Cat mosaic on house façade, Brussels, Belgium - photo by Dr Les Sachs
On my internet travels this morning, I bumped into a chart that set out the population of domestic cats in various countries for the years 1998 and 1996. Please note that these figures relate to domestic cats not feral cats.
I thought that it would be nice to compare the figures with the human populations of these countries to make a comparison. Cat population figures alone don't say much.
The result is the spreadsheet below:
So what does this tell us? Well, I am not entirely sure but I will make some guesses.
It is probably accepted that the United States is the country where the domestic cat is the most popular companion animal. The chart above supports this. However, I cannot ignore the other fact, which is at the other end of the spectrum, namely that the USA is the only country that allows widespread declawing of cats for non-therpeutic reasons. There are about 20 million declawed cats in the USA. This is a paradox. One set of figures says that the USA is the place where domestic cats are loved and kept the most. And the other figures say it is the place where the domestic cat is legally abused the most. Nothing comes close to the abuse figures. In fact they are unique in the world. I am sorry to go on about it but declawing is a horrible stain on a great nation that I like.
Also I am compelled to say that the preference for keeping domestic cats can go hand in hand with an irresponsible attitude to keeping cats. The result? More feral cats. Irresponsibility is bound up with selfishness (see my conclusion below).
The other figure that stands out a bit for me is that Britain is not a close second to the United States coming 17th in this ratio of cats to people.
Britain is said to be a land of animal lovers. This is true in a sense but there is still a good amount of animal cruelty in Britain.
The figures do not include dogs. And this leads me nicely to the figures for Spain. Spain is an EU country. It has been for a long time. But there are precious few domestic cats as pets in Spain in comparison to the USA.
However a different source (/www.snvel.fr), tells me that Spain ranks 3rd in the European region of countries for total number of cats and dogs as pets. That indicates that the Spanish prefer dogs. Why I wonder? Once again I am not sure but it may be because there are more rural communities in Spain than say in more densely populated Britain. In dense urban environments where there are small homes (apartments), and where people work away from home at the office, a cat must be the more practical and humane choice. Dogs are ideal as working animals on farms etc.
There also seems to be a culture of hunting in Spain that is quite naturally not in the interest of animals. This indicates to me a barrier to accepting the domestic cat on the right terms
There also seems to be a division along the lines of the cooler and wetter countries where there are more domestic cats per head of population than in the drier and warmer western countries.
The bottom four are all warm to hot countries, Spain, Turkey, Cyprus and Israel. In these countries there is the potential for greater numbers of feral cats as living outside is more practical. The overt presence of feral cats may turn people away from keeping domestic cats and/or people may keep cats but they may be stray cats and not domesticated.
These, as I said, are guesses no more. It has to be said too that in some of the warmer countries, whose economies are somewhat based on tourism, the feral cat can be persecuted by being exterminated rather than managing them with proper trap, neuter and return programs.
I think that the lack of sensitivity towards the cat (or perhaps animals generally) is indicated in this maltreatment of feral cats.
These warmer but less economically rich countries (Israel is the exception as it is pretty rich), have poor animal welfare laws. They have an underdeveloped animal welfare system. If there is animal welfare legislation it is not enforced properly. There is a lack of will. This informs us as to their attitude to the domestic cat. The people of these countries probably prefer the dog, seeing it as more useful and the cat as not at all useful. They are incorrect in that assessment as the cat was domesticated for the very reason that it is useful as a rodent catcher.
In the middle ground we have countries such as Australia. Australians like domestic cats on the basis of these figures. But in general they hate feral cats and treat them brutally on occasion. They are allowed to shoot them in some states. This is also a paradox as feral cats originate from domestic cats and they are essentially the same animal.
In conclusion it seems that many people, no matter where they live, love their cats but it has to be on their terms. The keeping of a cat for many is for the benefit of the person. It is not an entirely equal relationship. This is what underpins the horrible practice of declawing. People are so inured with the idea that the cat is there for their convenience that they deceive themselves into justifying declawing. They do this despite declaring that their cat is a member of the family!
The relationship between domestic cat and human should be firmly based on one of equality. This ensures a balanced relationship and respect for the cat. Respect for the domestic cat will always express itself in the best form of animal welfare.