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In certain areas outside cats' native range, this has contributed, along with habitat destruction and other factors, to the extinction of many bird species.Cats have been known to extirpate a bird species within specific regions and may have contributed to the extinction of isolated island populations.

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Cats, despite being solitary hunters, are a social species and cat communication includes the use of a variety of vocalizations (mewing, purring, trilling, hissing, growling, and grunting), as well as cat pheromones and types of cat-specific body language.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.Feral cats are associated with human habitation areas and may be fed by people or forage for food, but are typically wary of human interaction.Cats have seven cervical vertebrae, as do almost all mammals; 13 thoracic vertebrae (humans have 12); seven lumbar vertebrae (humans have five); three sacral vertebrae like most mammals (humans have five); and a variable number of caudal vertebrae in the tail (humans retain three to five caudal vertebrae, fused into an internal coccyx).Cats are thought to be primarily responsible for the extinction of 33 species of birds, and the presence of feral and free-ranging cats makes some otherwise suitable locations unsuitable for attempted species reintroduction. In comparison to dogs, cats have not undergone major changes during the domestication process, as the form and behavior of the domestic cat is not radically different from those of wildcats and domestic cats are perfectly capable of surviving in the wild.

A 2016 study found that leopard cats were undergoing domestication independently in China around 5,500 BC, though this line of partially domesticated cats leaves no trace in the domesticated populations of today. Cats have either a mutualistic or commensal relationship with humans.

Under controlled breeding, they can be bred and shown as registered pedigree pets, a hobby known as cat fancy.

Failure to control the breeding of pet cats by neutering, as well as the abandonment of former household pets, has resulted in large numbers of feral cats worldwide, requiring population control.

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.

Huehnergard opines it is "equally likely that the forms might derive from an ancient Germanic word, imported into Latin and thence to Greek and to Syriac and Arabic".