A cat (lat. Felis catus) is a pet, one of the most popular (along with a dog) «companion animals».
From the point of view of scientific taxonomy, the domestic cat is a mammal of the cat family of the carnivora order. Some researchers consider the domestic cat as a subspecies of the wild cat, others as a separate biological species.
As a solitary hunter of rodents and other small animals, the cat is a social animal using a wide range of vocal cues as well as pheromones and body movements to communicate.
Currently, there are about 600 million domestic cats in the world , about 200 breeds have been bred, from long-haired (Persian cat) to hairless (Sphinxes), recognized and registered by various felinological organizations.
For 10,000 years, cats have been prized by humans, including for their ability to hunt rodents and other household pests and for their ability to amuse and comfort children.
In 1758, Carl Linnaeus, in his System of Nature, gave the domestic cat the binomial name Felis catus. Johann Christian von Schreber named the wild cat Felis silvestris in 1775.
There are other names in the literature that are used as the international scientific (Latin-language) name of the domestic cat: Felis catus domesticus, Felis silvestris domesticus, as well as the name Felis domesticus (originally Felis domestica) proposed in 1777 by Johann Christian Polycarp Erxleben in the Elements of Natural Science , since the word Felis in those days was considered feminine).
As the Russian name of this taxon in the scientific (popular science) literature, both the expression “domestic cat” (or “domestic cat”), and simply the word “cat” are used.
In 2003, the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature decided to assign the name Felis silvestris to the wild cat, and the name Felis silvestris catus to its domesticated subspecies, while it was agreed that if in any classification the domestic cat will be described as a separate species, then in this case the combination proposed by Linnaeus, Felis catus, should be used for the name of the corresponding taxon.
Based on data obtained by modern phylogenetics, the domestic cat is one of the five subspecies of the wild cat Felis silvestris, and its correct international scientific name is Felis silvestris catus. In 2017, a major article was published in which the domestic cat was singled out as a separate species.
According to a genetic study of autosomal markers and mitochondrial DNA of 979 domestic, wild and feral cats from three continents, including dune cats (Felis margarita), all domestic cats on the maternal side are descended from at least five representatives of the subspecies steppe cat (Felis silvestris lybica), with different mitochondrial DNA haplotypes. In mitochondrial haplogroup IV, specific for Middle Eastern and domestic cats, 6 subclades were identified and the lifetime of a common ancestor was calculated — approx. 13 thousand years ago, which significantly exceeds the time of the alleged domestication of Middle Eastern cats. A genetic analysis of the mitochondrial DNA of 209 cats from 30 burials in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa showed that domestic cats spread around the world in two large waves. The first wave took place at the dawn of agriculture 12-9 thousand years ago — in the Fertile Crescent and its environs, domestic cats settled along with farmers throughout the Middle East. A few thousand years later, the second wave, which emerged from Egypt, covered almost all of Europe and North Africa.
The separation of the subspecies Felis silvestris lybica occurred about 130 thousand years ago. The steppe cat is still distributed throughout North Africa and in a vast zone from the Mediterranean to China, where it lives in saxaul thickets in deserts, in bushes near water bodies, in foothills and mountains. Although small wild cats of different subspecies can interbreed and produce offspring, the results of genetic studies have shown that other subspecies of Felis silvestris, except for the steppe cat, did not participate in the phylogeny of the domestic cat .