Felines (Encyclopedia of Science)
Felines, generally known as cats, are mammals in the family Felidae of the order Carnivora. Cats are the most carnivorous of all meat-eating animals. The predatory instinct in wild cats can be seen in the domestic cats, for even well-fed domestic cats will hunt mice and birds. Members of the cat family occur naturally in all parts of the world, except Australia and Antarctica.
The cat family includes both big cats (lions, tigers, and leopards) and small cats (lynx, servals, and ocelots). Small cats purr but do not roar, whereas big cats roar but do not purr. The reason for this difference is that the tongue muscles of large cats are attached to a pliable cartilage at the base of the tongue, which allows roaring. In contrast, the tongue muscles of small cats are attached to the hyoid bone, which allows purring, but not roaring.
Most cats have 30 teeth, including large canine and carnassial teeth, and few cheek teeth. This arrangement is well suited to crushing bones and tearing, cutting, and gripping prey. Cats' jaws are limited to vertical movements, and their chewing action is aided by sharp projections on the tongue (papillae) that grip and manipulate food.
Evolution and history
Modern cats first appeared about 25 million years ago. One of the earliest members of the family was the saber-toothed tiger, which lived in...
(The entire section is 2948 words.)
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