(N)ature’s most agile, diverse and versatile predator is the House Cat. It has one of the most diverse diets in the animal kingdom, and is especially apt at hunting the widest array of creatures in its family of species. Its hunting performances exceed those of lions, tigers, leopards and Big Cats, and it is equally effective both during the night and in daytime. It feasts on fish, land animals and birds alike, and a well-trained adult can effortlessly secure meals for its offspring. Researchers are constantly amazed by the efficiency of the hunt, and by the fact that the animal’s hunting strategy features elements that are present in many other species of felines. (source)
Domestic cats are such effective predators that wherever they become an invasive species, they pretty much take over the top predator role on their scale of predation. They are hell on birds, snakes, lizards, and especially small mammals. Feral cats are a huge problem wherever they don’t belong, which is pretty much everywhere beside the deserts of North Africa.
The keen senses and strike speed of my own little house cat never cease to amaze me. Dogs don’t even come close. Dogs have only two things on cats: a more discriminating sense of smell and endurance. Cats hunt more based on sound and sight than smell, and they are incredibly quick in short sprints, but, just like cheetahs and all other cats of any size, they run out of gas pretty quickly. A dog is like a horse, it can run at moderate speed pretty much all day long, and it can run at full speed far longer than any cat.
It might be argued that the big cats take on prey larger than themselves, which house cats usually do not do, though they’ve been known to kill rabbits or hares. However, by killing smaller prey they are successful far more frequently which is what really counts. Once a house cat gets its paws on a prey item, it’s pretty much over at that point. Large prey often get away from the big cats.
The speed of a cat’s front paw strike is so quick you can hardly see it. You pretty much see the before and after but not much of the strike itself.
More observations about cats:
They really are killers. It’s been observed that dogs really hunt in packs. Alone, they may chase a rabbit or a squirrel but seldom finish it off (with the exception of terriers, who were bred for the purpose of killing mice, rats, and other small vermin). A cat won’t think twice about it.
They are incredibly flexible, and can lick/groom almost their entire body. They groom their head by wetting their front paws and wiping.
Cat skin is loose and they can turn inside it, something which a larger predator who gets a mouthful of a cat’s skin soon understands, as he gets raked by the cat’s powerful hind legs and incredibly sharp claws.
They are very narrow and can get into surprisingly tight places.
Cats are great jumpers. My cat can jump from the floor up to the crows nest on top of her cat tree, which is 5 feet up. Jumping up from the floor to a kitchen counter or the dining room table is a piece of cake. Laughably easy.
They have a weird ability that borders on mind reading. My kitty usually walks in front of me around the apartment, seemingly knowing where I’m going at about the same time I do.
Their retractable claws are an advantage shared only by a few species of mongoose and the fossa, a strange predator that looks like a mix of cat, dog, and mongoose.
Purring is done by muscles surrounding the larynx, and while it usually signifies contentment, cats also purr when stressed or in pain.
Cat kidneys are phenomenal. Cats can live entirely without ground water by extracting water from the meat of their prey and recycling it inside their body. They can even drink salt water without ill effects.
Much as we love dogs—and I do—they are not nearly as amazing biologically as cats.