The domestic Cat
The domestic cat is widespread throughout the world. In Germany, it lives in over 8 million households, making it one of the most popular pets. On average, it lives to be 15 to 20 years old. It is said that the oldest cat in the world lived to be 38 years old. An adult domestic cat is about 50 cm long. The tail can be 25-30 cm long. The coat is striped, brindled or spotted and usually has black, red or brown tones. The physique alone shows that cats are not constant runners, but rather lurking hunters. The ears can be moved in different directions, the hind legs have strong jumping muscles. Their claws lie in skin pockets in the paws and can be extended if necessary.
Cats can primarily perceive movements with their sense of vision. Their fine hearing and the ability to perceive direction help in hunting. Their sense of touch is extremely highly developed. The whiskers on the upper and lower lips are connected to the nervous system with their roots. They have tactile receptors all over their body. The front paws enable the perception of prey by ground vibrations. Cats are not afraid of heights and have a good sense of balance. When falling, they reflexively turn into the prone position and thus land safely on all four paws.
A cat learns its hunting behaviour from its mother. If she does not hunt, her kittens cannot learn to hunt. Cats are social animals and often join together in groups. They recognise each other by smell and communicate through sounds and body language. Many sounds have only developed through living together with humans. Cats have a completely different body language than dogs, which leads to misunderstandings between the animals. A dog that wags its tail shows pleasure, but a cat interprets this as a threat.
In Ancient Egypt, people began to keep the African wild cat as a pet. It is therefore considered to be the ancestor of the domestic cat. An Egyptian deity was depicted as a cat and therefore the animals were regarded as sacred. In Far Eastern countries such as Japan, China and Thailand, cats are still worshipped as deities or feared as demons. The cat probably came to Europe in ancient times via Greece and Rome. In the Middle Ages, cats were kept to control mice infestation. Due to superstition, they were often feared as companions of witches and the devil.
Nowadays, cats are popular figures and motifs in art and culture. Films like Walt Disney's “Aristocats”, the musical “Cats” or the comic character “Garfield” have cult status. Cat pictures are shared on the internet, and 8th August has been declared annual International Cat Day.