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Cats are the only domesticated species of the Felidae family. Cats were domesticated by the Ancient Egyptians approximately 4,000 years ago and have been kept as pets ever since.

Somebody asked me recently if cats were mammals, which made me wonder if they have all the mammalian characteristics.  

Cats are mammals and have seven mammalian traits. Cats are vertebrates with mammary glands that they use to feed their young. They have a four-chambered heart, hair, and sweat glands to cool down, possess a large neocortex, and three inner ear bones.

Please read on if you want to learn more about the characteristics cats share with other mammals.

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Is A Cat A Vertebrate?

One of the characteristics that all mammals have is that they have a backbone inside their body. However, it is not just mammals that have a backbone. Other animals, such as fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds, have a backbone. Animals with a backbone are called vertebrates.

There is another group of animals called invertebrates. These are animals that don’t have a backbone inside their body. Examples include single-celled organisms, earthworms, starfish, octopuses, snails, clams, insects, and spiders.

Cats are classed as vertebrates as they do have a backbone inside their bodies. The spinal cord is surrounded by cartilage or bone.

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Does A Cat Have Mammary Glands?

Another characteristic that mammals have is mammary glands. The name mammal is taken from the Latin word mamma, which means breast, and was popularised by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist and zoologist.

Mammary glands are used to produce milk to feed the young after birth. Milk is made in the mammary gland after childbirth and is called lactation.  

Cats produce milk within their mammary glands. Cats have eight mammary glands arranged in four pairs on the left and right underside of the body. Cats produce milk to feed their kittens after birth.

Kittens are usually fully weaned off milk from their mother between eight to ten weeks, although this can be as early as four weeks. The milk contains essential nutrients for cats in the early stages to grow healthy.  


Does A Cat Have A Four-Chambered Heart?

Mammals all share another characteristic, one which is also shared with birds. Both birds and mammals have a heart that contains four chambers. Surprisingly, crocodiles, a reptile, also have four-chambered seats.

The four-chambered heart is essential for the respiratory system of mammals. When mammals breathe in air, they take in oxygen. Oxygen is needed to survive, but the waste product is carbon dioxide once the oxygen has performed its function. Carbon dioxide is expelled back into the air when we breathe out.

The respiratory system allows us to breathe in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Oxygen enters the lungs, where the body’s cells transport it through the blood to the heart’s left ventricle. The left ventricle pumps oxygen-rich blood to the left atrium. It is then pumped through your arteries to the rest of your body. 

The other two heart chambers are the right atria and the right ventricle. Oxygen-poor blood is received from the veins and is pumped to the lungs, where the carbon dioxide is expelled.

The four-chambered heart that mammals possess is essential. A four-chambered heart is vital for warm-blooded animals as they expend energy and oxygen. The four-chambered heart is an efficient way of getting lots of oxygen into the body.

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Cats do have a four-chambered heart. Cats need plenty of oxygen as it is required to burn sugars and fatty acids in their cells to produce energy. The energy is needed for everything they do, including keeping themselves at a steady temperature.

Do Cats Have Hair?

Another characteristic of a mammal is that they have hair or fur. The fur is generally used when a mammal has very thick body hair. Humans have hair, but we wouldn’t call it fur, whereas other mammals, such as bears or raccoons, would have fur.

Hair or fur consists of two layers. These consist of a thicker underfur covered with oily guard hairs on top.  

The guard hairs are longer and coarser. They repel water from the skin and block the sun’s ultraviolet rays. In animals with markings, such as a jaguar, these markings are on the guard hair layer.

The thick underfur, or down fur, is used to keep the animal warm and is made up of curly or wavy hairs.

Even whales and dolphins have hair, although some species only have hair follicles. Species such as the humpback whale have hair their entire life, with a single hair coming out of each hair follicle.  Toothed whales usually lose their hair shortly after birth.

As anyone who has seen a cat knows, they have a coat of fur. The hair on a cat is also known as fur and come in many different lengths, shape, and colors. The color and pigmentation come from the guard hairs.  

Cats like the Persian cat and the Siberian cat have long hair, while the American shorthair cat and the Bombay cat have shorter hair.

However, not all cats have fur. The Sphynx cat does not have a coat, although it may have fine hair. Some are entirely hairless.

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Do Cats Have Sweat Glands?

Mammals need to regulate their temperatures, and although all mammals sweat, you may not have seen your cat or dog sweat the way you do after you have been for a run.  

For us, sweating is a way of regulating our body temperature so we don’t overheat. The sweat glands produce sweat, which evaporation carries away from the body. This carries out the heat and makes us feel cooler.  

Humans aren’t the only mammals that sweat through their skin. Primates and horses also sweat through sweat glands.

Some other animals use different ways to expel heat from their bodies. These can include panting, which you see in dogs when they have been out playing. This allows them to get rid of heat through their mouth.

Most mammals do not have sweat glands like we do and need to use these other ways to cool down.

Cats are one of the strangest mammals regarding sweating as they do sweat, but not in the way we do. Cats have sweat glands on their bodies, but as their fur covers most of them, they do not provide an excellent way to cool down. 

Cats have the most sweat glands on their paws and sweat using these. On a hot day, you may notice that your cat is leaving wet pawprints on the ground, and this can also happen if they are stressed, such as before or after a trip to the vet.  

As we can see, cats have all these mammalian traits and are most definitely classed as mammals.

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Do Cats Have A Neocortex?

The brain is one of the most complex organs in a mammal’s body. The cerebral cortex is the brain’s outer layer and is used for functions such as movement, processing information from the five senses, decision-making, and in humans, speech. 

The neocortex is a set of layers of the cerebral cortex, and it is this part of the brain that controls sensory perception, motor commands, spatial reasoning, and conscious thought.

The neocortex also allows mammals to store memories, including experiences and events.  

The larger the neocortex, the larger the capacity to control conscious thought, spatial reasoning, motor commands, and sensory perception.

The majority of brain cells are found in the neocortex and the cerebellum. The cerebellum is used for posture, coordination, and balance.

The neocortex looks different in different animals. Humans, primates, and other larger animals have grooves (sulci) and ridges (gyri), and the brain is similar to what you may have seen. The tracks, bumps, and folds allow a much larger neocortex to fit inside a smaller space.

Small mammals like rodents do not have deep grooves and ridges, and the neocortex is much smoother. This shows that their brains are much smaller in comparison.

Cats have a neocortex, but there are fewer folds and a smaller neocortex relative to their brain size. However, a cat’s brain is 90 percent similar to humans.

A cat’s brain measures about two inches and weighs between 0.9 to 1.1 ounces.  

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However, cats are intelligent, as anyone who has had a cat will know. Cats are one of the most intelligent mammals, although most studies on the intelligence of pets are done about dogs.  

Cats have 300 million nerve cells compared to 160 million in dogs and a staggering 26 billion nerve cells in humans.  

Cats use their intelligence in different ways. They learn from what they have done before and from observation. Cats will remember positive and bad experiences, such as a trip to the vet.

Do Cats Have Three Middle Ear Bones?

Another trait that mammals possess is three bones in the middle ear. These three small bones are called ossicles and conduct vibrations (sound) to the eardrum’s inner ear.

The three bones are called the malleus (hammer), the incus (anvil), and the stapes (stirrup).

Once the vibrations are in the inner ear, the vibrations are converted into nerve impulses. These three bones play a vital role in a mammal’s hearing ability.

With many animals relying on their sense of hearing to hear prey and predators, this evolutionary trait is essential for mammals to survive.

Cats do have three small inner ear bones which help them to hear. Cats can listen to the same range as a human and much more. Cats can hear the same low frequencies that we can, but their hearing at higher frequencies is much better. Cats can hear frequencies up to 64kHz and can listen to frequencies more elevated than a dog.

Cats have large ears, which helps them hear better than many other animals.

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