ANIMAL STORIES: Little Cats
How do you tell a ‘little’ cat from a ‘big’ cat?
Strange as it may seem, scientists have had a hard time answering this question.
You might think a ‘little’ cat is simply a cat that is little. But some little cats are very large — a few of them are larger than some ‘big’ cats.
Scientists used to think that the main difference between the groups was that big cats could roar and little cats could not. But now three cats that cannot roar are included in the group of big cats — cheetahs, snow leopards, and clouded leopards. It’s all a bit confusing.
Almost every part of a cat’s body has something to do with finding prey, catching it, or eating it.
The eyes, ears, and whiskers are especially well adapted to finding food in the dark — the time when most cats hunt. A cat will sneak up on its prey, trying to get as close as it can without being seen.
It stays close to the ground and hides behind bushes and rocks. When the cat is very close, it flattens itself against the ground and watches for a while. Then the cat suddenly rushes forward and tries to knock the prey over with its paws.
Even though they are good hunters, cats have to stalk 10 to 20 animals before they catch one.
All little cats are meat-eaters. But different species eat different kinds of meat. Some cats eat things as small as a mouse, while a few catch prey as big as a zebra. Others eat birds, lizards, frogs, fish, and even large insects.
In many places, little cats are helpful to people because they kill rodents and other animals that destroy human crops.
Little cats are solitary animals and usually only come together once a year to mate. Depending on the species, litters are usually made up of two to six kittens. Little cats do many of the same things domestic cats do when caring for their kittens. This includes carrying them around by the scruff of the neck and licking them clean. Domestic cats are probably all descended from the African wildcat. It is thought that these cats were first kept as pets in Egypt about 4,000 years ago.
There are many different kinds of little cats, and they live in many different kinds of places. They are found on every continent in the world except Australia and Antarctica. And they live in almost every kind of climate. Some of them live where it is hot, and some live where it is cold. Some are found where it is very dry and some where it is very wet. In fact, little cats are one of the most successful groups of animals on earth. They are found in more places than any other group of mammals.
The future of little cats is uncertain. Like many other wild animals, cats are in trouble today because some people are doing things that are very harmful to them. People can hurt cats in three major ways — some of the most beautiful are killed to make coats from their skins; some are killed for preying on farm and ranch animals; and finally, some people take away their habitats — the land little cats need to live on. More and more land is taken to build farms, factories, and houses. In many places, this leaves no room for wild cats.