Dogs may be man's best friend, but it doesn't take long perusing Facebook to realize that cat photos and videos are making millions of people say, "Awwwwww." (And who's ever even heard of a crazy dog lady?) Does that mean cats are more popular than dogs? How many cats are there in the world anyway?
The answer to the first question is, yes, cats are more popular as pets than dogs. In the U.S., more households have dogs than cats – 36.5 percent vs. 30.4 percent; however, there are more cats as pets – nearly 75 million cats vs. nearly 70 million dogs. Around the world cats are also more popular as pets than dogs.
As to the second question, how many cats are there in the world? Well, estimates range from 220 million to 600 million plus. Pinning down an exact number is nearly impossible because counting feral cats – those free-roaming cats that can be found in almost any neighborhood or behind the grocery store or near restaurant garbage bins, which one organization estimated at about 158 million in 2007 – is a lot like trying to herd cats.
"Cats, especially feral cats, do survive and even thrive in most parts of the world," says Louise Holton, president of Alley Cat Rescue, via email. "Tame housecats, if left to fend for themselves, do suffer. They do not know how to find food, nor shelter, and no doubt this is a very cruel thing to do to a domesticated animal. Those that do make it, either join an existing colony or form one on their own, and can go on to breed and learn how to hunt and scavenge."
Hunting and scavenging is instinctive in most cats. In fact, as a whole, cats didn't move inside until the 1940s when kitty litter was invented, and many cat experts say they are still most at home in the great outdoors, attributing some bad behavior (think urinating outside the litter box) to the stress of living indoors. (Or working as CEOs?)
Indoors or out, cats, even if they are too sneaky to be counted, are giving dogs a run for their money in the popular pet department.