- The Animal Encyclopedia for Kids


Cat Facts

Size Up to 17.7 inch (45 cm) (shoulder height); up to 48.4 inch (123 cm) (length)
Speed Up to 30 mph (48 km/h)
Weight 5.5-17.6 lb (2.5-8 kg)
Lifespan 12-15 years
Food Mice, rats, birds
Predators -
Habitat Everywhere in the world
Order Carnivore
Family Cats
Scientific name Felis silvestris catus
Characteristics Cats have been kept as pets since 9,500 years

Main Characteristics

The domestic cat originates from the wildcat. About 40 cat breeds have developed from this species. You can find the most beautiful cat breeds in our pet section.

Cat Photo: Silke/

Anatomy and Appearance


Aside from hearing, sight is one of the most important senses in cats. They see six times clearer than humans. And this despite the fact that they are born blind and deaf. Cats also see very well in the dark. This is due to three things: 1. Their pupils can be opened very wide. 2. They have a particularly large number of cones for light-dark vision. 3. They have a special layer behind the retina called "tapetum lucidum", which means "luminous carpet". It reflects the light that falls into the eye and helps the cat to see better at night. This is also the reason why cats' eyes glow at night when they are illuminated.


Cats have 32 muscles in each ear. This allows them to rotate their ears 180 degrees. Humans only have six ear muscles.


It is often said that cats use their whiskers as a kind of distance meter. This is how they would find out if they could fit through a hole. Or if they were too big or too thick for it. But: The whiskers don't become shorter or longer when the animals gain or lose weight. The whiskers also do not get longer with age. The length depends on the breed and the hereditary factors.


Cats have a long, rough tongue with hundreds of small, soft “spines“. They're called “papillae” and look like tiny hooks. The spines have many benefits. They don't just help with the taste. When cleaning the fur, they behave like a comb. When drinking, they help to move the water into the mouth.


There are five toes on the front paws and only four on the hind paws. Cats are toe walkers. That means they walk on their toes. In contrast, there are knuckle-walkers like chimpanzees and sole-walkers like bears and apex-walkers like ungulates.


Cats have around 230 bones. For comparison: a human being has around 206 bones and a dog has around 320 bones. The python snake has the most bones: it has 600 vertebrae and around 1,800 bones.

Cat Photo: Anna Hoychuk/Shutterstock

Senses and Abilities


Cats don't just meow. They can utter hundreds of sounds, dogs only about ten.

Electric Sense

Cats can detect vibrations in electric mains.

Broken Bones

If domestic cats, cougars, cheetahs and ocelots purr, they are producing sound waves that are transmitted through the air and can heal bone tissue. Sound waves in the range between 20 to 50 Hertz (measurement unit for frequency) also stimulate bone growth and improve the bone density of human beings.


Do They Like Sweets?

Even if cats could talk, it would not be possible for them to answer this question. You can't taste "sweet". That being said, too much sugar can trigger serious health problems.

Do They Tolerate Milk?

No. They shouldn't be given milk to drink because they are lactose intolerant. Lactose refers to the sugar in milk. They get digestive problems from it. Kittens only tolerate their mother's milk for the first four weeks of their lives.


They Clean Themselves to Calm Down

Cats groom themselves with their tongue and their paws. This is how they clean their fur. But they also do it to calm down. For example when they are stressed out or after fighting another animal.

Are There Cats That Like Water?

It is always said that cats do not like water. Or even that they are afraid of it. To understand the reason for this, you have to know that the animals do not have waterproof fur. The water doesn't drip off, they get cold quickly, and they're slower because wet fur is heavier. However, there are breeds that are very fond of water. They even swim. For example the Maine Coon, Turkish Angora, Norwegian Forest Cat, American Shorthair, Turkish Van and Bengal. Big cats like tigers and jaguars also like to swim.

Cat Photo: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Shutterstock


The Heaviest Cat

The heaviest domestic cat was the Australian tomcat Himmy with 46.9 pounds (21.3 kg). Guiness World Records decided to stop recording this category to prevent owners from overfeeding their pets.

The Largest Cat

Currently, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, Maine Coon are the largest species of domestic cats with a length of 48.4 inch (123 cm) (including the tail).


The Mirror Test

If a cat looks in a mirror, it sees a conspecific there. But it is ignored because it doesn't "smell" like a cat. They can't recognize themselves in the mirror.

Cat Breeds

Breeds Without Tail

There are breeds without any tail, such as the Manx cat. Apart from this the only ones without a tail are those that lost it in a fight or by accident.

Fun Facts

They Scare Away Black Bears

A domestic cat is able to frighten a black bear, so that it even climbs a tree to escape. Luckily, it does not need the help of a fire brigade in order to get back on the ground again.

Do They Get Sunburned?

Yes, cats can get sunburned. Learn more about that in our article.

Mail Cats 

At the beginning of the 19th century, cats helped to deliver letters. In 1897, 37 served as “postmen” in Belgian villages. Finally this concept was abandoned – not because of the dogs, but because the cats were rather unreliable ...

Cat Coffee

Viverrids produce the world’s most expensive coffee. They eat the coffee beans, which then pass through their bowels and get “refined”. Although this sounds rather disgusting, 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of this coffee is sold at about 774 dollar (700 euro). Only about 507 lb (230 kg) are produced per year.

The Cat Is Related To:

  • European Wildcat

Animals in the Same Biome:

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