Cats! Wild to Mild - San Diego Natural History Museum

This exhibition closed January 4, 1998.

The interactive displays and dioramas of "Cats! Wild to Mild" feature 35 wild and 36 domestic breeds of cats, including more than 25 taxidermied animals. (None of the felines were specifically collected for the exhibit but died of natural causes.) Specimens include the snow leopard, tiger, jaguar, lion, bobcat, lynx, ocelot, mountain lion, serval, marbled cat, caracal, margay and wild cat, the ancestor of the present day modern cat.

Photo of lion pair in cat exhibit

Major themes of "Cats! Wild to Mild" include:

Cat biology and behavior - Visitors can study what a cat is as a hunter. Skeletons of cats demonstrate their bodily structure. How does a cat fall, run, jump, hear and see? Why do they groom, spray and mark? Why do they have spots?

Interactives include:
  • A touchable giant cat tongue that demonstrates the sandpaper-like barbed papillae that enable cats to lick meat off the bones of their prey.
  • A mechanical model that allows visitors to manipulate the forelimb of a lion, complete with retractable claws and joints.
History of the domesticated cat - The long history of cat-human relationships probably began in ancient Egypt where cats were venerated as holy and domesticated. In this section, visitors will see replicas of ancient cat artifacts and an actual cat mummy, while examining the spread of domestic cats around the world.
Interactives include:
  • A computer game that explains the genetics of cat coat colors

Endangerment and conservation of wild cats - Numbering less than 50 animals, Florida panthers are highly endangered, and are just one example of many dwindling cat species. Human encroachment, habitat destruction, and low genetic variabilities threaten their survival. Visitors can learn about endangered cats and efforts to protect them from extinction.

Interactives include:
  • A computer game that invites visitors to construct a tiger preserve, where choices in designing the compound directly affect the survival of an endangered Sumatran tiger population.

Responsible pet care - Visitors can learn about cat behavior, growth and development, as well as responsible cat care.

Interactives include:
  • What's your cat saying? Match puzzle parts of a cat to cat sounds such as a growl, hiss and purr.
  • A station that allows children to pretend they are veterinarians as they diagnose, treat and comfort a toy cat named "Mews."

Created by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, "Cats! Wild to Mild" is nationally supported by Friskies PetCare Company and the National Science Foundation.

Cats! | Exhibits