The domestic cat (Felis catus or Felis silvestris catus) is a small, usually furry, domesticated, and carnivorous mammal. They are often called a housecat when kept as an indoor pet, or simply a cat when there is no need to distinguish them from other felids and felines. Cats are often valued by humans for companionship, and their ability to hunt vermin and household pests.
Cats are similar in anatomy to the other felids, with strong, flexible bodies, quick reflexes, sharp retractable claws, and teeth adapted to killing small prey. Cat senses fit a crepuscular and predatory ecological niche. Cats can hear sounds too faint or too high in frequency for human ears, such as those made by mice and other small animals. They can see in near darkness. Like most other mammals, cats have poorer color vision and a better sense of smell than humans.
Despite being solitary hunters, cats 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.
Cats have a high breeding rate. Under controlled breeding, they can be bred and shown as registered pedigree pets, a hobby known as cat fancy. Failure to control the breeding of pet cats by neutering, and the abandonment of former household pets, has resulted in large numbers of feral cats worldwide, requiring population control.
Since cats were cult animals in ancient Egypt, they were commonly believed to have been domesticated there, but there may have been instances of domestication as early as the Neolithic from around 9500 years ago (7500 BC). A genetic study in 2007 concluded that domestic cats are descended from African wildcats (Felis silvestris lybica), having diverged around 8000 BC in West Asia. Cats are the most popular pet in the world, and are now found in almost every place where humans live.