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The origin of the English word cat (Old English catt) and its counterparts in other Germanic languages (such as German Katze), descended from Proto-Germanic *kattōn-, is controversial.It has traditionally thought to be a borrowing from Late Latin cattus "domestic cat", from catta (used around 75 AD by Martial), The Late Latin word is generally thought to originate from an Afro-Asiatic language, but every proposed source word has presented problems.

While the African wildcat is the ancestral subspecies from which domestic cats are descended, and wildcats and domestic cats can completely interbreed (being subspecies of the same species), several intermediate stages occur between domestic pet and pedigree cats on one hand and entirely wild animals on the other.

The semiferal cat, a mostly outdoor cat, is not owned by any one individual, but is generally friendly to people and may be fed by several households.

(Felis silvestris catus or Felis catus) is a small, typically furry, carnivorous mammal.

They are often called house cats when kept as indoor pets or simply cats when there is no need to distinguish them from other felids and felines.

Similar forms exist in Lithuanian puižė and Irish puisín or puiscín.

The etymology of this word is unknown, but it may have simply arisen from a sound used to attract a cat.

An alternative word is English puss (extended as pussy and 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.

Cats are similar in anatomy to the other felids, with a strong flexible body, quick reflexes, sharp retractable claws, and teeth adapted to killing small prey.

Cat senses fit a crepuscular and predatory ecological niche.

Northern Sami gađfe "female stoat" and Hungarian hölgy "stoat; lady, bride" from Proto-Uralic *käďwä "female (of a fur animal)".

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