Meaning of CAT in English


(family Felidae), any of a group of carnivorous mammals that includes the true catslion, tiger, jaguar, leopard, puma, and domestic catand the cheetah . Cats typically have soft fur, often strikingly patterned. See also domestic cat. The history of the cat family can be traced through the fossil record to the Late Eocene Epoch (43.6 to 36.6 million years ago). The cat pattern seems to have been established very early in the evolution of modern mammals, for the early cats were already typical cats at a time when the ancestors of most other modern mammalian types were scarcely recognizable. Typical cats (subfamily Felinae) appeared about 10 million years ago and have continued almost unchanged into modern times. In 1916 R.I. Pocock, of the London Zoo, divided the living cats into two groups on the basis of the structure of the hyoid apparatus, a series of connected bones at the base of the tongue. In one group of cats one of the hyoid bones (the epihyal) fails to develop and is represented only by a threadlike ligament, so that tongue and larynx are loosely attached to the base of the skull. This group includes the big cats: the tiger, lion, jaguar, leopard, and ounce (snow leopard), which are placed together in the genus Panthera; the clouded leopard also is sometimes placed in this genus. These cats are unable to purr; their voice is a roar and the pupils of their eyes are round. Some authorities use the genus name Leo (instead of Panthera) for this group. In the second group, the genus Felis, the hyoid develops normally; all such cats can purr but do not roar. The pupil is usually vertical but may be round in a few species. The genus Felis includes the mountain lion and the numerous kinds of smaller cats including the domestic cat. Some authorities do not consider Panthera and Felis to be distinct genera. The Canada lynx and bobcat are often placed in a separate genus, Lynx. The cheetah, or hunting leopard, has a normal hyoid but has nonretractile claws and differs from all other cats in other ways; it is placed alone in the genus Acinonyx. The cats are the most highly specialized of the flesh-eating mammals. They are powerfully built animals, so well coordinated that they almost always land on their feet when they fall or are dropped. The brain is large and highly developed. In keeping with a carnivorous habit the cat has a simple gut; the small intestine is only about three times the length of the body. The tongue in all cats has a patch of sharp, backward-directed spines near the tip, which has the appearance and feel of a coarse file; these spines help the cat lap up liquids and groom itself. The most characteristic and specialized features are in the teeth and claws. The teeth are adapted to three functions; stabbing (canines), anchoring (canines), and cutting (molars). Cats have no flat-crowned crushing teeth and thus cannot chew their food but instead cut it up. Some teeth are nonfunctional; most of the cheek teeth do not even meet when the mouth is closed. All cats (except the cheetah) have strong, sharp, retractile claws. Although the lion, tiger, and cheetah are mainly terrestrial in habit, they are agile climbers, while the leopard, jaguar, and ocelot are very much at home in trees, where they bound from limb to limb and sometimes sleep. The larger cats range over large areas. Big cats in the wild often rove alone or with a companion; occasionally one may become a member of a family group, as among lions where a pride may consist of as many as 23 individuals. These loosely bound groups lack the rigid dominance order found in dog and wolf packs. Although most cats are night hunters, a few are more active during the day, like the cheetah. Typically solitary while hunting, a cat steals up on prey on padded feet and overwhelms it in a short, quick rush or leap. It can move very fast in a short dash but is not built for sustained speed. The cheetah generally is credited with being the speediest of mammals, capable of speeds of 100110 km per hour (with rare reports of even higher speeds); a cheetah may also pursue a prey for a considerable distance, as much as 5.5 km. Cats generally are nocturnal in habit. The retina of the cat's eye is made extra sensitive to light by a layer of guanine, which causes the eye to shine at night in a strong light. The cat's sense of smell, well-developed particularly in the adult, is crucial to its evaluation of food, so that a cat whose nasal passages become clogged in illness may appear to lose its appetite completely. All cats are adapted by nature to be strict flesh eaters, an assumption made primarily on the basis of their alimentary tract and their dentition. The disposition to cleanliness is well established among cats; they groom themselves with their rasplike tongues, preening at length after a meal. Cats differ in their reaction to water: the lion and the leopard are reluctant to enter it (they can swim when they must). House cats do not dislike water but react adversely to being chilled or doused with cold water. Nervous tail wagging is common to all cats, from the lion to the house cat; it is learned from the mother and is associated with early play, a prelude to adult habits of predation.

Britannica English vocabulary.      Английский словарь Британика.