Cat Diversity

Cat Diversity

Explore the origins of the domesticated cat.

Grades

6 - 12

Subjects

Biology, Geography, Human Geography

Program
Big Cats Initiative

Wildcats (Felis sylvestris) are small cats native to Europe, Asia, and Africa. They are adapted to a variety of habitats, including savannah, open forest, scrubland, swamp, and farmland. Throughout history, wildcat adaptability and proximity to humans has increased. The wildcat's self-domestication is thought to have coincided with the rise of farming communities. This serves as an example of human-cat coevolution. As grain harvests increased, so did rodent populations. Rodents then became an even more important part of the wildcat's diet. These factors may have driven wildcats to evolve into a separate domesticated species (Felis catus) or subspecies (Felis sylvestris lybica) between 9,000-10,000 years ago. Today, there are over 600 million domestic cats living as pets throughout households on six different continents.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Writer
Angela M. Cowan, Education Specialist and Curriculum Designer
Editor
Julie Brown, National Geographic Society
Expert Reviewer
Dr. Luke Dollar, Conservation Scientist
National Geographic Program
Big Cats Initiative
Producer
Alison Michel
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about licensing content on this page, please contact ngimagecollection@natgeo.com for more information and to obtain a license. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. She or he will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to him or her, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.

Media

If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.

Text

Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.

Interactives

Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources