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Fascination for cats

Where did our domestic cats originate?
All domestic cats that now live as family pets descend from the African wildcat. African wild cats can be found across Africa and Western Asia. They measure approximately 50 centimetres from their heads to the tip of their tails and weigh 5 to 6 kilograms – just like the majority of domestic cats. They have sandy-coloured fur with dark stripes, and the tips of their hair are dark. Wild African wildcats live in the desert or savannah, and they also like to live among rocks near villages.

More than 40 breeds of cat have emerged over the course of the millennia, all descended from the African wildcat. They differ in terms of the length of their fur, eye and fur colour, in size and in their nature. The cat breed with the longest fur is the Persian, whose fur is around 15 centimetres in length, whilst the Siamese cat has the shortest fur, at just a few millimetres. The biggest pure breed of cat is the Maine Coon, which can grow to up to one metre long. The smallest is the Singapura, which never becomes bigger than a young domestic kitten. The most affectionate breed is the "Rag doll" breed. It was given this name because it likes being carried around like a rag doll. The wildest breed of cat is the Savannah, whose ancestors include the serval (a small wild cat). The best known breed is the blue British Shorthair, traditionally bred in the United Kingdom. It is also known as the Chartreux.

The cat's build
All cats are predators. They use their perfectly built bodies for hunting. They are slim and muscular, with long legs and a highly flexible spinal column. Their strong jaws can grab, hold, kill and crush their prey. They are able to retract their claws for prowling or stalking their prey. They protract their claws when climbing or to pounce on and hold their prey.

Their entire bodies are covered in fur, with the exception of their noses and the pads of their paws. Their fur consists of short, thick wool, also known as the undercoat, and a topcoat of longer, fine hair that determines the colour of the fur. Cats have tactile hairs called vibrissae, more commonly known as whiskers, on both cheeks. They also have such tactile hairs on their foreheads. Cats use them to detect obstacles in the dark, and to sense temperatures. Cats have 30 teeth – 16 on their upper jaw and 14 on their lower jaw. The dagger-like canines are the sharpest. Cats also have molars, which include the blade-like carnassials or sectorial teeth. Cats' paws, which come in contact with the ground when they walk, correspond to our fingers and toes. Cats are digitigrades, which means that they walk only on their toes. Their hands and feet never touch the ground. On each front paw, cats have five claws, and on back paws they have four.

Sharpened senses
A cat can move its large funnel-like outer ears independently of one another. This means they do not need to turn their heads as we do if they want to hear something more clearly. They have a very fine sense of hearing. A cat can even hear a mouse running deep in the grass.

At night, cats open their black pupils completely. They become big and round. This allows light from the moon or stars to fall on the tapetum lucidum, a layer of skin immediately behind the cat's eyeball. This bundles the weak light and reflects it back through the retina, so that the cat sees everything better than we do.

Cats do not use their sense of smell when hunting. They do however use their noses to detect the scents of other cats. They can smell whether they are male or female and whether they are ready for mating.

Cat food
An adult cat (approximately 4 kilograms) needs at least three meals per day. The individual amount of cat food depends on the age, breed, level of activity and conditions in which the animal is kept. Ready-made cat food from the supermarket or a specialist pet shop contains everything a cat needs for a healthy diet. What is healthy for us is often harmful to cats and much too strongly seasoned. You should therefore never feed your cat on your leftovers.

You should not give them rewards too often, as these can never replace a complete and nutritious diet. The feeding recommendations on the packaging should certainly be followed.

Source: Faszination Katze IVH (www.ivh-online.de)
(German Industrial Association of Pet Care Producers)