Why are there so many more dog breeds than cat breeds?

Theis is a discussion on why there are many more dog breeds than cat breeds. It is about the differences in dog and cat domestication and trainability. I’m presenting the information in bullet form.

Many dog breeds. Far more than the number of cat breeds
Many dog breeds. Far more than the number of cat breeds. Image: Getty (modified).
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats
  1. The grey wolf was domesticated perhaps up to about 20,000 years before the North African wildcat was domesticated. Therefore, the domestic dog has a 10,000-20,000 head start on the domestic cat which means that through selective breeding breeders have been able to create many different breeds.
  2. In addition, the domestic dog was “created” to be functional, to be a working animal. And they have different functions and therefore there are different “breeds”. For instance, some tubular dogs were bred to chase down burrows while others were trained to fetch game birds that had been shot by their owner. Each dog requires different characteristics to do with their anatomy and their behavioural skills. This does not apply to cats.
  3. It is said that there are somewhere around 300 different dog breeds. The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) accepts 42 different types of purebred cat but there are more. In my opinion there have been or there are around a hundred different cat breeds. But still, this is one third of the number of dog breeds.
  4. Dogs, in general, are more ‘useful’ than cats because they are utilitarian (working animals) whereas cats are designed to entertain and keep their owners company. But modern life and increased wealth is narrowing this difference and in any case cats through their companionship are utilitarian.
  5. The reason why dogs can be working animals is because their wild ancestor, the grey wolf, is a social animal, living in packs and working together. They are predisposed to listening to the alpha dog, the leader who happens to be the human caregiver in human society. This leads them to being easily trainable and a working animal as they accept training from their owner.
  6. Cats are inherently solitary because the North African wildcat is an inherently solitary animal, and it is difficult to shake off that inherited personality or characteristic which means that the domestic cat can seem aloof and can have a take it or leave it attitude towards their human caregiver. It also means that when the domestic cat goes outside, they revert to their wild nature whereas inside they are more a companion to their owner.
  7. It is very difficult to get a cat to provide a functional role within the household compared to dogs who are often trained to perform tasks even when these dogs are not particularly bred to perform certain tasks.
  8. Nowadays, there is a tendency to breed dogs as companions rather than to perform tasks, so dog breeding appears to be more in line with cat breeding these days.
  9. But you will find in developing countries that the dog still is more functional than in the so-called developed countries. This is because the dog needs to perform a task and support their owner whereas in the wealthier West or more developed countries the dog no longer needs to perform a task except to entertain and keep their owner company. As mentioned, this is in line with the cat companion and so there appears to be a narrowing of the difference between cats and dogs in this regard.
  10. However, it needs to be pointed out that when a domestic cat keeps their owner company and entertained, they are performing a function so in this regard they are a working animal of equal value.
  11. There are many therapy cats. These are utilitarian cats, in effect working cats the same as working dogs
  12. It also needs to be pointed out that domestic cats can be trained. It is not totally alien to them to be trained. Indeed, Dr. Fogle DVM, perhaps the world’s best-known veterinarian/author, states that people should train their cat because it is good for them in that it stimulates their mind, and it enhances the human-to-cat relationship.
Sphynx Therapy Cat Piglet
Sphynx Therapy Cat Piglet. Photo in public domain.
Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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