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The biological family Felidae is a lineage of carnivorans. Colloquially, “cats.” However, the term “cat” refers both to felids in general and also to domestic cats.
These animals are well-adapted to their carnivorous lifestyle. That is, they have behaviors for ambush, stalking and short pursuit hunting. Moreover, they boast gracile and muscular bodies. Their forelimbs are strong and flexible, and they have retractable claws for holding prey. As if that weren’t enough, they display dental and cranial adaptations for a strong bite. Finally, their striped or spotted coats provide camouflage.
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they depend on nutrients in animal flesh for survival. Of the 13 terrestrial families in the order Carnivora, they are the strictest carnivores.
Living cats belong to two subfamilies: the Pantherinae and Felinae. The former comprises the “big cats” (the tiger, lion, jaguar, leopard, snow leopard, clouded leopard and Sunda clouded leopard). Meanwhile, felinae comprises all the non-pantherine cats. These range in size from the small rusty-spotted cat to the big cat–sized puma. It also includes such diverse forms as the lynx, ocelot, serval and cheetah, as well as the domestic cat.