly large, erect and flexible ears in the direction from which the noise is coming. When eating at floor level, the cat automatically tilts its ears backwards so that its own noises do not matter.

Sense of smell and taste

The cat's sense of smell is less pronounced than its hearing or sight. It is weaker than that of the dog, but significantly better than that of humans. As with all mammals, it is used for sensory testing of food and the perception and recognition of conspecifics and other living beings.

Cats can differentiate between salty, sour, bitter and umami (hearty / high in protein), but cannot perceive a sweet taste. They lose their appetite when they lose their sense of smell, for example due to a cold.

Cats recognize each other by their body odor, which says something about gender, genes, hormonal status and territorial requirements. Both males and females always mark their territories in the same, regularly inspected places with scent marks, which are formed from secretions from sweat and sebum glands and are set by rubbing or grinding claws or by spraying urine , which differs from the actual urine by a stronger smell . Different causes for the odor are possible, for example the amino acids felinine and isovalthene are found in the urine marking in the liquid - in male cats to a much higher proportion than in cats.

The sweat glands are mainly located on the balls of the feet, around the mouth, on the chin, around the nipples and around the anus . The sebum glands are concentrated on the upper jaw, on the base of the tail and in the male under the foreskin. Males also have a cluster of scent glands in a kind of channeled pocket next to the anus. All sweat and sebum glands are mainly used for communication via the odor by rubbing against objects, conspecifics and people. A special organ that sits between the pharynx and nasal cavities and is called Jacobson's organ helps cats absorb scents .

In moments of strong emotional excitement, the cat's anal glandular pouch may empty and release a strong-smelling brown liquid. Cats can get excited by some scents and then plead with their mouths half open, their upper lip pulled up and their noses curled up. These fragrances include odorous substances from plants, in particular catnip Nepeta cataria (Nepetalacton, Actinidin), Valerian Valeriana (Valepotriate ?, Isovaleric acid ?, Actinidin), Actinidia polygama (Matatabilacton, Actinidin) and Katzengamander Teucrium marum (also Teucriumlacton dem People own smells. In addition, new smells are often picked up and saved as a result of flehing.

Sense of balance

The cat has a very good sense of balance. Cats are also at high altitudes of heights . If they fall from a height of two to three meters, they can reflexively turn into the prone position from almost any position and land on the floor with their paws stretched downwards. To do this, the cat bends its entire body in the middle and then rotates the front and rear parts around the two now independent longitudinal axes. The process is similar to rotating a universal joint . Contrary to what was previously assumed, the rotation of the tail only plays a subordinate role, as its mass is far too low to give the rest of the body sufficient angular momentum. When falling from very high (but not medium) heights, this position, the extremely splayed paws and the puffy, loose fur at the transition from the legs to the stomach act as a parachute and can significantly reduce the impact speed and thus the risk of injury.

sense of touch

Cat paw

Cats have a highly developed sense of touch. They have tactile receptors all over the body . The long whiskers or whiskers ( vibrissae ) located mainly on the upper and lower lip and above the eyes , the roots of which are connected to the extensive network of nerve endings , indicate when an opening is too narrow or an obstacle is in the way. The whiskers, which are already present in newborn cats, can reach considerable length, are mobile and grow back after they have fallen out. With their help they recognize objects and animals that they cannot see in the dark; this allows them to move almost normally even if they are blind, at least in familiar surroundings. Receptors on the front paws, which perceive the ground vibrations triggered by prey, are also particularly sensitive.


Relaxed and mindful

The behavior of domestic cats is mainly determined by the fact that they are predators .

The old opinion that house cats are loners per se has been refuted. As with all social animal species, there are loners among domestic cats, but they are social animals by nature. If one observes larger cat populations, for example on many farms or in some large cities such as Largo Argentina in Rome , diverse social interactions between the animals are evident. Since the vast majority of other cat species are loners, the house cat, together with the lions, is an exception to the rule. In contrast to the lions, who go hunting together as real pack animals, the domestic cat hunts alone. Due to the size of her prey, she is not dependent on other cats and can therefore survive on her own at any time. Living together in a group is therefore optional for the domestic cats. The fact that house cats are social animals was the basis for their domestication in the first place and enables them to interact with humans. In contrast, solitary animals like the European wildcat cannot be domesticated.

Hunting behavior

Perhaps the most well-known behavior of the house cat, which is even proverbial, is playing with captured prey, which is usually misinterpreted by owners as cruelty. Rather, it is an instinctive need to ensure that the prey is weak enough to be safely killed. According to other scientific interpretations, this behavior is an exercise in hunting or a result of the development of pleasure gained from hunting.

In larger prey animals such as rats or rabbits, the cat drills the canine teeth like wedges between the cervical vertebrae in order to sever the cervical marrow. This type of killing, which is most common in small cats, works immediately, even if the prey is often still moving. Weasels and polecats are usually only overwhelmed by large and strong tomcats. Domestic cats also prey on snakes and blindworms. However, fish (e.g. in garden ponds) are only of interest to some cats, others avoid the wet element.

Social behavior

In the country, when cats belong to a house but live there outside of human control, they often form small groups of related females, their cubs, teenage cubs and one or two tomcats. The many cats in the different colors usually all descend from a single cat, who was the founder of this community.

While the males tend to disperse and seek new territories when they reach sexual maturity, the females stay in the mother's territory and thus enlarge the group. They raise the young and chase away foreign intruders, but are more tolerant of adult male cats, since they are larger and more aggressive. Even if they share the food provided by humans, they remain loners on the hunt. Unlike lions, domestic cats do not hunt together. When night falls, they sneak alone through the meadows and forests looking for prey. Their hunting method, which characterizes them as stealth or ambush hunters , is similar to that of their wild relatives: sneaking up on the prey and jumping from a very short distance. Younger cats in particular react to moving objects almost like they would to live prey, thereby training their hunting skills (“ play instinct ”).

In large cities, in which the authorities do not pay more attention to the accommodation of stray animals in animal shelters and there is a correspondingly plentiful supply of food, there are often numerous cats in certain areas. Large colonies can form in urban gardens, in cemeteries , at archaeological sites and also in industrial areas . Within the colonies there is a hierarchy of smaller groups dominated by females.


Cats communicate through body language, sounds, and smells. Scent signals are used both for communication in face-to-face contact and over long distances. The sebum and sweat glands produce the necessary fragrances, which are distributed to objects, plants and people through rubbing, scratching and urine.

Body language

Domestic cat yawning

When cats come into closer contact, they signal their emotional state through the posture and movements of their whole body and tail . The position of the ears and the widening or narrowing of the pupils also play a role.

If the tip of the upright tail is strongly bent, this can mean a friendly greeting or anticipation of what you expect from people, especially if the tip of the tail trembles slightly. A raised tail with a slightly curved tip can signify joy, pleasure, expectation, or excitement. When the cat has raised its tail, it is usually comfortable and safe. In a relaxed position, the tail is often carried horizontally with a slight downward curve. If the tail is bent downwards and fluffed up, this is often a sign of threat and aggression. Tail twitching or swiftly whipping the tail back and forth means the cat may be aggressive or irritated.

The facial muscles also send out important signals. If the cat fixes its counterpart with its eyes , it is attentive in an initially neutral mood. If the pupils narrow to slits and the whiskers are directed clearly forward, the neck is drawn in and the ears folded to the side, threatening or warning the cat. When the pupils are dilated, fear and submission are usually signals. If the cat feels comfortable and is relaxed, the eyes are often kept half-closed so that the nictitating membrane becomes visible. If the ears are folded to the side, the cat can be aggressive. If they lie flat back close to the head, they often signal fear. Forward-facing ears can indicate curiosity and attention.

Another element of the cat's body language is the milk step . Young cats kick their mother's teats with their front paws to stimulate the release of the milk. This behavior is also retained by adult cats and is shown, for example, when they feel very comfortable, but also when they are preparing their sleeping place.

Looking with half-closed eyes is a sign of kindness or affection and can be compared to a person's smile. The blinking of one eye is also to be interpreted in a similar way. Both are easy to imitate by humans and are often reciprocated by cats. Likewise, a cat even reacts to prolonged viewing by yawning and turning its head. It is then not a sign of tiredness, but an anti-aggression gesture.

Before an attack, she usually makes herself bigger and more threatening by hunching over and standing across. She stretches her legs completely, raises her fur and slowly walks towards the opponent. If she bares her teeth , it can be a threatening gesture. However, an insecure cat will often make itself small, gathering its legs under its body and keeping its tail tight. She often crouches on the floor so that she can immediately fall on her back if necessary and fend off the opponent with claws and teeth .

The widespread aversion of cats to dogs and vice versa is based on body language , which is often mistakenly seen as an enmity . The clearly different body language with signals often of opposite meaning can lead to disputes. For example, if a dog walks up to a cat with a bark, it may just want to greet the cat, but it will interpret this as attacking behavior. The subsequent flight of the cat in turn awakens the hunting instinct in the dog.

The wagging of the tail and the shaking of the paw in the dog mean happy expectation or a friendly greeting. In contrast, a wagging, lashing tail of the cat signals displeasure or latent aggressiveness, lifting the paw says: Up to here and no further! The cat then often lies on its side in order to be able to defend itself with its claws, which the dog understands as submission or an invitation to play. If, on the other hand, the cat approaches a dog with a gently raised tail (as an exception), the latter interprets this - as it is used to when meeting other dogs - as "Don't come too close!" And reacts more aggressively and with barking.

If dog and cat are used to each other from an early age, there are usually no problems.

Spoken language

If cats have already gotten closer, acoustic signals are used to reinforce the body language statements. Hissing and growling are signals of aggressiveness or fear. A mother animal calls its young to her with a pigeon-like cooing. The wailing screams of the hangover at night are used to assert themselves against rivals and to advertise a female.

Meowing is the most characteristic sound the cat makes. It can have different meanings and is used in different situations. By domesticating the tendency has been reinforced to meow to get as juveniles care and delicacy. Some cats meow when they are scared. Non-domesticated cats largely avoid meowing in order not to unnecessarily draw the attention of other predators (such as birds of prey ) to themselves.

Another sound typical of cats is purring , a vocal expression whose origin has not yet been clarified. Just a few days after birth, kittens express well-being through constant purring. This sound transmits vibrations during physical contact between the mother or human and the cat . Shy and insecure animals try to win or maintain the favor of their companions by purring audibly without interruption and from a certain distance. Cats also purr when they are in pain or sick to demonstrate their inferiority and to prevent their situation from getting worse. It also serves to calm you down. With its purring, the friction on the body and the upright tail, the cat usually sends peaceful, soothing signals that are supposed to reduce aggression. As recent US studies have shown, cats generate vibrations in a frequency range between 27 and 44 Hz when purring.

In contrast to the big cats , the hyoid bone is completely ossified in all other types of cats . Due to the special shape of their glottis, only big cats are able to roar.

It is noteworthy that house cats use differentiated vocalizations to communicate with humans that adult cats do not use among themselves.

Sleep behavior

Contrary to popular belief that cats are nocturnal, house cats are actually crepuscular . This means that domestic cats are particularly active in the morning and evening, but sleep or doze during the day and night. Due to the close coexistence with humans, domestic cats often adapt to the human sleep-wake rhythm .

Indoor cats sleeping together

Cats usually sleep several times during the day, spending an average of 16 hours a day asleep. Sleep takes place in the phases of shallow sleep and deep sleep. The cat also rests by lying down with closed eyes without sleeping .

Since 1955, numerous experiments have been carried out to research this behavior . In the shallow sleep phase, the cat wakes up at the slightest noise. This is followed by deep sleep with a phase called paradoxical sleep, which corresponds to the dream phase . The muscles are more relaxed and the wake-up threshold is significantly higher. According to EEG measurements, there is brain activity in this phase that is comparable to that of the waking phases. Another sign of the dream phase are the rapid eye movements (Rapid Eye Movement = REM ) under the closed lid. Sometimes legs, tails, skin, and whiskers twitch. Six or seven minutes of deep sleep is followed by a period of about 20 to 30 minutes of shallow sleep. Sleep phases follow dream phases. Then the cat yawns, gets up, changes position and falls asleep again.

If the cat perceives an unusual noise while sleeping, it will open one eye. If she still cannot identify the sound, she is quickly awake and alert. But when she wakes up on her own, she first yawns extensively and then begins to stretch. Every muscle is stretched through precise and careful movement.

A free-roaming cat integrated into the human family usually has no problem with spending the night mostly sleeping in the house. Conversely, however, she can also spend the night outdoors and sleep indoors for most of the day. Here, individual behavior patterns are widely spread and also change according to the weather and season.


Two domestic cats mating (1 minute 58 seconds, 3.8 MB)

Female cats become sexually mature between the fourth and twelfth months of life and thus get heat for the first time . The onset of sexual maturity is influenced by various factors such as time of year, length of daylight, body condition and race. Long-haired cats often do not become sexually mature until they are 11 to 21 months old. During heat, the cat is receptive for about five to six days, the follicle rupture usually only takes place when the cat is covered, but sometimes visual or olfactory stimuli ( pheromones ) are sufficient to trigger it. A cat in heat is constantly rubbing against objects, often rolling on the floor and holding up its bottom invitingly. If she is not covered by a hangover, she will usually get heat again after nine days, but permanent heat can also occur. If the follicle ruptures but is not pregnant, the new heat takes place after five to six weeks.

Free- living cats often attract several applicants by means of scents in the urine , which signal the willingness to mate, and with haunted calls. If the tomcat approaches, they are kept at a distance by the cat in the first phase by hissing and pawing (experienced tomcats know how to avoid this). The cat retreats to a safe distance while the males exchange blows with each other with warning growls, threatening looks and loud screams. They look at each other and slowly creep around each other. If none of the applicants withdraws in this phase, these encounters can turn into a bitter struggle, from which the cats with scratches and bite wounds emerge. Uncastrated males have a higher mortality rate than neutered cats. In search of a female in heat or a still unoccupied territory, they overcome very large distances (often several kilometers) and often suffer injuries due to the described fights with rivals, more often fall victim to road traffic or contract viral diseases that can be transmitted through bites.

Cate oak with spines
Uterus of a pregnant cat
Mother cat with cubs

Ultimately, however, the female makes the decision who will be her mating partner. Mating can only take place when the female signals its readiness and takes the crouching posture on the ground with stretched back and tail bent to one side . The act only lasts a few seconds and is accompanied by a characteristic cover scream from the female. It ends abruptly when the female violently shakes off the male and usually also gives blows. There are barbs ( penis spines ) on the male's penis , which is why the sexual act is painful for the cat. After successful mating, the female rolls several times in a stretched position on the ground. The term "heat" for the cat's heat goes back to this characteristic rolling. A cat in heat can mate with several males. Accordingly, the siblings of a litter can have different fathers.


After mating (covering), ovulation occurs after approx. 24 hours . In contrast to the dog, the egg is already capable of fertilization at this point. The sperm fertilization takes place in the fallopian tube . After almost two weeks of migration and multiple cell divisions in the fallopian tube and in the uterus , a blastocyst develops , a multicellular stage of the fertilized egg that nests in the uterine wall. A belt-like placenta quickly forms around the fetus , which ensures the “exchange of substances” with the mother.

The heat does not end immediately after the mating has taken place in the cat, rather it starts again after a few hours and sometimes lasts for several days, albeit with increasing weakening.

If the cat comes together with a hangover again during the first three weeks of the 63 to 65 day gestation period (pregnancy, gestation period), further fertilization is possible by covering it again. The boys born in such cases are often unevenly developed. Unequal offspring within a litter are also to be expected if the relationship with a tomcat was extended for more than a week or continued after a break of several days.

After the heat has subsided, the cat becomes visibly lazy and often tends to vomit during the second and third weeks. In this early phase, there are hardly any external changes to be noticed. After about three weeks, however, the lower (rear) of her four pairs of teats begins to turn pink and embryos about one centimeter long are already lying in the fruit chambers of the uterus, palpable by the vet.

As it grows, the initial constrictions between the transparent amniotic sacs, which are filled with clear liquid and are about the size of hen's eggs, flatten. They can gradually touch each other towards the end of pregnancy.

From about the sixth week onwards, the movements of the fetuses can be clearly felt through the cat's abdominal wall and at times also visible to the naked eye.

Only in the last three weeks of gestation are the kittens big enough to make the cat's change in body size visible. During this time, the mammary glands also swell and the cat leans to one side while sleeping. In the last days of the gestation period, the cat is nervous and is constantly looking for a safe place to “nest” for the birth. She now also licks the teats and anal region more often . Domestic cats prefer the room of the person in the house with whom they are most closely related. The nest can be a half-open cupboard , a box or the bed . Breeders provide their cats with suitable litter boxes for their nests , but these are not always accepted by the cat. The birth can take up to a few hours, and the intervals at which the individual kittens are born can vary considerably.

A cat that gives birth for the first time usually gives birth to two to three kittens. With later births, the number of kittens often increases to seven kittens. In rare cases ten or even more are possible, but in this case not all kittens survive without human help. Some cats do not want to be disturbed for a few days after the birth, others seek the company of people and feel more comfortable with them. If the litter box is not carefully cleaned by humans, the mother cat moves with her litter to another camp, because the smell could attract predators. Even if the cat thinks its young are in danger for some reason, it will pick up each kitten by the fold of the neck and carry it to a different location. Through this bite the mother triggers the kittens a so-called carrier Rigid , which is intended to prevent that they move too much.



Sexually mature tomcat marks his territory

Males and females reach sexual maturity on average between six and eight months of age, but physical development is only complete a few months later. In many pedigree cats, this phase of life lasts a few months longer. With sexual maturity, the physical differences between females and males become clear. The secondary sexual characteristics develop. In male cats, this maturation period lasts until the age of 3. Male cats are bigger and stronger than cats and have stronger necks. The so-called hangover cheeks, which are scattered fat pads, make your head appear larger and rounder. The females are usually slimmer and have a narrow, triangular head.

In terms of behavior, there are even clearer differences between males and females. Male cats are more territorial and mark their territory by splashing urine and rubbing them in popular places. They react to intruders with threatening gestures. In contrast to females, they tend to stray more and sometimes stay away from the house for several days on the hunt or when looking for a female ready to mate. When they come back from time to time, they look for comfort, food or a quiet place to sleep.

After a few months, the fighting games turn into real fights, as the males now prove that they are capable of competing with other males. The young male cats leave the group between the 10th and 14th month of life. Only castrated males stay with the sisters and join the group.

The territory of an adult male is about three times as big as that of a cat. For them, the size of the territory depends on the food supply for themselves and the offspring, but for him it is crucial that there are enough female partners available for mating. With advancing maturity, the territory expands. The female is therefore better suited to domestic animals than the male , since it does not leave the mother's territory even during sexual maturity and needs less space. However, cats tend to tolerate changes of location more poorly than cats and often do not like to travel. On the other hand, they are often not as aggressive as the male when playing.

By the age of one and a half, most cats are less playful and less active, although there are significant individual and breed differences. Adult male cats kept indoors are often more cuddly and calmer than cats, which are more independent and more reserved towards strangers. The more balanced mind of the hangover has led to the term "cuddle cat". The hormone fluctuations due to the oestrus in uncastrated cats are responsible for this gender-specific difference, whereas the hormone status in male cats remains the same. This difference is leveled out in castrated females, which makes living together much more pleasant for humans and animals.

Instinct and learning behavior

Cats have a great ability to learn and remember. They remember the sounds they can use to get people to respond to their different needs. Free runners remember the course of their territory, known cats in the territory and dangerous dogs. Associative memory allows cats to compare a problem with what they have already experienced. In this way you can effortlessly create relationships between several elements and make them usable for yourself.

Although cats have certain skills at birth, they must be patient with some behaviors. These include, for example, hunting or using the litter box. To get their young used to hunting, cat mothers with access to the outside provide them with prey from the third week. First she eats dead animals in front of her eyes, later she brings up live prey, which she kills and gives them to eat. Finally, she leaves the live prey to her young. Since cats have a hunting instinct but first have to learn to hunt successfully, kittens without a mother or with a non-hunting mother usually never succeed in catching prey. In order to practice it, they need cloth mice, spools of thread or crumpled paper, which are watched over, sneaked into and finally killed. The burying of excretions (urine, excrement) is also common in free packs, only the highest-ranking animal does not do this and "marks" the terrain with it, so to speak. Since the owner is generally considered to be the leader of house cats, cats are relatively willing to consent to burying them (and thus to using a litter box).

Cats who can open doors have recognized the importance and functionality of the door handle. A more recent study (Osthaus) indicates, however, that cats are only able to link cause and effect to a limited extent. The learning process associated with developing these skills is poorly understood. Cats are sneak robbers; they observe a problem very closely and can reduce it to the essentials. You have the ability to abstract and weigh the benefits and costs of a task against each other.

Cats, like all animals, can be conditioned to behaviors. They are able to listen to their names. In order to familiarize a cat with its name, it is advantageous to only use it in situations that are positive for the cat, such as feeding and petting. It should not be used to reprimand the cat.

It is also possible to train them on certain signals that disrupt behaviors. In this way they can be weaned from certain behaviors that people perceive as bad habits. Cats can be trained similarly to dogs with the help of the clicker . Animal psychologists recommend this type of training as a mentally demanding occupation for house cats.

History of Domestication


Black cat ( Felis lybica lybica ), the ancestor of all domestic cats according to genetic studies

The first ancestors of the real cats of the Old World , which also includes the wild cat ( Felis silvestris ), appeared about nine million years ago. They are probably of Asian origin and first appeared in the Upper Miocene with Felis attica and Felis lunensis . Various forms then spread throughout the Old World.

Due to the morphological similarity and the close genetic relationship, the origin of the house cat was not fully clarified until recently. A descent from the Manul ( Otocolobus manul ) or the pipe cat ( Felis chaus ) was denied by science. Even the opinion that the house cat is a cross between the cane and the wild cat is obsolete today, even if the two species have occasionally been paired, especially since these are fertile in the F1 generation . The domestication research assumed that the house cat is descended from only one wild species, namely the wild cat ( Felis silvestris ), whose habitat stretches from Scotland through Africa to Asia .

It was considered likely that representatives of three main groups of real cats ( forest cat , falcon cat , steppe cat ) were involved in the domestication process. The wildcat ( Felis silvestris silvestris ) has its natural habitat in Europe , Asia Minor and Iran . It is relatively strong, has short ears and a bushy, thick tail. The black cat ( Felis lybica lybica ) lives in the bush landscapes and steppes of Africa and Arabia . She has big ears, is slim and long-legged. The steppe cat ( Felis lybica ornata ) occurs in the Middle East and Central Asia . It is more powerfully built and stocky than the black cat. The genetic characteristics of the wild cats are dominant compared to those of the domestic cat. The black cat was considered to be the main trunk form, the steppe cat was assigned the second strongest influence. The forest cat is an outspoken cultural escapist and was the least likely ancestor.

In fact, among the various forms of real cats, the ancestor of the domesticated house cat is the African wildcat Felis lybica lybica, also known as the black cat . This representative of the wild cats is the least aggressive and therefore best suited for living with humans, so that it was kept as a pet in ancient Egypt .

A team from the University of Oxford led by the geneticist Carlos Driscoll , who examined the genes of almost 1,000 domestic cats from five continents, demonstrated that all five main genetic lines found stem from Felis lybica lybica alone and that domestication is probably five-fold independent of one another in the so-called fertile crescent took place. It came from there as early as the 8th millennium BC. To Cyprus .

Early days

When people began to settle down, the cat joined them - initially living as a waste collector on the edge of settlements. Presumably, as a result of the mutual advantages resulting therefrom, the animals gradually became self-domesticated. Bones of smaller cats were found together with human bones from a time of 9000 years ago in Mesopotamia , Southeast Anatolia and Jordan , domestication can be shown for this time in Cyprus. During excavations in Jericho , cat skeletons were discovered that date back to the 6th millennium BC. Were dated. There the cat was probably viewed more as a prey than a pet.

Wildcats only know hissing and growling sounds. According to some researchers, the classic "meow" sounds are a kind of language used by domestic cats in order to be able to communicate verbally with humans - others are of the opinion that this is merely a continuation of baby language , which otherwise only kittens to theirs Use mothers.


Goddess Bastet

Domestication of the cat did not begin in Egypt , as previously assumed , but in the Fertile Crescent . From the 3rd millennium BC BC there is evidence in pictures and drawings of a peaceful coexistence of humans and animals. The depiction of a cat with a collar in a tomb of the fifth dynasty (around 2600 BC) is an indication of domestication of the wild species. Domesticated cats were used by their owners for both mouse hunting and - verifiably since the Middle Kingdom - for hunting Water birds in the papyrus thicket.

The ancient Egyptian culture, which was characterized by agriculture, attached great importance to the cat, which developed early on into a cultic veneration of animals. The expression for this is the cat goddess Bastet , who was said to have an influence on happiness and love, beauty, femininity, grace and fertility. She was often depicted as a small cat with a lion's head or a female figure with a cat's head. In the late period the cult of cats assumed the greatest proportions; in Bubastis (at times also the capital of the often divided empire) many pilgrims flocked to the cult center and sacrificed thousands of mummified cats.

“When the female cat has kittens, she avoids the tomcat; so he asks in vain for the female. He has therefore found the way out of robbing the young of their mothers by force and cunning and killing them without devouring them. The cat, deprived of its young, then wants to have young again and runs to the tomcat again. This animal loves to have young. [...] When a cat dies in a house, all the residents of the house shave their eyebrows [...]. The dead cats are brought to the city of Bubastis, embalmed and buried in sacred burial chambers. "

- Herodotus : Historien II, 66-67.

Research has shown that most of the mummified cats were very young. They were likely bred specifically for mummification. Usually the neck was turned to kill.

At the time, the Greeks and Romans viewed the cat as an odd pet and preferred to leave it to the ferrets to keep their homes free of mice . Later, the female gods Artemis in Greece and Diana in Ancient Rome and Freya in Scandinavia were somehow associated with the cat. She was associated with the mother cult, which in many cultures stands for fertility, moon phases , abundance and childbirth, as the child-bearing cat mother lovingly cared for and protected her children. In addition, she was considered tolerant and independent. The ability of their pupils to narrow or enlarge slits was based on the phases of the moon.

The export of cats from Egypt was prohibited. Phoenicians are said to have smuggled cats into Italy , Gaul and Britain . Archaeologists found cat bones in settlements near Amsterdam (approx. 2000 BC) and in Tofting on the Eider Estuary (approx. 100 AD).

Greece and Roman Empire

Clear representations of domestic cats can be found on Greek vases from around 480 and 440 BC. Although references to goddesses can be found, the cat was considered more of a domestic animal, and worship by the Egyptians seemed strange to the Greeks. The Greeks inherited their fear of black cats from the Babylonians. The oldest literary mentions come from Aristophanes and shortly afterwards Herodotus , the philosopher Aristotle also mentions the forest cat . The poet Callimachos first mentions a connection between cat and mouse in the 2nd century.

The Attic word αἰέλουρος, αἴλουρος aiélouros, aílouros for forest cat, however, only denotes the genus in Greek, not specifically the domestic cat, so that the sources only allow assignment to the domestic cat through the context. The Romans called the forest cat fēlēs and in the 1st century AD introduced the loan word catta ( Martial , around 75 AD), which was the first to exclusively refer to the domestic cat. It is also possible that the cat name was borrowed from a North African language (cf. Nubian kadīs , Berber kaddîska ) and conveyed by the Celts. The name comes from the late Egyptian čaute , čaus ' falcon ' .

In the 1st to 3rd centuries the house cat spread throughout the Roman Empire and reached Hildesheim-Bavenstedt after it was found in the 3rd to 5th centuries. Century AD and Wiesbaden-Biebrich in the 6th century.

India and China

Cat with three young animals in a garden (China, 12th century)
Romanesque cat relief, around 1150, on St. Stephen's Church in Albsheim, Rhineland-Palatinate

In India , the house cat was often an important part of religious ceremonies . From there she made it to China and later to Japan , where she took on similar tasks. In China around 1500 BC The cats protected the cocoons of the silkworms and in the temples the old manuscripts from the rats and mice. Numerous drawings prove this. The Chinese of the time believed that only humans and cats had a soul . The cat stood for luck and a long life. She was a status symbol for the lucky rich. The first indications of a loving bond between humans and cats can be found from the Tang period : A wanted ad read: “A kitten has escaped from the Yü Ta-Po house. Its color is white. His nickname: Snow Maiden. ”Hsü Hsüan, another contemporary, described the love of a man for his cat who loved the animal so much that he could not bring himself to bury his velvet paw after it died. He sat next to the dead animal for days until the cat's body decomposed.

European Middle Ages

The importance of the cat was minor in the early Middle Ages . With the increasing spread of the stored pests, the common rat , house rat and house mouse , which were also introduced via sea trade routes , it became necessary to control them, which in the late Middle Ages led to a strong increase in domestic cats.

Despite their undeniable net effect was from the medieval superstition to demonic and unlucky beings stigmatized , was considered a companion of witches and student of the devil . In popular belief, witches rode on the back of huge cats to the witches' sabbath. The black cats in particular were persecuted mercilessly, often locked in baskets and burned at the stake. A friendly relationship with an animal, especially this one, was considered blasphemy. Nevertheless, cat lovers can be found in the poorer social classes as well as among the nobility and clergy . With the magical properties attributed to it, the cat got a high value in folk medicine, as almost everything was used by it for healing purposes.

In England in the 10th century, cats lived as elegant playmates for noble ladies at court. Cats were rare and therefore very valuable. According to the law of the Prince of South Wales in AD 940, a settlement could only be called a village or Hamlet if it had nine buildings, a plow, a kiln, a butter churn , a rooster, a bull, a shepherd and a cat could. The prices for a cat fluctuated. In the Sachsenspiegel , the code of law written from 1220–1230, three pfennigs were set for damages for a cat. This was not a small amount, because at that time there were four pfennigs to book for a lamb or a cow .

Some finds from the 11th century show that cat fur was worn by the Vikings and was preferred in Europe in the Middle Ages . At that time and around 100 years ago, especially in France and England, cat leather was processed into gloves as a particularly supple material.

In the middle of the 15th century Girolamo Visconti wrote about witches who allegedly invaded houses where children were sleeping at night in the form of cats. Back then it was French custom to build a cat into the foundation of a church. The house of God buried Satan and his evil forces under his great mass , so to speak . This should symbolize the victory of good over evil. Proverbs, sayings and superstitious rituals are still reminiscent of these dark times , so that the cat is still ambivalent today.

While cats were generally more friendly towards cats in the Orient , in 13th century Japan they were treated with a demon , such as the man-eating witch Neko-Baké, who invades houses in the form of a cat and eats disobedient children there , connected.

In the 10th century, the cat was widespread across the European continent and almost all of Asia . From the 15th to the 18th century, she reached North America , Australia and New Zealand on the ships of European explorers .

16th century until today

Japan (19th century)

When the cities got bigger and bigger in the 16th and 17th centuries and the number of domestic cats increased, the cat's fur lost its value. Nevertheless, the spotted wild cat skins remained a coveted and valuable commodity, as a result of which the wild relatives of the house cat were ruthlessly hunted on all continents .

It was only with the beginning of the industrial revolution that cats gradually rose from being purely farm animals to their current position as “pets”. Connected with this was the beginning of cat breeding . Today more than 30 cat breeds are known, which are standardized by international breeding associations. In the 20th century, the cat became one of the most intensively studied pets from a medical , genetic and physiological point of view. In the 1960s, the first study programs researched the behavior of wild cats and domestic cats. In the 1990s, the cat finally, the most widely used economically unused pet of the world was and ran for the first time in its history the dog far behind. But because cats in the western world are also characterized by the characteristics of falsehood and cunning, an ambivalent attitude has remained. According to a survey in 2005, a quarter of those questioned believed that it was a bad omen when a black cat crossed the path from left to right.

Nowadays the cat is held in high esteem in Japan . The Gōtoku-ji temple in Tokyo is entirely dedicated to cats , built in honor of the cat Maneki Neko , who raises her right foreleg to greet the visitor, which is said to bring luck and fortune. Inside, which depicts a cat tomb , there are numerous paintings and sculptures depicting cats . In China and Thailand , too , cats are worshiped as deities to this day.

The long history of domestication has even led to the establishment of facilities such as cat cafés . Nevertheless, house cats have retained a high degree of independence and are not necessarily tied to people. In many areas outside of Europe, especially in Australia , New Zealand and on many islands, cats are so wild that they are no longer related to humans. Feral Australian domestic cats show significant adaptation to their new environment. They have become larger and more muscular and develop fur colors that are most beneficial for camouflage in the respective habitat . These cats live primarily on the rabbits introduced into Australia , but also on native animals.



A cat eats a captured mouse

Cats, including domestic and pedigree cats, are strict carnivores . In their natural habitat they feed exclusively on small mammals, birds and, depending on the natural prey available, also to a lesser extent on insects, fish, amphibians and reptiles. A purely vegetarian diet for cats is partially rejected, especially because of the risk of inadequate nutrient supply. Scientific studies on vegetarian or vegan cat nutrition are hardly available to date. A study from 1999 came to the result that a vegetarian diet with supplements could cover needs, but in practice none of the eight cats examined was actually fed as needed. The researcher and resident veterinarian confirmed this assessment again in 2014.

Studies have shown that cats do not need any plant-based nutrients, in particular no carbohydrates or sugar, to meet their nutritional needs. However, there is also no scientific evidence that small amounts of carbohydrates and sugars in cat food are harmful. The often-expressed assumption that carbohydrates and sugar in commercial cat food are the cause of obesity, feline diabetes and dental disease has been refuted by previous studies. Nevertheless, a high carbohydrate content in cat food is to be rejected because with such a food composition the proportion of vital amino acids of animal origin cannot be covered by the meat content in the food and must then be added artificially.

Commercial, industrial cat food often contains carbohydrates in the form of grains to meet the cat's need for fiber (wet food), but also to shape the food and as a cheap filler (especially in dry food). A proportion of up to a maximum of 10% is considered acceptable. In most dry food, however, it is significantly higher for production reasons and reasons of shelf life.

The increasingly widespread feeding of finished products has nevertheless contributed significantly to the increase in the average life expectancy of the animals in recent years, as certain essential food components ( taurine , arginine , lysine , methionine , cysteine , nicotinic acid ) that are normally only inadequate when feeding human leftovers are added to the finished feed artificially. Deficiency diseases like DCM , a heart disease, are rare today. However, feeding exclusively finished products also harbors risks. Studies show that have finished feed with commercial cats fed a 2.5 to 5-fold increased risk of suffering from hyperthyroidism to fall ill, indicating certain additives soy isoflavones or phthalate is recycled.

In addition, the so-called barf (“biological, species-appropriate raw feed”), i.e. H. the diet with raw meat (beef, poultry) is becoming increasingly important again. In contrast to ready-made food, this type of diet also fulfills the cat's psychological needs and enables the cat's teeth to be used appropriately. With this largely species-appropriate diet, however, a balanced nutrient ratio must also be ensured. However, this basic knowledge and the additional work involved in procuring and preparing feed do not make this type of feeding practicable for every cat owner. An everyday compromise for the majority of cat owners is to supplement the feeding with ready-made food with individual raw meat meals, which can then consist of only one type of meat and do not require any additives.

Corresponding to its ancestry from the African black cat as a steppe and savanna inhabitant, the house cat is also able to meet its water needs largely from the prey animals with natural food supply. Therefore their need to drink is low. For this reason, the moisture content in the forage should correspond to that of the natural prey, which is the case with the majority of commercial moist forages. Nevertheless, clean drinking water should always be available. When feeding dry food, cats naturally take in more water, but often not enough to get the physiologically necessary amount. Kidney and urinary tract problems can result. Pure dry feed is therefore not advisable.

Wild cats do not drink where they eat because in the wild it is unlikely that there will be a watering hole right next to their prey. Domestic cats have retained this behavior and only drink from a water bowl next to the food bowl when there is no other option. For this reason, it should be set up separately from the food bowl.

Adult cats usually cannot tolerate cow's milk. You can not break down the lactose (milk sugar) contained in cow's milk , as the production of the enzyme lactase , which is no longer required, declines at the end of the suckling period . Indigestion and diarrhea develop. If milk is fed without interruption beyond the suckling period, enzyme production is often maintained. This is why milk-feeding farm cats are generally more tolerant of milk than non-milk-fed cats.

Cats without access

An indoor cat that is kept alone can suffer from boredom after some time, especially if there is insufficient human contact, which can subsequently lead to undesirable behavior. If she has a mate, she can play with him and act out other species-appropriate behaviors. In contrast to cats with an outdoor run, indoor cats usually do not have a varied environment. Live animals to catch, trees to climb and opportunities for discovery are often completely lacking. If you only keep an apartment you should always choose at least two animals. Individual housing is only recommended in exceptional cases for older, intolerant cats that have grown up purely in an apartment. A cat that previously had exercise and is now only supposed to be in the apartment or house (for example, when moving) will almost never get used to the cramped living conditions.

The advantages of housing are that cats cannot be run over, poisoned by agricultural pesticides , shot by hunters or injured by other animals (conspecifics, dogs , stone martens ). The risk of infection with one of the often fatal cat diseases is lower, but it can also occur if you only live in an apartment, as people can bring pathogens into the apartment through their street shoes. The risk of parasite infestation is also much lower if the house is kept in an apartment. For these reasons, a purely indoor cat has a higher average life expectancy than a cat that is allowed outside. The best compromise between being outdoors and keeping a flat is a secure garden.

An indoor cat swallows more hair than an outdoor cat when grooming, as it is less able to strip it off on bushes and shrubs. That is why an indoor cat is dependent on the provision of cat grass so that it can choke out the swallowed hair again (triggering the nausea). An alternative to the oral excretion of hairballs and their disposal, which is usually uncomfortable for the cat owner, is the feeding of malt-containing nutritional supplements, which allow the hair to clump in the digestive system and thus its rectal exit.

Several litter boxes , one for each cat, make sense. If a litter box is not cleaned regularly, there is a risk that the cat will not use it. Special attention is required if the stool changes, for example if you have diarrhea or blood is discovered.

A sturdy scratching post, ideally from floor to ceiling, is important if you want to keep the cat from sharpening its claws on upholstery, wallpaper and furniture. In addition, cats love high places because they feel safe there and like to climb. Various play options such as balls and now and then a cardboard box for hiding places offer the indoor cats variety and the opportunity to live out their play and hunting instinct.

Outdated literature still speaks of the danger that pure indoor cats could develop a vitamin D deficiency due to the low level of sunlight. However, this has been refuted because cats are not able to synthesize vitamin D in the skin and therefore have to meet their needs completely through their diet.

Dangers to cats

Many substances, the ingestion of which is relatively safe for humans, are poisonous or at least incompatible with cats, depending on the amount. These include, for example, acids ( vinegar , citric acid ), chocolate , coffee , onions , grapes , apples , apricots or paracetamol . Since cats also ingest parts of plants in order to get rid of the hair swallowed when cleaning, but many common plants are highly poisonous for cats, such plants must not be in the apartment. These include the dieffenbachia , ivy , Christ thorn , poinsettia , amaryllis , cyclamen , begonia and various cactus plants , but also boxwood and oleander . Even the availability of bowls with cat grass or cyprus grass often cannot prevent the naturally curious cat from snacking on other plants in the apartment.

Glass containers that are not set up securely can be a particular danger, as a cat may drop the container to the ground and later sustain serious cuts. In addition, plastic bags pose a great risk as the cat crawls in and sometimes cannot get out; she suffocates. Finally, the danger of open toilet lids, especially in young cats, should not be underestimated. If they fall into it, they often cannot free themselves from this trap and can drown in it.

Cats often get stuck trying to slip through a crack in a tilted window. Through attempts at liberation, they slide further and further down. If the patient gets stuck for a long time, this results in severe neurological damage to the hind limbs. As a long-term consequence, embolism can develop . If the animals are not liberated, they will die in agony after hours of trying to liberate themselves.

In the open air, hazards to cats include traffic, attacks by other animals such as dogs, foxes or other cats, diseases and traps.

Cat toy

Every cat has innate hunting instincts . The efficient hunting behavior that is essential for life in the wild is only partly instinctual; partly it has to be learned. The play instinct serves this purpose in young domestic cats. Playing with various objects in pet keeping promotes learning and training of hunting skills. However, playing can also help reduce “hunting stress” and satisfy the hunting instinct. Young cats in particular are known for playing with balls of wool; some cannot resist a piece of thread or rope.

Castration and sterilization

Castration of a female cat
1 uterine horn
2 ligamentum ovarii proprium
3 ovary
4 fallopian tubes
5 mesosalpinx
6 ligamentum suspensorium ovarii
7 abdominal fat
8 surgical wound

In general, except for breeding cats, both males and females are neutered . During castration, the testicles or ovaries are removed. According to widespread opinion, the castration of cats living in the wild is an important basis for animal welfare , so the so-called "cat protection", because this is the only way to prevent unnecessary suffering from a large number of cats that are not cared for. In addition, castration suppresses the urge to mark in about 90% of the cases. The females are prevented from becoming heat-born. Occasionally, a female cat can get in heat after being neutered. If the tomcat continues to mount it, then ectopic ovarian tissue has remained in the abdominal cavity; if the cat does not allow the hangover, then the heat has no hormonal basis.

Intratesticular calcium chloride injection is being researched as a promising, non-surgical method for sterilizing males, and this has also shown success in other animal species such as dogs.

However, a rarely practiced alternative to castration is sterilization, in which only the spermatic or fallopian tubes are severed. This intervention has no influence on the nature of the animal, but prevents unwanted reproduction and would actually be desirable from a behavioral point of view. However, a cat that has only been sterilized requires a high level of species-appropriate husbandry, which can hardly be fulfilled with a pure indoor cat. This includes the exercise area, tolerant neighbors, little car traffic for several kilometers in the area and at least one sterilized partner nearby in order to avoid dangerous territorial fights in the distance. In addition, the behaviors associated with sexual activity are still present and make it difficult to live together harmoniously with people. Sterilization is not an alternative to castration for female cats who are not allowed to go outside. Since ovulation does not occur due to the lack of mating, there is permanent curl and cyst formation on the ovaries .

Reproductive control with hormones

To cats orally or parenterally can progestogens are administered. At the same time, they should prevent undesirable behavior such as marking with urine. In the case of oral administration, treatment with medroxyprogesterone acetate is in the foreground, along with megestrol acetate . The restoration of fertility is possible even after administration for several years.


In order to relieve cats of the fear of visits to the vet and the associated transport in the cat basket, it is recommended that you leave it freely accessible in the play room so that it absorbs the cat's smell.

The normal body temperature of cats is 38 ° C to 39 ° C. From 39.3 ° C one speaks of an increased temperature. The pulse of a resting cat is 110 to 140 beats per minute, the breathing rate is 20–30 breaths per minute.

Common viral infections are cat flu , feline distemper , feline leukemia and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is the rare immune deficiency syndrome of cats . As a result of vaccinations, cats have largely lost their role as carriers of rabies .

Domestic cats often harbor parasites . Infections with endoparasites such as roundworms and tapeworms (→ worm infections in cats ), coccidia and ectoparasites such as fleas , mites and lice are most frequently observed here. Ectoparasites also play a role as carriers of certain diseases .

The Chronic Kidney Disease (CNE) is an irreversible failure of kidney function. Most cats with CKD develop the disease as a result of the aging process (approximately 30% of cats over the age of 15 get CKD). However, CKD also occurs in younger cats, although these are mostly affected by the disease for genetic reasons. Infections such as chronic tooth infections can also lead to CKD . The most common endocrine diseases are hyperthyroidism and diabetes .

The most common tumor disease is malignant lymphoma . Furthermore, feline fibrosarcomas occur frequently , especially as a vaccination reaction .

Exceptionally common cat diseases besides those already mentioned are FORL ("neck lesions"), FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease), hypertrophic / restrictive / dilated cardiomyopathy , asthma and eosinophilic granuloma . Current studies show that cats also very often suffer from chronic joint diseases ( osteoarthritis ), especially hip joint arthrosis , but often hardly show this.

The average life expectancy of cats is increasing thanks to better medical care and food quality. With increasing life expectancy, senile dementia is diagnosed more and more often in domestic cats .


Vaccinations against a number of diseases are available, although the vaccination recommendations are inconsistent not only with regard to the type and location of keeping, but also with regard to the frequency of vaccinations. The relatively high risk of vaccine damage in cats, especially feline fibrosarcoma , an often fatal disease with a risk of between 1: 1000 and 1: 10,000 , is now generally recognized .

According to the vaccination recommendation of the Standing Vet. Vet. Vaccination Commission for cats, a basic immunization of puppies against cat flu and cat disease , as well as against rabies in outdoor animals, is recommended in the 8th (without rabies), 12th and 16th week of life and in the 15th month of life. Booster vaccinations are given in accordance with rabies. Manufacturer's information is recommended, after three years for cat disease, after one year for cat flu (outdoor cats) or 2 years (indoor cats). Other vaccinations are only recommended based on living conditions and epidemic situation. With regard to basic immunization, the vaccination recommendations correspond to the recommendations of the Medical Small Animal Clinic of the LMU Munich, where booster vaccinations, with the exception of rabies vaccinations, are generally only considered necessary after three years. Furthermore, the LMU recommends a vaccination against feline leukemia in not yet infected animals with a basic vaccination in the 16th and 20th week of life and a further vaccination after 15 months. For revaccination, intervals of three years are considered sufficient. The manufacturers' recommendations usually provide for repeat vaccinations after the basic vaccination has been completed at annual intervals.

No vaccinations are required by law in Germany. When crossing the border within the EU (at least) an existing vaccination protection according to § 1 No. 3 Rabies Ordinance and Annex III of EU Ordinance 576/2013 against rabies is mandatory, which must be correctly documented in an EU pet passport . In order to clearly identify the animal, it must be marked with an implanted transponder or, in old cases, with a tattoo made before July 3, 2011. Switzerland has adopted the regulations of the European Union with regard to rabies protection.

Cats as vectors of disease

Like all domestic animals, cats can transmit a number of diseases to humans ( zoonoses ). Cat bites lead to infections even more often than dog bites . Pasteurella multocida is a rare cause of infection from a cat bite . The most dangerous diseases are toxoplasmosis and rabies . The latter does not currently play a role in Germany.

In addition to other ways of infection, humans can become infected with toxoplasmosis through cat feces if it contains the pathogen Toxoplasma gondii . Pregnant women are particularly at risk; if the first infection occurs in the second trimester of pregnancy , the embryo in the womb can be damaged or die. This pathogen is also suspected of being at least partly responsible as a trigger for schizophrenia in humans. After infection, there is lifelong immunity; therefore, only a first-time infection is dangerous during pregnancy. A blood test can determine if there are antibodies to toxoplasmas in the blood.

The rabies is through bites, scratches or by contact with the uninjured mucous transmitted to humans. Transmission through bites and scratches is particularly easy because animals infected with rabies often show very aggressive behavior. Rabies is fatal in unvaccinated people and poses a serious risk to cat owners and their environment. Germany is now considered rabies-free, so vaccination is no longer officially recommended for cats as long as they do not travel abroad. Rabies vaccination has been discouraged for a long time in purely domestic cats, as the animal cannot be infected and in rare cases the vaccination can lead to tumor formation (so-called vaccine-induced fibrosarcoma ).

Cat bites and smear infections from open skin wounds of infected animals also have the potential of transmitting so-called "catpox viruses" to humans. However, these are cowpox viruses that are only dangerous for people with a weakened immune system . The mostly harmless cat-scratch disease can also be transmitted through scratches .

Some skin diseases (fungal zoonoses) can also be transmitted from cats to humans. Humans become infected through direct contact with an infected animal or its scales. The ringworm affects hair, skin and nails.

As with all domestic animals, there is also the risk of transmitting parasites , such as hookworms , roundworms or tapeworms . They are usually transmitted through direct or indirect contact with infected feces.

Cats (like foxes and dogs) are the final hosts for the fox tapeworm , a parasite that is also dangerous for humans. In areas where the fox tapeworm is common, cats that eat mice as intermediate hosts are often also infected with the fox tapeworm and can then spread it with their faeces. Regular deworming of domestic cats is not only advisable for this reason.


Domestic cats are among the most common pets in the world, so they are also the subject of case law. Many aspects that affect domestic cats, such as keeping and breeding cats or the position of cats in nature, are the subject of legal texts.

The animal protection law regulates in Germany, Austria or Switzerland for a long time the general protection of animals and thus also of the domestic cat, while the Federal Hunting Act regulates the handling of stray and poaching cats.

Just like for dogs and ferrets, you can get a pet passport of the European Union with veterinary documentation about vaccinations for house cats to make it easier for you to travel abroad with your animal. Cats can be made unmistakable and identifiable with a "chip" planted under the skin.

In some cities in Saudi Arabia, such as Jeddah , Mecca and, more recently, the capital Riyadh , the sale and walking of cats and dogs is prohibited, as this often promotes contact between men and women, according to the Islamic Religious Police. The animal can be confiscated if it is violated.

The city of Paderborn was the first municipality in Germany to impose a castration obligation for outdoor animals from the age of 5 months and for strays fed by humans. The aim is to reduce the number of stray, stray cats. This so-called "Paderborn model" is advocated by the German Animal Welfare Association . At the same time, he calls for a nationwide analogous regulation by the responsible Federal Ministry. Other municipalities with ordinances on the compulsory castration of cats are Delmenhorst , the Herford district , Oer-Erkenschwick and Eschweiler . The animal rights organization Peta is currently calling for the introduction of a "pet protection law", which should also contain a castration obligation for free-range cats. An overview of German communities in which castration is already compulsory for outdoor enthusiasts can be found at TASSO.

The city council of Düsseldorf has rejected the introduction of a castration obligation for cats. The public order office stated that there was no evidence that there would be a risk without the castration requirement and that it would be almost impossible to monitor such a regulation. In the survey of German cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants carried out as part of the clarification, none of them had decided to castrate them, although most of these cities had dealt with initiatives on the subject. A campaign by the Pro Katzenschutzverordnung interest group , which also placed the castration obligation at the center of its work, was discontinued in 2011 without any result. The IG Pro Cat Protection Ordinance included around 60,000 individual members and 3,000 associations.

Since the castration obligation can only be applied to cats with owners, animal welfare organizations advocate neutering stray, stray cats as well. In 2019 , the European Animal and Nature Conservation Association started a castration campaign for stray cats in the region around the office in Much (Rhein-Sieg district). Keeper stray cats are caught, neutered, if necessary medically treated and then released again in their territories. In addition, efforts are made to ensure that the strays are permanently supplied with food in cooperation with local residents.


Until well into the 19th century, “western” nature observers ascribed the house cat only negative qualities such as thieving, loveless and insidious. Noble cats, on the other hand, were praised for their gentleness. The naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon , for example, found little good in the normal house cat, but gave tips for breeding Carthusian and Angora cats . Pedigree cats are therefore still considered more affectionate, domestic, calmer and more intelligent than domestic cats, which, however, turns out to be incorrect on closer inspection. House cats come in all color combinations, eye colors and all coat lengths. Pedigree cats have been selected for a certain appearance, coat pattern and behavior for generations .


Cat breeding requires patience and a good knowledge of animals as well as a solid knowledge of heredity, whereby the individual will and loneliness of cats stand in the way of systematic breeding attempts. In order to keep animals healthy and in line with the ideal of breeding, their parents must not have any inheritable health or cosmetic defects . Most clubs or associations only allow “standard” cats for breeding that have received the form mark “excellent” at least once at an exhibition in the open class. Only cats with a pedigree from a recognized breed club are pedigree cats .

The breed standards are bindingly set by international umbrella organizations such as FIFe , WCF , GCCF , CFA , TICA , to which national breed clubs are affiliated, but may differ slightly depending on the umbrella organization.

Cat breeding has and continues to produce a whole range of cat breeds . These new breeds are then approved by the various umbrella organizations - or not. American associations such as TICA and the CFF are usually the pioneers in terms of “new approval”, rather than the more conservative Europeans.

Breeding with cats that inherit significant health defects is a violation of Section 11b of the Animal Welfare Act in Germany (torture breeding). Examples of torture breeding are certain characteristics that are considered typical of the breed and that are too pronounced: Some Persian cats with deformed noses and mouths often have breathing problems, snore and have difficulty ingesting their food. In addition, the tear ducts are blocked by the flat nose, so that your eyes are constantly watering. In addition, the hereditary cystic kidney disease ( polycystic kidney disease , PKD ) in this breed a serious problem. In the Maine Coon often occurs in the so-called show lines hip dysplasia on.


Norwegian forest cat

In the 18th century the social recognition of cats increased, so that the number of cat owners from the nobility and bourgeoisie could now record a strong increase. The breeding and selection of special breeds experienced its first heyday. At the beginning of the 19th century there were enough cat lovers to organize public meetings and have the most beautiful animals awarded by professional breeders and amateurs. Harrison Weir , the writer, poet, passionate cat lover and member of the Horticultural Society , held the first public cat show on July 13, 1871 at London's Crystal Palace . With this big cat show the official history of regular exhibitions began. In the Victorian era these gatherings became the occasion for social gatherings of the English upper class.

Over time, breeders began to use these shows to introduce their new breeds and to work on spreading them. In 1887 the National Cat Club (NCC) was founded as the first cat breeders' association to record and catalog the pedigrees of the breeds. The association was replaced in 1910 by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). In 1938 the Cat Association of Great Britain (CAGB) was founded as an alternative organization.

Meanwhile, interest in pedigree cats spread rapidly in Europe and the USA . In March 1881, the first cat show in the USA was organized at the Bunnel Museum in Boston . But especially the large cat show , based on the English model by James T. Hyde in Madison Square Garden in New York on May 5, 1895, increased the popularity of pedigree cats. Over time, several organizations emerged in this vast country, the largest of which was the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA). In the individual countries of Europe, national associations and sometimes several alternative organizations were founded, which were usually combined in the Féderation Internationale Féline (FIFe) as an umbrella organization.


Cats are divided into classes according to breed, color, gender and previous successes at shows and assessed by the judges according to the standards set for each breed according to a certain point system. The total number of points determines whether the animal is rated “good”, “very good” or “excellent”. Cats rated as “excellent” are suitable for breeding without restrictions and may apply for the title Certificat d'Aptitude au Championnat (CAC), the eligibility for the champion. If they get the CAC at three shows, they are considered champions .

To rise from champion to international champion , the cat must achieve the title Certificat d'Aptitude au Championnat International de Beauté (CACIB) at three other shows . As a champion she will now be judged by international judges. As a rule, she will have to take part in exhibitions abroad. If she then received the title Certificat d'Aptitude au Grand Championnat International de Beauté (CAGCIB or CAGCI) three times as an international champion , she is considered an international grand champion .

The international grand champion can rise even further. Next up is the qualification for the title Certificat d'Aptitude au Championnat d'Europe (CACE). It becomes a European champion , it can carry the title Certificat d'Aptitude au Grand Championnat d'Europe (CAGCE) for European Grand Champion will be.

Evaluation guidelines for house cats

House cats are in no way inferior to their conspecifics with pedigree in the beauty contests. Some of the big umbrella organizations give them extra prizes and titles. Every year at the end of each show season, the American umbrella organization TICA honors not only the most beautiful pedigree cats but also its best domestic cats ( HHP ). The GCCF has issued an additional standard for domestic cats, and there is a guideline for judges from the ACFA and CFA on how to evaluate a domestic cat. European associations and clubs even award titles for domestic cats.

GCCF standard point scale: Household Pet (HHP)

beauty 25 points
character 15 points
Condition + coat 30 points
Face + ears 15 points
Balance + proportions 15 points
All in all 100 points

Cats in art and culture

Da Vinci: Study sheet with cats, dragons and other animals (1513/15)
Édouard Manet : Woman with a cat on her lap (around 1880)

Visual arts

Cats were used as a motif in art from an early age. In ancient Egypt in particular , the cat played a decisive role in the representation. There are many pictures and statues of cats in Egyptian monuments and burial chambers. They are also found on Greek coins from the 5th century BC. Pictured BC. They later formed motifs from Roman mosaics and paintings and were depicted on coins, shields and pottery. The 8th century Book of Kells also shows miniatures of cats. During the Renaissance , the cat was rediscovered in European art. Leonardo da Vinci created the first cat picture. Albrecht Dürer drew a cat, Adam and Eve lying at their feet, in his graphic of the Fall. Jan Brueghel the Elder painted the cat concert . Several works by the Italian painter Tintoretto also show cats.

The French impressionist Manet , who painted the woman with the cat on her lap , was an outspoken cat lover. Renoir's romantic relationship with the cat is evident in the pictures Woman with Cat and Young Girl with Cat . Cats can also be seen in some of the works of the artist Toulouse-Lautrec .

In the 19th century, the Swiss Gottfried Mind (called "Katzen-Raffael") and the Saxon Fedor Flinzer were particularly known for their cat pictures. At the beginning of the 20th century, the cat remained a popular motif. Franz Marc , whose preference was for animals, painted The White Cat (see illustration). In the works of the painters Raoul Dufy , Paul Klee , Max Beckmann and Balthus , depictions of cats can also be found. Stylized cat pictures by Rosina Wachtmeister and porcelain figurines based on them have been popular collector's items since the end of the 20th century .


Since about 3050 BC Chr. Is Bastet in Egypt worshiped. She is considered the wife of the sun god Re , mother of the lion god Mahes and in separate traditions also as the mother of Nefertem and Anubis . She is known as the goddess of love, the power of procreation, strength and goodness. As a moon cat, she guarded the sun at night, among other things, and fought the serpent of darkness, the sun's mortal enemy. In the beginning she was often depicted with a lion's head and equated with the goddess Sachmet . Sachmet is bloodthirsty and represents the destructive power of the sun, while Bastet is seen as the beneficial power of the sun. But it was not until the Middle Kingdom of Egypt that the cat was declared the sacred animal of Bastet, and later it was no longer depicted with a lion's head, but with a cat's head. She also got softer and friendlier features. In her honor, women performed music and dance, and ship processions and orgiastic ceremonies took place.

Bastet is represented as a woman with an animal head or as a whole animal. In the cat-head depiction, she usually holds the sistrum (a cultic instrument that is supposed to drive out the darkness and testifies to a connection with the gods Isis and Hathor ), a box, chains, a young kitten as a sign of the mother goddess or a papyrus stick as a scepter. The papyrus plant is the symbol for "flourishing" and the heraldic plant of Lower Egypt , where Bubastis was. In Bubastis, the main cult city of Bastet, there was also a huge cat cemetery.

Egyptian cat worship was so strong that it had to be justified within Islam . The Qur'an therefore contains a story of Muhammad's favorite cat in memory of ancient popular beliefs . Cats are often used in Islamic miracle stories. There were Sufi orders that kept cats as guards in their monasteries. The term sakīna , mentioned several times in the Koran, stands for a state of soul in which the believer experiences the divine presence. According to popular belief, Sakina could be seen as a cat or as a hybrid being with a cat's head. The early Islamic fighters are said to have carried an ark ( carrying chair, also tābūt ) with them in the battle , which, if a cat's cry emerged, magically helped to victory. In Islam, the cat is considered a pure animal, in Moroccan popular Islam it is also afflicted with baraka (power of blessing). What the cat has previously eaten should also be digestible for humans, which is why cats are fed at some shrines.

In the mythology of Persian Zoroastrianism , the cat ( Middle Persian gurbag ) was the work of the devil. A Zoroastrian priests of the 9th century n. Chr. Declared that the cat is out of the combination of Dschamschids emerged sister Dschamak with demons.

In other cultures, the cat also plays an important role in mythology. For example, Shashthi , the Hindu goddess of childbirth, is shown riding a cat. Freya , the Nordic goddess of love and fertility, rides in a carriage pulled by two cats. As a symbol for the moon , the cat embodies its secret.

In East Timor's popular belief , cats are considered sacred. If you kill a cat, you and your offspring are said to be cursed up to the seventh generation. Cats are kept away from the corpse at funerals because, according to superstition, the dead, ruled by evil spirits, come back to life when a cat jumps over them.

Cats are sometimes worshiped as Nekogami in Japanese Shinto . In addition, Maneki-neko figures ("waving cats") are considered good luck charms, Bakeneko and Nekomata are cat-shaped demons.


Title page of a French book with the story of Puss in Boots
The carriage of the goddess Freya was pulled by two cats.

A legend from the oriental fairy tale treasure tells of a plague of mice and rats during the great flood . There was a threat of famine as the supplies were already badly gnawed. Out of desperation, Noah sought advice from the lion, who was about to take his afternoon nap with his lioness. The King of the Beasts listened to Noah, winked at his lioness, but said nothing. Noah turned away, disappointed, and thoughtfully stroked the lioness' head. At this moment the lioness sneezed vigorously. Two maneless mini lions rose from her nose - the first pair of cats. The two mini-lions quickly got hold of the plague. Humans and animals were enthusiastic - with the exception of the mice and rats.

In the world-famous fairy tale of Puss in Boots , which the Brothers Grimm added to their collection and which Ludwig Tieck worked on as a comedy for the theater, the cat also plays a leading role in other fairy tales, such as The Poor Miller's Boy and the Kitten .

According to a Hungarian legend, Eva is said to have arisen from the tail of a cat. When God took out Adam's rib to form the woman, the cat is said to have snatched it. She ran away, but God caught her tail and formed Eve out of it. In Romania, on the other hand, it is said that the cat emerged from the woman. Their name was Kata, and that is why the newly created living being was so named.

Some legends are also passed down about Muezza , the cat of the Islamic prophet Mohammed . In order not to wake the animal sleeping in his arm, he is said to have cut off the sleeve of his robe without hesitation when he was called to prayer. It is also said that all cats fall to the ground with four paws because Muhammad patted the back of his favorite cat three times after returning from this prayer and gave it this gift, or according to another version, because he always stroked her tenderly. According to legend, a cat even gave birth to its young in the wide sleeve of its robe. In Islamic popular belief, the cat is the only animal that is so pure that water from which it has drunk is still suitable for washing before prayer.

The Islamic scholar Ibn Babshad was eating with friends on the roof of a mosque in Cairo when a cat passed by. They gave her a couple of bites and she carried them away, only to come back a little later and take a few more chunks off. Curiously he followed the cat and saw that she was feeding another, blind cat with the chunks. Allah's concern for the blind cat touched him so much that he gave up all his possessions and lived in poverty and trust in God until his death in 1067.

The cat was also worshiped by the Teutons . Two cats pull the carriage of the goddess Freya . Cat lovers and cat owners were under their protection.

A Chinese legend is that the Jade Emperor called all animals to discuss the signs of the zodiac with them. The animals should all appear in a specific place on a specific date. It was the rat's job to tell the cat when this meeting should take place. However, since the rat was deceitful, it gave the cat a wrong date. The cat appeared a day too late and was therefore not included in the zodiac signs (although the tiger is represented in the Chinese zodiac signs, it is not comparable to the common house cat in Asians). The rat's betrayal is believed to be the reason all cats love to hunt rats and mice.

In Zen -Buddhismus a story about a master who every night was disturbed by the monastery cat in meditation. So that she could no longer wander around, he always had her tied up during the evening meditation. Long after the Zen master's death, the cat was always tied up during evening meditation. And when the cat finally died, another was worried to tether it properly during the evening meditation. Centuries later, the Zen master's students wrote treatises on tying the cat during evening meditation.

In Japanese culture there are legends of the lucky Maneki-neko , as well as the "demons" ( Yōkai ) Bakeneko , Nekomata and Kasha .

In Europe , the legend is widely used by the Devil's Bridge. The necessity arose that the residents had to enlist the help of the devil in building a bridge. As a price for his performance, he claims the soul of the first living being to cross the bridge. On the day of the opening, the priest outwits the devil by making a black cat cross the bridge.

In one of his fables, the Greek Aesop tells of a cat who fell in love with a young man. Since her desire was so strong, the goddess Venus answered her prayer and turned her into a seductive young woman. Despite her human body, however, she chased every mouse she saw, whereupon the enraged goddess turned her back into a cat.

In the Finnish national epic Kalevala , the witch Louhi penetrates houses and conjures up all residents on a sledge pulled by a huge cat, which brings the prisoners to the border of Pohjola , the realm of night and evil spirits.

According to an old Polish legend, a cat complained that its cruel master had thrown its young in the river. With emotion and compassion, the willows by the river leaned their branches into the water so that the kittens could hold onto them and climb out. Since then, the flowers of the willow have a soft fur and are called "kittens".


Comics and cartoons

In many contemporary cartoons , cats are the main characters. For example in the cat thriller Felidae (1993), Walt Disney's family film Aristocats (1970) and in The Kingdom of Cats (2002) by Studio Ghibli . But there are also by no means adult characters, such as Fritz the Cat (1972) by Robert Crumb , in the cartoon of the same name.

In the Disney animated series Chip and Chap - The Knights of the Right , the criminal cat Al Katzone (alluding to Al Capone ) is one of the main opponents of the rodent rescue team. Also with Kater Karlo, the eternal opponent of Mickey Mouse and Goofy, a cat plays a rather negative role in a Disney film adaptation.

In 1917, Pat Sullivan created the comic figure Felix the Cat , in which a black cat is portrayed as a likable comedian. The cartoon series Tom and Jerry depicts the eternal fight between the house cat Tom and the witty mouse Jerry, in the cartoon series Sylvester and Tweety something similar takes place between the house cat Sylvester and the canary Tweety. The same New Year's Eve is also the antagonist of Speedy Gonzales , the fastest mouse in Mexico.

The title character of the comic book Garfield , a fat, lazy, red cat, served as a template for a cartoon series and two real-life adaptations in which the cat is 3D computer-animated.

The cartoon series The Simpsons has its own children's series called Itchy & Scratchy , in which the mouse Itchy kills the cat Scratchy in the most brutal way. This is a parody of Tom & Jerry . One episode of the series lasts about 30 seconds. The Simpsons also have a house cat named Snowball II.

In Japanese manga and anime , fantasy and science fiction stories mostly include people with cat features, such as cat ears ( nekomimi ), cat tails, paws and / or whiskers. The female form of the catgirls is particularly popular. Well-known characters are Merle from The Vision of Escaflowne , Nuku Nuku from Bannō Bunka Nekomusume or Elis from Asobi ni Iku yo! . There are also erotic drawings that show sometimes sweet, sometimes wild figures.

The manga What's Michael by Makoto Kobayashi and Chi's Sweet Home by Konami Kanata tell funny stories about the character peculiarities and peculiarities of cats. Cats also play an important role in the popular manga and anime series Ranma ½ . The main character Ranma is terrified of cats; the figure shampoo transforms into a cat on contact with cold water and back into a girl on contact with hot water. At Sailor Moon , the cats Luna and Artemis are important advisers to the “Sailor Warriors”.

The fairy tale motif of Puss in Boots is taken up in the animated films Shrek 2 and 3, as well as in the offshoot Der Puss in Boots (2011) .


Catwoman , originally a comic book character, is the female counterpart to Batman , a superheroine and Batman's opponent with feline features, played in films by Michelle Pfeiffer ( Batman Returns ), Halle Berry ( Catwoman ) and Anne Hathaway ( The Dark Knight Rises ).

The Cat from Outer Space is an extraterrestrial tomcat with related skills in a1977 science fiction parody.

In his last film Madadayo (1993) Akira Kurosawa showed the sensei and literary figure Hyakken Uchida, deeply depressed and close to suicide because of a runaway cat; when a new one finally arrives, the viewer is happy with him. The dramaturgically similar cat in Breakfast at Tiffany's will also not be forgotten .

The cat with a hat (based on the children's book of the same name by the author couple Simon and Desi Ruge ) is a classic from the Augsburger Puppenkiste , which is also dedicated to the cat Mikesch .

In the comedy Cats & Dogs , cats try to take over the world.

Based on a true story, Bob the Stray (2016) is about a friendship between a stray cat and a street musician struggling with drugs and homelessness.

Recovery of the body

Cat meat

Cats before slaughter in an East Asian market

Domestic cats are used and consumed as meat suppliers in various countries, including China. Cat meat is used in some areas of China and Korea to prepare regional dishes. In Guangzhou , cat and snake meat is regularly served in a dish called "The Dragon and the Tiger."

In many countries, cat meat is a food taboo . By law it must in Germany not as a food won, and in many other countries not as food, used, traded, or placed on the market are.

Cat fur

The extraction and use of cat fur, for example for fur clothing, has a long tradition. Importing and placing on the market is now prohibited in the EU.


Top views of the skull: top left wild cat, top right house cat, below hybrid of wild and house cat. Above all, this comparison shows that they are the same species.

Compared to wild animals, domestic cats have enormous survival advantages through the care of humans. Accordingly, their number is much higher than that of wild predators . In Switzerland, for example, there are ten times more domestic cats than foxes.

Since a large part of the cats enjoy temporary freedom and because of the semi-wild populations , this animal form has an influence on the natural ecosystem. In Germany, up to two million wild animals are estimated - this number has not been verified. Basically, it must be assumed that the spread of feral domestic cats has led to displacement, population threat and probably also to the extinction of some endemic animal species in overseas ecosystems. In addition, hybridization with European wild cats and in Africa with black cats can occur.

Domestic cats and wild cats

In areas where the European wildcat occurs, there is the possibility of genetic mixing ( hybridization ) with domestic cats, as some studies have shown. From a nature conservation point of view, such a hybridization is viewed critically, as the continued existence of an endemic species is influenced or endangered. In the affected areas, there are discussions about the prohibition of keeping domestic cats, about sterilization or hunting. However, from a population genetic point of view, no changes in cat hybrids that would have adverse effects are known to date.

Feral domestic cats can pose a significant threat to wild cat populations through the transmission of pet disease and hybridization .

Effect on prey

Domestic cat with a captured bird
Domestic cat with a captured hare
Domestic cat with a captured mallard

Critics ornithologists often argue that no species of bird has been proven to have been extinct by cats on the mainland. However, it is ignored that bird populations can be temporarily wiped out, at least at the local level. In most studies, birds represent the second largest proportion of captured animal species after small mammals (e.g. mice). Even conservative estimates of birds killed by domestic cats in North America consider domestic cat predation to be one of the most important anthropogenic influences on mortality of small animals. Particularly in areas with high predation pressure, such as cities, certain bird species can only survive due to the immigration of birds. However, so far no scientific proof has been produced that bird species could be endangered by domestic cats beyond the extent of a local population. However, this does not mean that cats have no influence on the population numbers. Such a conclusion, which some conservationists like to make, would completely ignore the projections of many studies on the subject. However, habitat degradation is by far the biggest problem for birds and not cats.

A study by US researchers on the feeding behavior of stray cats from 50 years and from four continents found that small mammals account for about 70% and birds about 20% of the prey. Loss et al. estimate that free-range cats in the United States kill between 1.3-4.0 billion birds and 6.3-22.3 billion mammals annually. The majority of these animals would fall victim to cats that did not belong to anyone.

The authors of the survey and assessment of neozoa in Germany at the University of Rostock came to the conclusion in 2002 on behalf of the Federal Environment Agency that domestic cats are one of the “most important damaging neozoa in Germany” and that their potential danger is very high.

A photo study in the Swiss Jura , which was supposed to determine the spread of the pine marten, documented nightly forays by stray house cats as a side effect. Many of them were also photographed a few hundred meters from the nearest houses. This is due to the fact that cats, especially at night and in rural areas, enlarge their home range a lot than in urban areas during the day. Since many cats had a collar and were therefore probably fed regularly, it was assumed that they were not in the forest because of the necessary food intake, but because of their hunting instinct. Some images showed cats with mice, but other studies also showed hunting from smaller mammals to young rabbits, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects.

Isolated land masses

In isolated island ecosystems and on land masses such as the Australian continent, domestic cats pose a particular threat, as originally there were no domestic predators comparable to domestic cats and the prey therefore lacked evolutionary adaptations. Numerous studies show that domestic cats have weakened or wiped out the populations of many, sometimes endemic, species there. Due to the relative isolation, this proof is easier to provide on islands than on the mainland. In New Zealand, for example, many of the flightless birds have been wiped out by introduced rats and feral domestic cats. The kiwi, also a flightless bird, is seriously threatened in its existence. The considerable reduction in the populations of the Banks Black Cockatoo , the Golden Short-nosed Butler and the Lesueur Brush Kangaroo and the thwarting of reintroduction measures for these animal species by feral domestic cats in Western Australia has also been proven with certainty.

In this context, however, the domestic cat itself has become prey: some Australian Aborigines , some of whom still live from hunting and gathering , eat cats. This has created a corrective in the ecosystem that has reduced the harmful effects of cats on species diversity .

Studies are also available for New Zealand, Polynesia and various islands in the Caribbean, all of which are listed in the database of the World Conservation Organization IUCN . The IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group has classified the domestic cat among the "100 most serious invasive species worldwide" based on the available studies.

In Madagascar , where there were no cats before the human settlement , so-called "forest cats" occur, which are called "Ampaha", "Fitoaty" or "Kary" by the locals. They are larger than house cats and have a relatively uniform coat of paint in a tabby pattern . The comparison of DNA samples from different regions of the island with genetic information from domestic cats around the world showed that the ancestors of the Malagasy cats came from the Arab region, more precisely from the Persian Gulf , and from India. They were probably introduced by Arab sailors hundreds, maybe over a thousand years ago, and then feral. So far it has not been possible to prove in Madagascar that the cats have become a catastrophe for the native fauna.

Remedial action

In order to reduce the hunting success of the cats, necklaces with bells were advertised (so-called cat bells), which should warn prey animals acoustically at an early stage. However, these were not effective in birds, while many cats felt disturbed by the bells.

Studies have shown that brightly colored scarves, especially in red and rainbow colors, effectively reduce the success of birds hunting. At the same time, the majority of the cats did not feel disturbed. The scarves were less effective with regard to mammals, as they are less visually oriented.



In Germany, cats that are poaching can be killed within the scope of hunting protection in accordance with Section 23 of the Federal Hunting Act, in accordance with the more precise provisions of the hunting laws of the federal states, by those authorized to hunt, i.e. the respective authorized hunters or confirmed game overseers . In the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, according to official statistics, 8607 poaching cats were counted in the hunting route in the 2014/15 season , 1263 of which were fallen game . In the 2014/15 hunting season 421 cats were reported killed in Hesse.

In mid-2015, with a reform of the state hunting law, the killing of cats was banned in North Rhine-Westphalia. In the opinion of the responsible ministry, domestic cats can only be shot in exceptional cases, namely if the responsible districts or urban districts do so. B. consider necessary for the permanent protection of biological diversity or for the defense against an acute risk of epidemics. The ban on shooting cats leads to a heavy burden on lost property offices and animal shelters in North Rhine-Westphalia. The municipality of Ascheberg refused to accept a cat brought by a hunter on the grounds that it could not house the animals in an animal welfare manner. The Higher Administrative Court of Münster then decided on August 4, 2016 that municipal lost property offices must accept cats found by hunters, despite problems with housing. The municipalities are fundamentally obliged to provide an animal welfare-friendly accommodation and care. Shooting bans in accordance with state law have also been implemented in Saarland and Baden-Württemberg. In areas where the protected wildcat is found , the responsible ministries generally recommend that you generally refrain from shooting wild cats.


In Switzerland, feral domestic cats can be hunted all year round.

Trivia and popular culture

  • Numerous places, people or objects are named after cats or body parts of cats, for example Katzer , Katzenelnbogen , Katzbach , Katzenbuckel , Katzenkopf , Kattenbach .
  • In German-speaking Switzerland , house cats are generally also called Büsi , the tomcat Rölli or Reuel ; this term is often used in the southern German or Alemannic language area.
  • A more recent phenomenon of net culture are cat pictures with humorous titles according to special rules, the so-called lolcats .
  • Popularly, cats are said to have "seven lives" because of their toughness. In the Anglo-Saxon language area there are "nine".
  • The expression "This is for the cat" or "Everything for the cat" is an expression for the fact that something was in vain.
  • The Hoax Bonsai Kitten states that cats are raised in bottles.
  • The " International Cat Day " takes place every year on August 8th .


Web links

Commons : Domestic Cat ( Felis catus )  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: cat  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikisource: Cats  - Sources and Full Texts
Wikiquote: Cat  Quotes

Individual evidence

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