The domestic cat is a small, typically furry, carnivorous mammal. There are more than 70 cat breeds; different associations proclaim different numbers according to their standards. They are often called house cats when kept as indoor pets or simply cats when there is no need to distinguish them from other bigger cats.
All cats are generally similar in anatomy, with a strong, flexible body, quick reflexes, sharp retractable claws, and teeth adapted to killing small prey. 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 and like most other mammals, cats have poorer colour 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.
Since cats were venerated 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 9,500 years ago. A genetic study in 2007 concluded that domestic cats are descended from Near Eastern wildcats, having diverged around 8,000 BC in West Asia.
A 2016 study found that leopard cats were undergoing domestication independently in China around 5,500 BC, though this line of partially domesticated cats leaves no trace in the domesticated populations of today.
As of a 2007 study, cats are the second most popular pet in the US by number of pets owned, behind freshwater fish. In a 2010 study they were ranked the third most popular pet in the UK, after fish and dogs, with around 8 million being owned.