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While the African wildcat is the ancestral subspecies from which domestic cats are descended, and wildcats and domestic cats can completely interbreed (being subspecies of the same species), several intermediate stages occur between domestic pet and pedigree cats on one hand and entirely wild animals on the other.The semi-feral cat, a mostly outdoor cat, is not owned by any one individual, but is generally friendly to people and may be fed by several households.Failure to control the breeding of pet cats by spaying and neutering, as well as the abandonment of former household pets, has resulted in large numbers of feral cats worldwide, requiring population control.In certain areas outside cats' native range, this has contributed, along with habitat destruction and other factors, to the extinction of many bird species.Northern Sami A pedigreed cat is one whose ancestry is recorded by a cat fancier organization.A purebred (or pure-bred) cat is one whose ancestry contains only individuals of the same breed.Unlike most mammals, when cats walk, they use a "pacing" gait; that is, they move the two legs on one side of the body before the legs on the other side. As a walk speeds up into a trot, a cat's gait changes to be a "diagonal" gait, similar to that of most other mammals (and many other land animals, such as lizards): the diagonally opposite hind and fore legs move simultaneously.In their normal, relaxed position, the claws are sheathed with the skin and fur around the paw's toe pads.

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.

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.

Huehnergard opines it is "equally likely that the forms might derive from an ancient Germanic word, imported into Latin and thence to Greek and to Syriac and Arabic".

Guus Kroonen also considers the word to be native to Germanic (due to morphological alternations) and Northern Europe, and suggests that it might ultimately be borrowed from Uralic, cf.There are more than seventy cat breeds recognized by various cat registries.Cats are similar in anatomy to the other felids, with a strong flexible body, quick reflexes, sharp retractable claws and teeth adapted to killing small prey.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.