Members of the Felidae family are better known as cats and include every type of living cat, from the lion and tiger to the family pet. Felidae is the taxonomic category to which all cats belong due to the physical traits and genetic relationships they share with each other.
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Members of the Felidae family typically have a short rostrum, or snout, which gives them a powerful bite. The short snout means that the number of teeth is reduced, with the back upper-premolar reduced or non-existent. The teeth are generally adapted for shearing, cutting actions rather than crushing.
The orbits, or eye sockets, are large and sited so that they have binocular vision. This means they see with both eyes, and the location of the eyes on the front of the skull means that Felidae have good depth perception--a frequent adaptation of predators. Felidae also have good night vision--their eyes are around six times more light sensitive than those of humans, which means they can hunt at night.
Felidae are digitigrade, meaning that they walk on their toes. Felidae have sharp, curved claws which are also completely retractable in all family members except the cheetah. They have strongly built forearms which can be rotated until the soles of the feet face upward. All these characteristics enable Felidae to hunt, grabbing and grappling with their prey.
The bodies of Felidae are usually covered in fur, which helps to keep them warm. Felidae are found in all continents with the exception of Antarctica; the widely varying climatic conditions have produced numerous fur adaptations, from the thick fur of the snow leopard to the relatively light fur of the cheetah. Felidae can be many different colours, although brown and golden are common; many Felidae have a patterned coat marked with stripes, spots or rosettes. These patterns can be useful camouflage when Felidae are hunting.
All cats are carnivorous, meaning that they naturally eat meat. Many of their physical adaptations, such as night vision and sharp claws, enhance their ability to hunt for prey. Felidae are sight hunters which like to watch their prey, sometimes stalking it to get within striking range. However, different Felidae have different hunting strategies which take advantage of some of the strengths of individual lineages. Lightly built cheetahs, which belong to the Acinonyx lineage, aim to capture prey with a short, explosive chase during which they can reach speeds of around 60mph. Leopards, which are members of the lineage Panthera, use their climbing ability to drag prey high into trees.
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