The origin of the English word cat (Old English catt) and its counterparts in other Germanic languages (such as German Katze), descended from Proto-Germanic *kattōn-, is controversial.It has traditionally thought to be a borrowing from Late Latin cattus "domestic cat", from catta (used around 75 AD by Martial), The Late Latin word is generally thought to originate from an Afro-Asiatic language, but every proposed source word has presented problems.In certain areas outside cats' native range, this has contributed, along with habitat destruction and other factors, to the extinction of many bird species.

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and include lions, tigers, cougars and many others. Two main theories are given about how cats were domesticated.

Within this family, domestic cats (Felis catus) are part of the genus Felis, which is a group of small cats containing about seven species (depending upon classification scheme). In one, people deliberately tamed cats in a process of artificial selection as they were useful predators of vermin.

Cats can hear sounds too faint or too high in frequency for human ears, such as those made by mice and other small animals. Like most other mammals, cats have poorer color vision and a better sense of smell than humans.

Cats, despite being solitary hunters, are a social species and cat communication includes the use of a variety of vocalizations (mewing, purring, trilling, hissing, growling, and grunting), as well as cat pheromones and types of cat-specific body language.

Many pedigreed and especially purebred cats are exhibited as show cats.

Cats of unrecorded, mixed ancestry are referred to as domestic short-haired or domestic long-haired cats, by coat type, or commonly as random-bred, moggies (chiefly British), or (using terms borrowed from dog breeding) mongrels or mutt-cats.

A pedigreed cat is one whose ancestry is recorded by a cat fancier organization.

A purebred cat is one whose ancestry contains only individuals of the same breed.

Similar forms exist in Lithuanian puižė and Irish puisín or puiscín.

The etymology of this word is unknown, but it may have simply arisen from a sound used to attract a cat.

Feral cats are associated with human habitation areas and may be fed by people or forage for food, but are typically wary of human interaction.