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Machairodontinae (extinct) All cats are members of the family Felidae. The felines are the most strictly carnivorous of the nine families in the order Carnivora. The cats' closest relatives are thought to be the other families in their branch of the carnivore evolutionary tree: the civets, hyenas, and mongooses. The first felids emerged during the Eocene, about 40 million years ago. The most familiar feline is the domestic cat, which first became associated with humans between 7000 and 4000 years ago. Its wild relatives still live in Africa and western Asia, although habitat destruction has restricted their range.

Other well-known members of the cat family include big cats such as the lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar, and cheetah (which despite its size, appears to be descended from the small cats), and other wild cats such as the lynx, puma, and bobcat.



Fossil cats

The oldest known felines (Aelurogale , Eofelis ) emerged in the Eocene. Better known is Proailurus, which lived in the Oligocene and Miocene eras. During the Miocene it gave way to Pseudaelurus. Pseudaelurus is believed to be the latest common ancestor of the three above-mentioned subfamilies and another subfamily, the Machairodontinae. This group, better known as the sabertooth cats, became extinct in the early Pleistocene era. It includes the genera Smilodon, Machairodus, Dinofelis and Homotherium.


See also

Felidae is also the title of a novel by Akif PirinÁci in which a cat named Francis investigates the murders of several cats in the big city. There are currently 5 books in the Felidae sequece: Felidae, Felidae II (also known as Felidae on the Road), Cave Canem, Das Duell and Salve Roma, of which only the first 2 have been translated into English. The first Felidae book was also made into a German animated film in 1994, directed by Michael Schaack. A version dubbed into English exists, however due to its mature content it was not imported for North American audiences, who would have likely mistaken it for a children's film.

Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46