This Week in Zoology: Hyenas

Which are better, cats or dogs?

This rivalry between canines and felines is probably as old as the domestication of the two animals itself. The internet seems to be firmly in the feline camp, if my facebook feed is any indication. Felines include not just domestic cats, but lions, tigers, cougars, pumas, lynxes and leopards. Canines, on the other hand, include dogs, wolves, dingos, foxes, coyotes hyaenas….

Woop! Back up. One of these things is not like the other…

Hyaenas are not, actually in the canine category. They belong to the suborder Feliformia, which means that they are more closely related to cats than they are to dogs, despite having this face.


image taken by Annette Naude



What really seperates the Caniformia from the Feliformia is their skulls. Feliformia have double chambered auditory bullae composed of two bones, whereas the Caniformia have a single chambered auditory bullae which might be partially separated by a septum.

Feliformia also tend to have fewer teeth and are often more obligate carnivores than the Caniformia are. This is also important for dog and cat owners to keep in mind: while a healthy diet for a dog also includes grains and certain kinds of vegetables as well as meat, cats need a diet that almost exclusively consists of meat. Don’t try to make your cat follow your own diet.


So which is better then, the Feliformia or the Caniformia? There are also a lot of other animals that you would never think fall into these two categories. The Feliformia do have the awesome meerkat on their side (Herpestidae). On the other hand, the Caniformia have pandas (Ursidae), otters and seals (pinnipedia).

Hmm… tough choice.




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