Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
368
CARNIVORA

some of the extinct forms. The auditory bulla and the tympanic are divided by an internal partition. The paroccipital process is separate from, or only extends to a slight degree upon the auditory bulla. The thoracic vertebrae number 13; the feet are digitigrade, with five front and four hind toes, of which the claws are retractile; and the metatarsus is haired all round. Anal glands are present.

As regards the teeth, when considered in more detail, the incisors are small, and the canines large, strong, slightly recurved, with trenchant edges and sharp points, and placed wide apart. The premolars are compressed and sharp-pointed; the most posterior in the upper jaw (the sectorial) being a large tooth, consisting of a compressed blade, divided into three unequal cusps supported by two roots, with a small inner lobe placed near the front and supported by a distinct root (fig. 1, I). The upper molar is a small tubercular tooth placed more or less transversely at the inner side of the hinder end of the last. In the lower jaw the molar (sectorial) is reduced to the blade, which is large, trenchant, compressed and divided into two subequal lobes (fig. 2, I). Occasionally it has a rudimentary heel, but never an inner tubercle. The skull generally is short and rounded, though proportionally more elongated in the larger forms; with the facial portion short and broad, and the zygomatic arches wide and strong. The auditory bullae are large, rounded and smooth. Vertebrae: C. 7, D. 13, L. 7, S. 3, Ca. 13-29. Clavicles better developed than in other Carnivora, but not articulating with either the shoulder-bones or sternum. Of the five front toes, the third and fourth are nearly equal and longest, the second slightly, and the fifth considerably shorter. The first is still shorter, not reaching the metacarpophalangeal articulation of the second. In the hind-feet the third and fourth toes are the longest, the second and fifth somewhat shorter and nearly equal, while the first is represented only by the rudimentary metatarsal bone. The claws are large, strongly curved, compressed, very sharp, and exhibit the retractile condition in the highest degree. The tail varies greatly in length, being in some species a mere stump, in others nearly as long as the body. The ears are of moderate size, more or less triangular and pointed; and the eyes rather large, with the iris mobile, and with a pupillary aperture which contracts under the influence of light in some species to a narrow vertical slit, in others to an oval, and in some to a circular aperture. The tongue is thickly covered with sharp, pointed, recurved horny papillae; and the caecum is small and simple.

As in structure so in habits, the cat may be considered the most specialized of all Carnivora, although they exhibit many features connecting them with extinct types. All the members of the group feed almost exclusively on warm-blooded animals which they have themselves killed, but one Indian species, Felis viverrina, is said to prey on fish, and even fresh-water molluscs. Unlike dogs, they never associate in packs, and rarely hunt their prey on open ground, but from some place of concealment wait until the unsuspecting victim comes within reach, or with noiseless and stealthy tread, crouching close to the ground for concealment, approach near enough to make the fatal spring. In this manner they frequently attack and kill animals considerably exceeding their own size. They are mostly nocturnal, and the greater number, especially the smaller species, more or less arboreal. None are aquatic, and all take to the water with reluctance, though some may habitually haunt the banks of rivers or pools, because they more easily obtain their prey in such situations. The numerous species are widely diffused over the greater part of the habitable world, though most abundant in the warm latitudes of both hemispheres. None are, however, found in the Australian region, or in Madagascar. Although the Old World and New World cats (except perhaps the northern lynx) are all specifically distinct, no common structural character has been pointed out by which the former can be separated from the latter. On the contrary, most of the groups into which the family may be divided have representatives in both hemispheres.

Notwithstanding the considerable diversity in external appearance and size between different members of this extensive family, the structural differences are but slight. The principal differences are to be found in the form of the cranium, especially of the nasal and adjoining bones, the completeness of the bony orbit posteriorly, the development of the first upper premolar and of the inner lobe of the upper sectorial, the length of the tail, the form of the pupil, and the condition and coloration of the fur, especially the presence or absence of tufts or pencils of hair on the external ears.

In the typical genus Felis, which includes the great majority of the species, and has a distribution coextensive with that of the family, the upper sectorial tooth has a distinct inner cusp, the claws are completely contractile, the tail is long or moderate, and the ears do not carry distinct tufts of hair. As regards the larger species, the lion (F. leo), tiger (F. tigris), leopard (F. pardus), ounce or snow-leopard (F. uncia) and clouded leopard (F. nebulosa) are described in separate articles. Of other Old World species it must suffice to mention that the Tibetan Fontanier’s cat (F. tristis), and the Indian marbled cat (F. marmorata), an ally of the above-mentioned clouded leopard, appear to be the Asiatic representatives of the American ocelots. The Tibetan Pallas’s cat (F. manul) has been made the type of a distinct genus, Trichaelurus, in allusion to its long coat. One of the largest of the smaller species is the African serval, q.v. (F. serval), which is yellow with solid black spots, has long limbs, and a relatively short tail. Numerous “tiger-cats” and “leopard-cats,” such as the spotted F. bengalensis and the uniformly chestnut F. badia, inhabit tropical Asia; while representative species occur in Africa. The jungle-cat (F. chaus), which in its slightly tufted ears and shorter tail foreshadows the lynxes, is common to both continents. Another African species (F. ocreata) appears to have been the chief progenitor of the European domestic cat, which has, however, apparently been crossed to some extent with the ordinary wild cat (F. catus). Of the New World species, F. concolor, the puma or couguar, commonly called “panther” in the United States, is about the size of a leopard, but of a uniform brown colour, spotted only when young, and is extensively distributed in both North and South America, ranging between the parallels of 60° N. and 50° S., where it is represented by numerous local races, varying in size and colour. F. onca, the jaguar, is a larger and more powerful animal than the last, and more resembles the leopard in its colours; it is also found in both North and South America, although with a less extensive range, reaching northwards only as far as Texas, and southwards nearly to Patagonia (see Jaguar). F. pardalis and several allied smaller, elegantly-spotted species inhabiting the intratropical regions of America, are commonly confounded under the name of ocelot or tiger-cat. F. yaguarondi, rather larger than the domestic cat, with an elongated head and body, and of a uniform brownish-grey colour, ranges from northern Mexico to Paraguay; while the allied F. eyra is a small cat, weasel-like in form, having an elongated head, body and tail, and short limbs, and is of a uniform light reddish-brown colour. It is a native of South America and Mexico. F. pajeros is the Pampas cat.

The typical lynxes, as represented by Lynx borealis (L. lynx), the southern L. pardina, and the American L. rufa, are a northern group common to both hemispheres, and characterized by their tufted ears, short tail, and the presence of a rudimentary heel to the lower carnassial tooth. As a rule, they are more or less spotted in winter, but tend to become uniformly-coloured in summer. They are connected with the more typical cats by the long-tailed and uniformly red caracal, Lynx (Caracal) caracal, of India, Persia and Africa, and the propriety of separating them from Felis may be open to doubt (see Lynx and Caracal).

However this may be, there can be no doubt of the right of the hunting-leopard or chita (cheeta), as, in common with the leopard, it is called in India, to distinction from all the other cats as a distinct genus, under the name of Cynaelurus jubatus. From all the other Felidae this animal, which is common to Asia and Africa, is distinguished by the inner lobe of the upper sectorial tooth, though supported by a distinct root, having no salient cusp upon it, by the tubercular molar being more in a line with the other teeth, and by the claws being smaller, less curved and less completely retractile, owing to the feebler development of the elastic ligaments. The skull is short and high, with the frontal region broad and elevated in consequence of the large development of air-sinuses. The head is small and round, the body light, the limbs and tail long, and the colour pale yellowish-brown with small solid black spots (see Cheeta).

The family Viverridae, which includes the civet-cats, genets and mongooses, is nearly allied to the Felidae, but its members have a fuller dentition, and exhibit certain other structural differences from the cats, to the largest of which they Civet tribe. make no approach in the matter of bodily size. As a rule, there is an alisphenoid canal; the cheek-dentition is p3 or 4/3 or 4, m1 or 2/1 or 2 The bulla is small and the tympanic large, with a low division between them; and the paroccipital process is leaf-like and spread over the bulla. The number of dorsal vertebrae, except in the aberrant Proteles, is 13 or 14; the claws may be either completely or partially retractile or non-retractile; generally each foot has five toes, but there may be four in front and five behind, the reverse of this, or only four on each foot; the gait may be either digitigrade or partially plantigrade; and the metatarsus may be either hairy or naked inferiorly. Anal, and in some cases also perineal, glands are developed. The family is limited to the warmer parts of the Old World.

Considerable difference of opinion prevails with regard to the serial position of the fossa, or foussa (Cryptoprocta ferox), of Madagascar, some writers considering that its affinities are so close to the Felidae that it ought not to be included in the present family at all. Others, on the contrary, see no reason to separate it from the Viverrinae or more typical representatives of the civet-tribe. As a medium course, it may be regarded as the sole representative of a special subfamily—Cryptoproctinae—of the Viverridae. The subfamily and genus are characterized by possessing a total of 36 teeth, arranged as i3/3, c1/1, p4/4, m1/1. The teeth generally closely resemble those of the Felidae, the first premolar of both jaws being very minute and early deciduous; the upper sectorial has a small inner lobe, quite at the anterior part; the molar is small and placed transversely; and the lower sectorial has a large trenchant bilobed blade, and a minute heel, but no inner tubercle. The skull is generally like that of Felis, but proportionally longer and narrower, with the orbit widely open behind. Vertebrae: C. 7, D. 13, L. 7, S. 3, Ca. 29. Body elongated. Limbs moderate in size. Feet subplantigrade, with five well-developed toes on each, carrying sharp, compressed, retractile claws. Ears moderate. Tail long and