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Temporal range: MessinianHolocene 6.2–0 Ma
Wildkatze MGH.jpg
Wildcat, Felis silvestris
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Felis
Linnaeus, 1758
Felis range.png
Native Felis range

Felis is a genus of small and medium-sized cat species native to most of Africa and south of 60° latitude in Europe and Asia to Indochina.[1]

The genus includes the domestic cat. The smallest Felis species is the black-footed cat with a head and body length from 38 to 42 cm (15 to 17 in). The largest is the jungle cat with a head and body length from 62 to 76 cm (24 to 30 in).[1] Felis species inhabit a wide range of different habitats, from swampland to desert, and generally hunt small rodents, birds and other small animals, depending on their local environment. The worldwide introduction of the domestic cat also made it common to urban landscapes around the globe.[citation needed]

Genetic studies indicate that Felis, Otocolobus and Prionailurus diverged from a Eurasian progenitor about 6.2 million years ago, and that Felis species split off 3.04 to 0.99 million years ago.[2][3]


The generic name Felis means "cat" in Latin.[4] The term "feline" is derived from the adjective form felinus ("of the cat").[citation needed]


Felis species have high and wide skulls, short jaws and narrow ears with short tufts, but without any white spots on the back of the ears. Their pupils contract to a vertical slit.[1]



Jungle cat (F. chaus)

Black-footed cat (F. nigripes)

European wildcat (F. silvestris silvestris)

Sand cat (F. margarita)

African wildcat (F. silvestris lybica)

Domestic cat (F. silvestris catus)

The Felis lineage[5]

Linnaeus considered Felis to comprise all cat species. Later taxonomists split the cat family into different genera. In 1917, the British zoologist Reginald Innes Pocock revised the genus Felis as comprising only:[1]

Image Name Distribution
Neighbours Siamese.jpg Domestic cat F. silvestris catus (Linnaeus, 1758) Worldwide (domesticated)
Jungle cat (5).jpg Jungle cat F. chaus (Güldenstädt, 1776)[6][7] Egypt, Middle East, Indian subcontinent, Central and Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka and southern China.
European Wildcat Nationalpark Bayerischer Wald 03.jpg European wildcat F. silvestris (Schreber, 1777) Europe
Felis silvestris lybica 1.jpg African wildcat F. silvestris lybica (Forster, 1780) Africa, Central Asia into India, western China and Mongolia
Blackfooted2.jpg Black-footed cat F. nigripes (Burchell, 1824) South Africa, Namibia, marginally into Zimbabwe
Felis margarita harrisoni - Sandkatze.jpg Sand cat F. margarita (Loche, 1858) northern Africa and southwest and central Asia
Chinese Mountain Cat (Felis Bieti) in XiNing Wild Zoo.jpg Chinese mountain cat F. bieti (Milne-Edwards, 1892) Tibetan Plateau

Several scientists consider the Chinese mountain cat a subspecies of F. silvestris.[8]

The Transcaucasian black cat F. daemon, described by Satunin in 1904[9] turned out to be a feral black cat, probably a hybrid of wildcat and domestic cat.[10]

Pocock accepted the Pallas's cat as the only member of the genus Otocolobus.[1] Other scientists consider it also a Felis species.[11] According to a recent phylogenetic analysis Otocolobus is a sister group of both Felis and Prionailurus.[12]

Fossil species are:[citation needed]



  1. ^ a b c d e Pocock, R. I. (1951). Catalogue of the genus Felis. London: British Museum (Natural History). 
  2. ^ Johnson, W. E.; Eizirik, E.; Pecon-Slattery, J.; Murphy, W. J.; Antunes, A.; Teeling, E.; O'Brien, S. J. (2006). "The Late Miocene Radiation of Modern Felidae: A Genetic Assessment". Science. 311 (5757): 73–77. Bibcode:2006Sci...311...73J. doi:10.1126/science.1122277. PMID 16400146. 
  3. ^ Pecon-Slattery, J.; O'Brien, S. J. (1998). "Patterns of Y and X chromosome DNA sequence divergence during the Felidae radiation". Genetics. 148 (3): 1245–1255. PMC 1460026Freely accessible. PMID 9539439. 
  4. ^ Valpy, F. E. J. (1828). "Felis". An Etymological Dictionary of the Latin Language. London: A. J. Valpy. 
  5. ^ Mattern, M.Y.; McLennan, D.A. (2000). "Phylogeny and speciation of felids". Cladistics. 16 (2): 232–53. doi:10.1111/j.1096-0031.2000.tb00354.x. 
  6. ^ Güldenstädt, J.A. (1776). Chaus – Animal feli adfine descriptum. Novi Commentarii Academiae Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitanae, Vol 20: 483–500.
  7. ^ Sanderson, J. (2009). A Matter of Very Little Moment? The mystery of who first described the jungle cat. Feline Conservation Federation Volume 53, Issue 1 (January/February 2009): 12–18.
  8. ^ Driscoll, C. A.; Menotti-Raymond, M.; Roca, A. L.; Hupe, K.; Johnson, W. E.; Geffen, E.; Harley, E. H.; Delibes, M.; Pontier, D.; Kitchener, A. C.; Yamaguchi, N.; O'Brien, S. J.; Macdonald, D. W. (2007). "The Near Eastern Origin of Cat Domestication" (PDF). Science. 317 (5837): 519–523. Bibcode:2007Sci...317..519D. doi:10.1126/science.1139518. PMC 5612713Freely accessible. PMID 17600185. 
  9. ^ Satunin, C. (1904). The Black Wild Cat of Transcaucasia. Proceedings of the Zoological Society London 1904 vol. II: 162–163.
  10. ^ Bukhnikashvili, A., Yevlampiev, I. (eds.) Catalogue of the Type Specimenss of Caucasian Large Mammalian Fauna in the Collection of the National Museum of Georgia. Georgian National Museum, Tbilisi.
  11. ^ Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Felis". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 538. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  12. ^ Eizirik, E., Johnson, W. E., & O'Brien, S. J. (2006). Molecular systematics and revised classification of the family Felidae (Mammalia, Carnivora). Journal of Mammalogy

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