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The cat, also called the domestic cat or house cat, is a small feline carnivorous mammal of the subspecies Felis silvestris catus. Its most immediate, pre-domestication ancestor is the African wild cat, Felis silvestris lybica.
The cat has been living in close association with humans for at least 3,500 years; the Ancient Egyptians routinely used cats to keep mice and other rodents away from their grain (and also believed that cats were sacred).
The history of the domestic cat may stretch back even further, as 8,000-year-old bones of humans and cats were found buried together on the island of Cyprus. A group of cats is referred to as a clowder, while a male cat is called a tom, and a female is called a queen or quean. An immature cat is called a kitten (which is also an alternate name for young rats, rabbits, hedgehogs, beavers, and squirrels). A cat whose ancestry is formally registered is called a purebred cat, a pedigree cat, or a show cat (although not all show cats are pedigree or purebred). In strict terms, a purebred cat is one whose ancestry contains only individuals of the same breed. A pedigree cat is one whose ancestry is recorded, but may have ancestors of different breeds. Purebreds are less than one percent of the total feline population; cats of mixed ancestry are referred to as domestic longhairs and domestic shorthairs or commonly as random-bred, moggies, mongrels, mutt-cats or alley cats.
The ratio of pedigree/purebred cats to random-bred cats varies from country to country. There are dozens of breeds of domestic cats, some hairless or tailless, and they exist in a variety of different colors including multicolored. They are skilled predators and have been known to hunt over one thousand different species for food. They are also intelligent animals: some are able to manipulate simple mechanisms such as lever-handled doors and flush toilets. They communicate by calling ("meow"/"miaou"), purring, hissing, and gesturing. Because the domestication of the cat is relatively recent, cats may also still live effectively in the wild, often forming small colonies. The cat's association with humans leads it to figure prominently in the mythology and legends of several cultures, including the ancient Egyptians, Vikings, and Chinese.