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The National Humane Education Society
Domestic Cat
Most scientists believe the first wild cats arose from the African wildcat of northern Africa and
the Middle East. African wildcats aren’t big like lions or tigers. In fact, the average African
wildcat weighs only 15 pounds. Ancient Egyptians were among the first people to live closely
with African wildcats and helped to domesticate them. Egyptians admired their feline friends so
much that a few Egyptian gods took the form of cats. To hurt a cat in ancient Egypt was a
serious crime. Cats who died were sometimes mummified in a similar fashion as Egyptian
rulers, known as pharaohs.
Much like their ancestors and wild cousins, domestic cats are able to run quickly, climb trees,
jump tall heights and see in near darkness. They have sharp retractable claws and can hear
sounds too high-pitched to be detected by the human ear. The instinct to use these gifts to stalk
and kill prey is very much alive even within indoor pet cats. Like dogs, cats communicate using
body language and a variety of sounds like meowing, hissing, purring and even growling. Cats
also leave “scent messages.” When a cat rubs their face against a fencepost or runs their claws
down a tree, they are using scent glands on their face or paw pads to leave a message for other
cats. The message often says, “This is my territory; other cats beware!”
The modern domestic cat doesn’t belong in the wild. Domestic felines who are cast out by their
owners may form colonies that consist of three to thirty cats. Colonies usually form around a
common food source such as a dumpster or fishing harbor. Cats living in colonies are often not
spayed or neutered, meaning they can have many kittens. They are also likely to get sick
because diseases spread rapidly from one cat to another when they live close together. For
reasons like these, domestic cats belong in a home with people who love and care for them.
The National Humane Education Society
Color the continent where the domestic cat originated.
Fill in the blanks to complete the sentences.
Cats communicate using scent markers, body language and _____________________.
Cats belong in a ______________ where people will love and care for them.
Stray cat colonies form around a common __________ source.
Answer the word problem using multiplication.
Muffin is a stray cat who wasn’t spayed, which means she can
have kittens. In 2014, she had three litters of kittens. Each of
her litters consisted of five kittens. How many kittens did Muffin
have in 2014? _________