Categories: Genetics

Is the domestic cat a species?

Photo (modified by PoC): Helmi Flick.

Yes, the domestic cat is a species. Although I think it is a slightly tricky question because the domestic cat could be a subspecies. This is the science of TAXONOMY which is fairly settled nowadays but scientists are still making adjustments.

As the domestic cat is a domesticated North Africa wildcat (F.s.lybica) the question that I initially had was whether they are same species or is the domestic cat a subspecies? Neither is the answer to that question.

There appears to have been some discussions from 2000-2017 on whether the domestic cat is a subspecies or distinct species of cat.

  • 20003 – The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) ruled that the domestic cat is a distinct species, namely Felis catus.
  • 2007 – Following the results of phylogenetic research (the study of genetics and the relationship between species), the domestic cat was considered a subspecies.
  • 2017 – The IUCN Cat Classification Taskforce followed the recommendation of the ICZN in deciding that the domestic cat is a distinct species, Felis catus.

The current conclusion, at the date of this post, is that the domestic cat is a distinct species. For completeness, Mel and Fiona Sunquist in Wild Cats Of The World describe the ‘domestic cat lineage’ when discussing the taxonomy of the cat family. The domestic cat lineage describes a group of 6 species of wild cats which evolved to have a similar appearance.

These cats are: African wildcat, domestic cat, European wildcat, sand cat, Chinese mountain cat, jungle cat and black-footed cat. The black-footed cat was the first to diverge followed by the jungle cat and sand cat. They say that the domestic cat, European wildcat and African wildcat ‘radiated’ very recently.

‘Radiated’ means that in the evolutionary process these cats split off and diverged from the other cat species to form new species.

I have a page on the species of wild cats which you can see by clicking on this link.

SOME MORE PAGES ON TAXONOMY:

Scientific name for the domestic cat: felis catus or felis silvestris catus?

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Which big cat is not in the genus Panthera?

Which big cat is not in the genus Panthera? The answer depends on how you define 'big cat'. Historically the ...
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Acinonyx meaning

The cheetah is alone in the genus Acinonyx. A 'genus' is a rank in the classification of the species (taxonomy) ...
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What does felis catus mean?

What does felis catus mean? I'll try and break this Latin phrase down to its components and provide translations on ...
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Are Cheetahs Big Cats?

Are cheetahs big cats? The one word answer is no. The term 'big cats' loosely refers to size. They are ...
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How many South China tigers are left in the world?

There are two points to make (a) in 2017, the South China tiger has been reclassified as the same species ...
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What is the order of a cat?

"What is the order of a cat?" sounds rather strange. On the face of it it does not make sense ...
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Michael Broad

Hi, I am 70-years-of-age at 2019. For 14 years before I retired at 57, I worked as a solicitor in general law specialising in family law. Before that I worked in a number of different jobs including professional photography. I have a longstanding girlfriend, Michelle. We like to walk in Richmond Park which is near my home because I love nature and the landscape (as well as cats and all animals).

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