|Wildcat, Felis silvestris|
Felis is a genus of small cats in the family Felidae. They include the familiar domestic cat and its closest wild relatives. The wild species are found in Europe, southern and central Asia, and Africa. The domestic cat, which may have its origin in North Africa, is now worldwide.
Members of the genus Felis are all small felines, rather similar to the domestic cat. The smallest species is the sand cat, which may be less than 40 centimetres (16 in) in length, while the largest is the jungle cat, which can reach 94 centimetres (37 in). They live in many habitats: forests, grassland, swampland and deserts. They mostly feed on small rodents, supplementing their diet with birds and other small animals, depending on their local environment.
Genetic studies indicate that the genus Felis first evolved around eight to ten million years ago, probably in the Mediterranean region.
Species[change | change source]
The genus Felis is currently considered to consist of six living species, although the domestic cat and Chinese mountain cat are sometimes considered subspecies of F. silvestris.
- Felis chaus (Schreber, 1777) – Jungle Cat
- Felis margarita (Loche, 1858) – Sand Cat
- Felis nigripes (Burchell, 1824) – Black-footed Cat
- Felis silvestris (Schreber, 1775) – Wildcat
- Felis catus (Linnaeus, 1758) – Domestic Cat (sometimes Felis silvestris catus)
- Felis bieti (Milne-Edwards, 1892) – Chinese Mountain Cat 
- Felis attica (Wagner, 1857) – (extinct)
- Felis lunensis (Martelli, 1906) – Martelli's Cat (extinct)
Other small cats[change | change source]
Small cats are those smaller than the cheetah. These are small cats classified under other genera than Felis:
- Caracal: western and south Asia and Africa
- Leopardus: the small cats of the Americas, such as the Margay and the Ocelot
- Leptailurus: the Serval, southern Africa
- Lynx: Eurasia
- Pardofelis: southeast Asia
- Prionailurus: Asia
- Profelis: African golden cat, rainforests only
References[change | change source]
- Pecon-Slattery, J. and O'Brien, S.J. (1998). "Patterns of Y and X chromosome DNA sequence divergence during the Felidae radiation". Genetics 148 (3): 1245–1255. . . http://www.genetics.org/cgi/content/full/148/3/1245.