They are soft, fluffy, and meow for attention. They show affection through their large eyes. Ask any person, and they will tell you that their cat is the cutest.
However, there is some confusion as to which species of animals cats belong to.
Some seem to wonder if cats are part of the rodent family, while others consider cats to be marsupials. Well, are cats marsupials?
In this post, we’ll address some widespread misconceptions and break down the differences between these two animal groups.
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Are Cats Marsupials?
No, cats are not marsupials. They belong to the group of placental mammals of the order Carnivora, together with mongooses, lions, tigers, bears, dogs, weasels, seals, and others.
Cats are not considered marsupials since they do not carry their newborns in a pouch as most marsupials do. Also, unlike most marsupials, cats give birth to a fully developed baby.
Cats can produce many offspring, giving birth from one to twelve babies per litter. These newborns are called kittens.
On, the other hand, marsupials are animals that belong to the group called Marsupialia. Cats are not part of this group of animals.
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What Are Marsupials?
Marsupials are mammals that give birth to an altricial young to be nursed inside a pouch. Altrical youngs are born prematurely in an undeveloped state, and continue their development while attached to the nipples on the mother’s lower belly.
Cats are definitely not one of those animals!
The pouch – or marsupium, from which the group got its name – is a flap of skin covering the nipples.
Wombats and marsupial moles, species of burrowing marsupials, have backward-facing pouches so the dirt doesn’t get in as the animals dig. The pouch of a female koala opens to the side, while in water opossums both females and males have pouches.
Almost 70% of marsupials can be found in Australia and New Guinea; the rest are distributed throughout North, Central, and South America.
Some larger species of marsupials are the kangaroos, koalas, wombats, and wallabies, while the smaller ones include opossums, Tasmanian devils, and bandicoots.
The largest marsupial in the world is the red kangaroo, weighing up to 200 pounds – the baby kangaroo, called a joey, is just an inch long at birth and weighs only 0.035 oz!
Marsupials first evolved in South America about 100 million years ago, when South America, Australia, and Antarctica were a single continent.
Why Are Cats Not Marsupials?
Cats are not marsupials because they belong to a different infraclass of animals.
There are three types of mammals based on the way they reproduce: monotremes (mammals that lay eggs), marsupials (mammals that give birth to an early-stage fetus), and placentals (mammals that give birth to fully developed fetus).
Marsupials belong to an infraclass called Marsupialia, where the newborns are incompletely developed and are typically carried and suckled in a pouch on the mother’s belly.
For example, the red kangaroo is born after only about one month of pregnancy. At this stage in development, the newborn is hairless, has closed eyes, and has undeveloped back legs.
After that, this bean-sized animal has to climb into the pouch and latch on one of four nipples. It will remain there for about 8 months before it leaves the pouch and starts feeding on its own.
Unlike marsupials, cats have a placenta and do not carry their babies in a pouch.
Cats belong to the infraclass Placentalia, in which a placenta develops during pregnancy.
The placenta nourishes (via umbilical cord) and protects the fetus while it grows inside the uterus. When the more advanced stages are reached, a female will give birth.
If your cat has given birth, it is important to count the number of placentas, as each kitten should have one. If there are fewer placentas than there are kittens, you will need to see a veterinarian immediately, as there is a chance that the placenta was retained.
Once a baby cat is born and the umbilical cord is removed, the offspring will have a belly button scar (navel) on the belly; the scar will not create the classic belly button appearance humans have.
Unlike cats and other placental mammals, marsupials will not have a belly button scar.
It should be noted that not all marsupials have a pouch. Some have exposed teats, while others will develop a pouch only during pregnancy.
And as we mentioned before, marsupials are most diverse in Australia and New Guinea, where there are no placental mammals. That allowed them to thrive there and diversify into a variety of different species.
In places where marsupials and placental mammals developed alongside one another, placental mammals took over and were the dominant ones.
What Are Cats?
Cats are small and domesticated carnivorous mammals with soft fur, short snouts, and retractable claws.
People love to keep cats as pets or for catching mice, and many breeds have been developed (there are between 45 and 73 recognized cat breeds in the world).
The adorable cats we keep as pets today started getting domesticated some 10,000 years ago, according to recent studies.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, cats were the second-most popular pets in the US.
In 2021, over 58 million felines in total were living in 31 million households in the United States. That means that each household had almost 2 cats.
Can you guess who the most popular pet was?
That’s right, dogs. There were over 76 million pet dogs in the USA in 2021.
And as of 2021, scientists estimate that there are over 220 million owned and 480 million stray cats in the world.
Cats are the only mammals that can’t taste sweet things due to the lack of sugar detectors on their taste buds.
And compared to humans, cats have 24 more bones; there are 230 in cats and 206 bones in humans.
As we mentioned, one of the main things that make cats so adorable is their big eyes – cats have the largest eyes relative to the head size of any mammal.
Not the most “sporty” animals, cats are considered lazy since they typically sleep between 12 and 16 hours a day.
And if your cat slowly blinks at you, this means that the animal shows contentment and trust in you. The blink basically means a “kitty kiss.”
And when they rub their faces and bodies on you, cats are marking you as their territory – cats have scent glands in those areas.
Cats look similar to other felid species. They have strong flexible bodies, quick reflexes, sharp teeth, retractable claws, excellent sense of smell, and night vision.
The word “cat” comes from the Latin word “cattus”.
A male cat is called a tom or tomcat, a female is called a molly, while a juvenile cat is a kitten.
Cats are carnivorous mammals that feed on small mammals, fish, and birds. They will even prey on almost any small animal, such as lizards, snakes, and large insects.
Cats have 4 prominent canine teeth to help with tearing food into small pieces. Their canines are sharp, pointy, and look like fangs.
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Final Thoughts – Are Cats Marsupials?
In conclusion, cats are neither rodents nor marsupials. Cats are animals that belong to the order of placental mammals called Carnivora.
Carnivores can be divided into two groups: the cat-like Feliformia, and the dog-like Caniformia.
The main difference between the two is the structure of their ear bones and some skull features.
The feliforms include cats, hyenas, mongooses, and civets, while the caniforms include dogs, bears, raccoons, weasels, and seals.
The main difference between cats and marsupials is that the cats are placental mammals that do not give birth to an undeveloped baby and do not keep it in their pouches, as marsupials do.
If you were pondering on the question “are cats marsupials”, we hope this article removed all doubts.
And if you enjoyed it, here are two recommendations on other very popular reads:
Are rabbits members of the marsupial group of animals? | How do cats reproduce, by laying eggs or not?