Despite the dominance of man’s best friend as the UK’s domestic pet of choice at 24% of households, cats come a close second with our feline friends occupying 18% of the country’s homes. In fact, according to the PFMA, cats and dogs leave the competition standing, with the next most popular pet being fish kept in tanks with just 9% of household.
The popularity of dogs can easily be explained by their historical role as working animals used to hunt. But our continuing love affair with cats throughout the centuries is more nuanced and has less obvious utilitarian roots. So what is it that makes cats so special to us, given all the other potentially domesticated animals out there?
The relationship between humans and cats spans recorded history, with DNA evidence suggesting that cats were domesticated in the Middle East between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago. At this point in history, the rise of grain production would have meant that people began to be experience problems with mice, for which cats were – and still remain – the perfect predators. It’s likely that these early communities encouraged wild cats to stay around their grain stores by offering food or other attention, beginning the process of domestication which has created the cats we know and love today.
Cats are fiercely independent and it was long believed that they cannot be easily trained. Though this has since be proven wrong through studies and books such as The Trainable Cat Book. They are certainly not suited to wearing a lead or accompanying their owner on long walks. Whilst dog’s loyalty seems to be their main appeal, it is this very independence that attracts so many people to cats. A pet cat requires very little training, beyond the basics of toilet habits, and are perfectly able to groom themselves. They are happy to be left alone for extended periods of time throughout the day, but will also offer affection and attention when in the company of the family. This makes them a suitably low maintenance pet for our busy modern lives.