The 7 Levels of Cat Classification. A Breakdown of Feline Taxonomy


Taxonomy and classification are fundamental concepts in biology. Taxonomy is the science of identifying, describing, naming, and classifying living organisms into groups based on shared characteristics. This system was created by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in the 1700s. Classification arranges organisms into taxonomic groups, allowing biologists to study the diversity of life in an organized way.

The taxonomic system uses a hierarchical structure, ranking organisms from broad, general categories to increasingly specific, narrow ones. There are seven major levels of classification, from kingdom to species. Each successive level contains a more refined grouping of organisms based on new distinguishing traits. This system allows scientists to better understand evolutionary relationships and biological differences among organisms.


All cats belong to the kingdom Animalia. The cat (Felis catus), is classified under the kingdom Animalia because cats are multicellular, eukaryotic organisms that lack cell walls, obtain energy through consumption of other organisms, and are capable of locomotion at some stage of their lives.

The kingdom Animalia encompasses all animals on Earth. Members of this kingdom are heterotrophs that ingest food to obtain energy and have specialized sensory and nervous systems. The cells of animal organisms do not have cell walls and their bodies have differentiated into tissues. Animal species exhibit complex behavior patterns and advanced neurological systems compared to other kingdoms.

As domesticated house cats, all breeds and species of Felis catus clearly fall under the kingdom Animalia according to biological classification. This kingdom classification is the broadest rank in taxonomy, below which cats can be further classified into more specific ranks and categories.


Cats belong to the phylum Chordata, which includes all vertebrate animals. The distinguishing characteristic of chordates is that they possess a notochord, dorsal hollow nerve cord, pharyngeal slits, an endostyle, and a post-anal tail at some point during embryonic development (Wikipedia).

As members of the phylum Chordata, cats have a backbone and spinal column. This puts them in the subphylum Vertebrata along with other vertebrates like fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals (TsaMalex). The vertebral column provides structural support and protects the spinal cord which runs through it.

In summary, the phylum for cats is Chordata which means they are vertebrates with a backbone and spinal column like other mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.


Cats belong to the class Mammalia, which are mammals. Mammals are a diverse group of vertebrate animals that are characterized by having mammary glands that produce milk to nourish their young. Other defining features of mammals include having fur or hair, being warm-blooded, and usually giving live birth rather than laying eggs (

Some key traits that distinguish mammals from other animal classes include:

  • Having a neocortex region in their brains
  • Having three middle ear bones
  • Being endothermic (warm-blooded)
  • Having hair or fur
  • Producing milk through mammary glands to feed their young

As mammals, cats share all of these definitive mammalian characteristics. Placing cats in the class Mammalia indicates they are more closely related to other mammals like dogs, whales, bats, and humans than they are to fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, or invertebrates.


Cats belong to the order Carnivora. This order contains mammals that primarily eat meat as their main diet. The order Carnivora contains over 280 species, including cats, dogs, bears, raccoons, and seals. Members of this order have similar characteristics like sharp teeth and claws to help them catch and eat prey. They also have relatively short digestive tracts compared to herbivores since meat is easier to chemically break down and digest than plant material. The order name Carnivora comes from the Latin words “caro” meaning flesh and “vorare” meaning to devour. So the name refers to the meat-eating lifestyle of these animals.

Cats as carnivores have evolved powerful muscles, quick reflexes, and sharp retractable claws to help them hunt. Their teeth are adapted for grabbing prey, killing through suffocation or breaking the neck, ripping flesh, and chewing meat. So being classified in the order Carnivora indicates the cat’s primary adaptation as an effective predator and meat eater.





Cats belong to the family Felidae, which includes all cats big and small. The Felidae family is part of the order Carnivora and includes lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cougars, cheetahs, and domestic cats. There are 37 felid species divided into two subfamilies – Pantherinae for the big cats, and Felinae for the small cats. The Felidae family evolved around 11 million years ago and originated in Asia before spreading across the world. All members of the cat family share several common traits like retractable claws, heightened senses of sight, sound and smell, flexible bodies, and teeth adapted for hunting. Some key facts about the Felidae cat family include:

  • Belongs to order Carnivora along with dogs, bears, and seals among others.
  • Includes big cats like lions and tigers as well as small cats like domestic cats.
  • Largest cat species is the Tiger.
  • Smallest cat species is the Rusty-spotted cat.
  • Domestic cat is the most common member of the family.
  • Only family in Carnivora where all members have the ability to roar.

So in summary, the family Felidae encompasses all cats great and small sharing several unifying characteristics. It demonstrates the wide variety among cat species with the largest tiger and smallest rusty-spotted cat both being felids.


The genus for cats is Felis. This genus belongs to the Felidae family. According to the domestic cat Definition on Biology Online, the scientific classification for the domestic cat is:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Genus: Felis

Species: F. catus

The genus Felis includes small wild cats that include the jungle cat, sand cat, and black-footed cat. The domestic cat belongs to this genus with the scientific name Felis catus.


The species name for domestic cats is Felis catus. This species includes all domesticated cats around the world. According to the University of Edinburgh, studies of mitochondrial DNA suggest that today’s domestic cats all descended from the Near Eastern wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica), which still exists today in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia. Housecats exhibit very little genetic variation due to this single domestication event and breeders selecting for specific appearances and behaviors. Thus, Felis catus encompasses a wide variety of breeds and colors of our familiar housecat companions.


Cats have been selectively bred for distinct characteristics and personalities, leading to the development of many popular breeds around the world. Some of the most popular cat breeds today include:

Siamese – Known for their pointed coloration and striking blue eyes, Siamese cats originated in Thailand. They are vocal, active, and social. Siamese tend to bond strongly with their human families.[1]

Persian – Distinguished by their long, flowing coats and flat faces, Persian cats originated in the Middle East. They have a calm, sweet temperament and enjoy lounging around the house. Persians need daily grooming to prevent tangles and mats in their fur.[2]

Maine Coon – Known as “gentle giants,” Maine Coon cats are one of the largest domesticated breeds. They have a rugged, muscular build and a distinctive long, shaggy coat. Maine Coons are friendly, playful, and make great family pets.[1]

Ragdoll – Ragdoll cats are known for being docile, affectionate and relaxing when held. They have a medium-long silky coat and come in a variety of pointed color patterns. Ragdolls make exceptionally laidback and cuddly companion pets.[3]


There are 7 levels of classification for a cat:

Kingdom – Animalia

The kingdom is the highest classification level.

Phylum – Chordata

The phylum is the next level down which specifies vertebrates.

Class – Mammalia

The class level specifies mammals.

Order – Carnivora

The order specifies carnivores.

Family – Felidae

The family level specifies cats.

Genus – Felis

The genus specifies the common domestic cat.

Species – F. catus

The species level identifies the domestic cat species.

Understanding the hierarchical classification levels helps us see the relationships between organisms and how cats fit into the broader taxonomy.

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