Cats and kittens captivate us online and in person more than ever before. Polls place the cat population at 95.6 million cats* in U.S. homes. What’s more, the total number households with cats has grown to 45.3 million.
To find out how these beautiful, fun creatures made their way into American’s lives and why they are so popular, check out some cat facts past and present.
What Is a Cat?
The scientific name for a cat is Felis catus, from the subfamily Felinae, which also includes wild cats such as Lynx, Leopards, Pumas, Servals, Cheetahs and many wild Asian cats. If you go higher up to the family Felidae, you will find the cat’s link to lions and tigers (although your cat might believe he’s much more closely related).
Get the facts on big cats here >>
The closest relative to our housecat is the African Wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica). This spotted cat still lives throughout northern Africa and around the Arabian Peninsula’s edge to the Caspian Sea, but archeologists estimate that at least 100,000 years ago a split began.* The more diminutive Felis catus emerged and eventually gravitated toward the granaries of early human settlements in Mesopotamia around 10,000 B.C., where stores of grain attracted rodents, and, consequently, their predator the cat.
After ingratiating themselves into African and Near Eastern homes for centuries, cats migrated to Europe and Asia via trade ships seeking rodent control (or unwittingly harboring stowaways). They landed in port towns and became precursor cats to breeds such as British Shorthairs and Manx, and Japanese Bobtails and Siberians.
Ultimately, tough strong breeds that could survive long trips ventured to the new world. That’s where we get the Maine Coon, from thick-coated cats who endured cold treks to the west. In fact, this is likely where polydactyl cats come from.
What a Cat is Today
These days, cats are far more than mouse hunters to us. Cats are video stars, cats keep us healthy – cats are part of the family. And there’s a cat for everybody, whether you’re a fan of a cat’s coat pattern, a cat’s temperament or just like certain cat breeds.
Although cats vary only slightly in size, their coloring and coat texture differ broadly. Many people are intrigued by black cats. Others wonder why orange cats are so often males. Still more want to learn all they can about tabby cats.
Cats differ similarly in characteristics. CAT FANCY writer Brad Kollus has divided cats up into four basic personality types. To find out which one your cat is, or which combination, take the cat personality quiz.
Want to know what other cat fans are searching for? CatChannel visitors have selected these 10 as their top cat breeds, below.
Top Cat Breeds
Cats will always win us over with their charms. Count your blessings that they came into our lives all those many years ago.
*2011-2012 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey
*National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America