There are around 340 recognised dog breeds in the world while the recognised breeds of cats stand at just 73.
The concept of an animal companionship goes back to nearly 15,000 BC when our ancestors domesticated the first dogs and cats from their wild species. Dogs domesticated (Canisfamiliaris) from Eurasian grey wolves and cats from their Middle eastern wildcat (Felissylvestris) ancestors in around 8000 B.C. It is clear that our human ancestors used dogs for hunting and this is behind the general conclusion that dogs were domesticated long before cats. There are around 340 recognised dog breeds in the world while the recognised breeds of cats stand at just 73.
The phrase ‘Domestic cat is an oxymoron’ (attributed to George F. Will) says a lot about our understanding of the domestic cats. The thousands of years of domestication and selective breeding has almost erased all the wild behavioral traits in dogs — earning them the nick-name, ‘Man’s best friend’. Dogs do well in social groups as they are also a social animal but on the other hand, cats are still partially or majorly wild and one of the reasons why they are seen in close proximity to humans, is the abundance of rats and mice in human habitats. Cats are wild and have territories and that’s why it is nearly impossible to keep a cat indoors.
Since the age of domestication, our love for pets has increased thousand fold, exploring the possibility of domestication and selective breeding of animals, not just dogs but also cats, horses, rabbits to even lizards, turtles, spiders and snakes. While pets are generally considered as companion animals, a number of countries treat them as working animals, sport animals and even livestock. Through this 15,000-year journey, we have explored all possible services from our companions ranging from personal protectors, animals that provide their human companion with physical and emotional benefits, to even seeking their assistance in psychological therapy. It has also proven to reignite our lost spark with nature. This traditional knowledge of domestication that’s been passed down from our ancestors is currently found in almost all the civilizations and cultures. They apparently satisfy a deep, universal human need.
The author is a wildlife biologist with specific interest in herpetology and conservation