Surveys of attitudes in the United States show that there are nearly 7 times as many cat haters as there are dog haters, and many people associate cats with allergies..
The words come from Fiona Sunquist in the book Wild Cats of the World. It’s an excellent book but on this occasion she does not explain why seven times more people hate cats than dogs. It’s a startling statistic and an explanation is required.
I’m going to try and explain but what I write is just my opinion. Is not based on any research or anybody else’s ideas. In all, I think that there are three reasons.
Historically the cat has been a predator of humans. I’m referring to the big cats such as, for example, the sabre-toothed cat. There was a time in Germany (as one example among many) when the sabre-toothed cat preyed upon early homo sapiens. Humans had to defend themselves with spears. This was 300,000 years ago. The spear was a vital tool for human survival in Europe at that time. The sabre-toothed cat possessed razor sharp claws and deadly jaws. The animal must have caused fear amongst early humans.
I would argue that that fear has been carried forward to today. It has never completely disappeared partly because the modern day domestic cat is, in truth, barely domesticated. When they step outside they can become their wildcat ancestor. The inscrutable gaze and the poker-faced expression of the domestic cat can frighten people. It is the unpredictability and the quick movements which can make some people anxious. The sharp claws are still there and the hard penetrating bite with those long canine teeth are still there as well. The more you understand the cat the more any fear will disappear.
In contrast, the dog has been domesticated for thousands of years longer than the cat. The dog is more predictable than the domestic cat. The dog is more needy and seeks to please his master. He is more obedient. Obedience plays a big role in the human-to-dog-relationship. It is commonly quoted that the human is the servant of the cat and the dog is a servant of the human.
Ancient Egypt and Middle Ages
You can see this love-hate relationship with domestic cats over the centuries. In ancient Egypt it is said that they loved their cats but they sacrificed them by the hundred of thousands. It is highly likely that many hundreds of thousands were killed deliberately to appease the gods.
And for 300 years, in the Middle Ages, the domestic, stray and feral cat was heavily persecuted. It is amazing that any cats managed to survive during this period of European history. People killed cats whenever they encountered them. One of the most common events during a feast day was the torture and death of any cat that allowed him or herself to be captured. It was a symbolic act to drive out the devil. Cats were burned, beaten and drowned and generally tortured and abused. It is astonishing to think that this happened for three centuries in Europe.
The beginning of the end of this period occurred when the French Cardinal Richelieu liked to look after a dozen cats at his court. Other people followed suit and the domestic cat regained some of its popularity. There is still this ambivalence however about the domestic cat notwithstanding that there are more domestic cats in America than there are dogs.
Many Americans percieve the feral cat as the bringer of disease. Where the climate is suitable in the south there are quite a lot of feral cats, more than in the UK for instance. The greater the presence of feral cats the more chance that they will annoy someone who doesn’t really understand arguments why people should treat them humanely.
The domestic cat is loved by passionately hundreds of millions of people but you will find that, taken globally, hundreds of millions of people are anxious about the cat and many of these people dislike them strongly. This is why there is too much cat abuse and cruelty across the globe much of it casual and rooted in fear.