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 marsupials, while others consider cats to be part of the rodent family. So, are cats rodents?
In this post, we’ll address some widespread misconceptions and break down the differences between these two animal groups.
Are Cats Rodents?
No, cats are not rodents, they do not belong to the rodent family.
Cats are small and domesticated carnivorous mammals that belong to the family Felidae, together with other wild cats like lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards, cheetahs, bobcats, cougars, and many others.
Cats are one of over 280 species of the order Carnivora, the fifth-largest order of mammals.
Rodents, on the other hand, belong to a completely different order called Rodentia. Cats are not classified as rodents.
Let’s explain this more simply and in detail.
Cats Are Taxonomically Different From Rodents
In biology, there are millions of different plants, animals, bacteria, fungi, etc. To better understand them, scientists organized all of these organisms into different groups called taxa.
Remember how a grocery store is organized?
One huge building is divided into departments such as fruit, dairy, meats, cosmetics, etc.
Then, each department is further divided into aisles, every aisle into categories and brands, and then finally we get to the individual products.
This organization from larger to smaller, more specific categories, is called a taxonomic hierarchical system in biology.
At the top, the largest category is called domain. This is our grocery store building.
Within each domain, there is a second category called a kingdom. This is our store department.
After kingdoms, the subsequent smaller categories are phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species.
The more categories two animals share in common, the more closely they are related.
Cats and rodents belong to the same kingdom, Animalia, or animals. They are both members of the same phylum, Chordata, and of the same class, Mammalia, or mammals.
This is where the relationship between these animals stops; rodents are members of the order Rodentia, while cats are members of the order Carnivora.
If we go even further, the differences between the two increase.
Cats belong to the Felidae family, while rodents can belong to one of 30 different rodent families.
This means that cats are not members of the rodent family.
The Felidae cat family started its evolutionary journey some 25 million years ago, as the first felids appeared in the Oligocene. The adorable cats we keep as pets today started getting domesticated some 10,000 years ago, according to recent studies.
All cats have retractile claws, slender muscular bodies, and strong flexible front limbs – the largest of all felids is the tiger which can weigh up to 660 pounds.
Cats are also members of the Felinae subfamily which includes cats that can purr but not roar.
Members of this subfamily include cheetahs, cougars, caracals, ocelots, bobcats, and domestic cats, among others.
What Are Rodents?
Rodents are small, gnawing animals that have no canine teeth and whose incisors continuously grow. Specifically, they have two pairs of sharp incisor teeth, one pair in the lower and another in the upper jaw.
Those long teeth help rodents gnaw food, excavate burrows, and defend themselves.
The rodent family is the largest order of animals today – scientists estimate that almost half of all mammal species are rodents. They are native to all major landmasses except for New Zealand, Antarctica, and several oceanic islands, but people have been slowly introducing them there as well.
They are a very adaptable and widespread group of animals; rodents can be found in almost every terrestrial habitat, including human-made environments.
Examples of rodents include mice, rats, squirrels, prairie dogs, porcupines, beavers, guinea pigs, and hamsters. The largest species of rodents is the capybara, which can weigh as much as 146 pounds.
Why Are Cats Not Rodents?
Cats are not rodents because they belong to a different mammal order.
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.
Because of their unique characteristics, cats belong to the Carnivora order together with dogs, hyenas, bears, raccoons, minks, otters, and many others.
Cats have 4 prominent canine teeth to help with tearing food into small pieces. Their canines are sharp, pointy, and look like fangs.
Unlike cats, most rodents are herbivores and feed on plants. They also have a single pair of continuously growing incisor teeth in each of the upper and lower jaws. And unlike rodents, cats have canine teeth.
Cats are good hunters and will chase down and eat small rodents such as mice and rats.
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).
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 is?
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.
Read More: Are Rabbits Marsupials Or Not?
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, foxes, bears, raccoons, weasels, and seals.
The main difference between cats and rodents is that cats are carnivorous and do not have as pronounced incisor teeth as rodents do. Most rodents are herbivores and lack the canine teeth of cats.
Rodents are the largest order of small mammals, and one of the most common of all animal types.
If you were pondering on the question “are cats rodents”, we hope this article removed all doubts.
And if you enjoyed it, here are two recommendations on other very popular reads:
Do minks belong to the rodent family? | Do cats lay eggs or give birth?