Nomenclature and etymology

The English word cat (Old English catt) is in origin a loanword, introduced to many languages of Europe from Latin cattus[14] and Byzantine Greek ?, including Portuguese and Spanish gato, French chat, German Katze, Lithuanian kate and Old Church Slavonic kotka, among others.[15] The ultimate source of the word is Afroasiatic, presumably from Late Egyptian caute,[16] the feminine of caus "wildcat". The word was introduced, together with the domestic animal itself, to the Roman Republic by the 1st century BCE.[citation needed] An alternative word with cognates in many languages is English puss (pussycat). Attested only from the 16th century, it may have been introduced from Dutch poes or from Low German puuskatte, related to Swedish kattepus, or Norwegian pus, pusekatt. Similar forms exist in Lithuanian puize and Irish puisin. The etymology of this word is unknown, but it may have simply arisen from a sound used to attract a cat.[17][18] A group of cats is referred to as a "clowder" or a "glaring",[19] a male cat is called a "tom" or "tomcat"[20] (or a "gib",[21] if neutered), a female is called a "molly"[citation needed] or (especially among breeders) a "queen",[22] and a pre-pubescent juvenile is referred to as a "kitten". The male progenitor of a cat, especially a pedigreed cat, is its "sire",[23] and its female progenitor is its "dam".[24] In Early Modern English, the word kitten was interchangeable with the now-obsolete word catling.[25] A pedigreed cat is one whose ancestry is recorded by a cat fancier organization. A purebred cat is one whose ancestry contains only individuals of the same breed. Many pedigreed and especially purebred cats are exhibited as show cats. Cats of unrecorded, mixed ancestry are referred to as domestic short-haired or domestic long-haired cats, by coat type, or commonly as random-bred, moggies (chiefly British), or (using terms borrowed from dog breeding) mongrels or mutt-cats. While the African wildcat is the ancestral species from which domestic cats are descended, there are several intermediate stages between domestic pet and pedigree cats on the one hand and those entirely wild animals on the other. The semi-feral cat is a mostly outdoor cat that is not owned by any one individual, but is generally friendly to people and may be fed by several households. Feral cats are associated with human habitation areas and may be fed by people or forage in rubbish, but are wary of human interaction. The word "kitten" derives from Middle English kitoun (ketoun, kyton etc.), which itself came from Old French chitoun, cheton: "kitten".[1] A newborn kitten. The young of big cats are called cubs rather than kittens. Either term may be used for the young of smaller wild felids such as ocelots, caracals, and lynx, but "kitten" is usually more common for these species. Birth and development A feline litter usually consists of two to five kittens. The kits are born after a gestation that lasts between 64 and 67 days, with an average length of 66 days.[2] Kittens emerge in a sac called the amnion which is bitten off and eaten by the mother cat.[3] For the firs several weeks, kittens are unable to urinate or defecate without being stimulated by their mother. [4] They are also unable to regulate their body temperature for the first three weeks, so kittens born in temperatures less than 27C (80 F) can die from exposure if they are not kept warm by their mother. A litter of kittens being suckled by their mother The mother's milk is very important for the kittens' nutrition and proper growth. This milk transfers antibodies to the kittens, which helps protect them against infectious disease.[5] Newborn kittens are also unable to produce concentrated urine, and so have a very high requirement for fluids.[6] Kittens open their eyes about seven to ten days after birth. At first, the retina is poorly developed and vision is poor. Kittens are not able to see as well as adult cats until about ten weeks after birth.[7] Kittens develop very quickly from about two weeks of age until their seventh week. Their coordination and strength improve, they play-fight with their litter-mates, and begin to explore the world outside the nest or den. They learn to wash themselves and others as well as play hunting and stalking games, showing their inborn ability as predators. These innate skills are developed by the kittens' mother or other adult cats bringing live prey to the nest. Later, the adult cats also demonstrate hunting techniques for the kittens to emulate.[8] A kitten opens its eyes for the first time As they reach three to four weeks old, the kittens are gradually weaned and begin to eat solid food, with weaning usually complete by six to eight weeks.[9] Kittens live primarily on solid food after weaning, but usually continue to suckle from time to time until separated from their mothers. Some mother cats will scatter their kittens as early as three months of age, while others continue to look after them until they approach sexual maturity. The sex of kittens is usually easy to determine at birth. By six to eight weeks they are harder to sex because of the growth of fur in the genital region. The male's urethral opening is round, whereas the female's is a slit. Another marked difference is the distance between anus and urethral opening, which is greater in males than in females. Five month old Siamese kitten teething Kittens are highly social animals and spend most of their waking hours interacting with available animals and playing. Play with other kittens peaks in the third or fourth month after birth, with more solitary hunting and stalking play peaking later, at about five months.[10] Kittens are vulnerable to harm because they like to find dark places to hide, sometimes with fatal results if they are not watched carefully. Although domestic kittens are commonly sent to new homes at six to eight weeks of age, it has been suggested that being with its mother and litter mates from six to twelve weeks is important for a kitten's social and behavioural development.[10] Usually, breeders will not sell a kitten that is younger than twelve weeks, and in many jurisdictions, it is illegal to give away kittens younger than eight weeks old.[11]