A standing cheetah in silhouette at dawn


Cats are more purely carnivorous than any other meat-eating family and they like their meat fresh, relying on prey they have caught and killed themselves. Cats usually live solitary lives, with one famous exception: the lion, the only truly social cat. For stealth, and to protect against wear, cats retract their claws, although the cheetah's remain visible. With over 40 species, from the familar domestic to the mighty tiger, cats are found everywhere except Australia and Antarctica. Explore the familiar and the lesser known below, including the Asian golden and leopard cats, as well as the extinct sabre-toothed tiger.

Scientific name: Felidae

Rank: Family

Common names:

  • Felids,
  • Felines

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Map showing the distribution of the Cats taxa

The shading illustrates the diversity of this group - the darker the colour the greater the number of species. Data provided by WWF's Wildfinder.

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Prehistoric life


Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

When they lived

Discover the other animals and plants that lived during the following geological time periods.

BBC News about Cats

See all Cats news stories