As a cat guy myself, my initial answer is because they’re cool! But I’m guessing that’s not enough of a reason for most folks, especially those pesky non-cat people. So let’s address this question thoroughly, one step at a time.
We’ll start with an important historical question — why did humans start keeping cats as pets initially anyhow — and from there we’ll move on to our must-read list of 14 reasons to keep a cat as a pet.
Why Did Humans Start Keeping Cats As Pets?
Like dogs, cats became our allies at a very early point. In fact, scientists can’t even pinpoint an approximate date for the advent of feline domestication. We do know, however, that cats were domesticated in ancient Egypt, and probably even earlier.
It is most likely that humans domesticated cats for pest control purposes. A dog can be trained for many different purposes, but a cat will always be the best when it comes to catching mice and rats. This gave early humans an incentive to keep cats around.
These days, most of us no longer need to keep a cat for rodent control. Unlike ancient cities, modern cities do a fairly good job of keeping their rat populations under control. However, the popularity of cats has remained constant.
Why Keep An Animal That Doesn’t Earn Its Keep?
When it comes down to it, cats are not as useful as dogs. They cannot be trained in the same way, and thus can only serve one practical purpose (mousing). However, cats still make great companions and are generally cleaner and quieter than dogs.
There can be no doubt that cats offer both advantages and disadvantages as pets. However, those who like these animals would never look at it this way. To a cat lover, they are like little furry people with their own unique qualities.
This bond that cats have developed with humans is probably the single biggest reason that people love cats. What started as a relationship of convenience has become a true cross-species friendship.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the other reasons, in no particular order. If you are not a cat lover, you might find reading this list useful to understand all the fuss.
14 Reasons to Keep a Cat as a Pet
1. Cats Are Independent
One difference between cats and most other pets is that they require very little from a human for their survival. As one of the best natural hunters in the animal world, cats can usually feed themselves if the need arises.
Cats are also smart enough to find almost anything else they need. They are fast and agile enough to avoid being caught in most instances as well. Have you ever tried to catch a cat that really didn’t want to be caught? It’s not an easy task at all!
This natural independence is a part of what makes a cat so endearing to us. While dogs are dependent upon us to an extreme degree, cats act like they don’t really need us one way or the other. In spite of their affectionate nature, they just don’t need you all that much.
Some people like an animal that is dependent on them, but some others respect the independent and self-reliant nature of the feline. It’s easy to like a creature that you respect. It also makes the cat feel like less of a freeloader.
2. Cats Are Naturally Clean
Sure, you can’t teach them to fetch, but you also don’t have to worry so much about them defecating all over your house. Without being trained, most of them will naturally use a litter box because they have a natural instinct to keep their filthy droppings in one place.
Dogs don’t usually have this instinct unless it is taught to them. Left to their own devices, they will just do their business anywhere. A cat, on the other hand, has a natural aversion to living in filth. This makes the cat an ideal pet for neat freaks.
that’s not to say that a cat won’t make a mess from time to time. They have a tendency to climb on everything they can, and their claws can be pretty hard on furniture. However, they cannot usually create the same level of home devastation that a dog can create.
3. Cats Have A Lot Of Personality
it seems that every cat has a highly unique personality. Rather than coming off as a “dumb animal”, cats usually strike us as intelligent and engaged creatures that are always curious about their environment.
This is why it can be so much fun to watch cat behavior. When they get excited, they can provide an especially great amount of entertainment. Few things in this world are as fast, furious, or frantic as an excited feline. Or, you might have one of those cats that loves attention above all, and which would rather spend its days on the lap of some friendly human.
Cats also vary a lot in terms of friendliness. Some will be completely aloof and stay hidden most of the time. Others will be in your face near-constantly all day long. The diversity of cat personality makes it endlessly fun to interact with the little creatures.
4. Cats Love To Play
Regardless of their age, you can almost always get a cat to play with you. In particular, if you raised the cat from a kitten, they will always have a tendency to go back into “kitten mode” with you.
Endless hours of fun can be had with a playful cat, a laser pointer, and a cat toy on the end of a string. Some cats will play-fight with you, and will even be able to do so without getting too serious. I had a cat once that loved to play fight, but she was careful never to harm me.
It’s also a lot of fun for cats to practice sneaking up and pouncing. This is an extension of their natural hunting behaviors, and for some reason it’s exciting to watch them do it. Seeing this behavior makes you unconsciously feel that you have tamed a mighty hunter.
5. Cats Are Less Territorial
Depending on your situation, you may need a pet that is not going to make the neighbors feel threatened. If you live in a bad neighborhood and you need a protection animal, a cat is obviously not your best choice.
However, if you don’t need a protection animal, it’s good to know that your pet isn’t going to get you hauled in front of a judge because they mauled someone. When a cat bites, it’s usually a quick, bite-and-run affair, and their small size makes it hard for them to injure anyone.
If you live in a congested area and you trust your neighbors, a cat is perhaps a better choice than a dog. Anyone who has ever had an aggressive dog can attest to the problems that can result, and these are just the kinds of dog that make it tempting to get a cat instead.
6. Cats Are The World’s Best Pest Control
We already touched on this subject at the beginning. It has been theorized that the cat domesticated itself. Here’s the idea: When humans first began using large-scale agriculture to create settled societies (and we know they did this at some early point) there would have been a problem with food storage. Not only would they need ways to prevent spoilage, but also ways to prevent pests from raiding their stores.
Of all the measures one can adopt to control rats and mice, a cat is probably the best. For the cost of a little cat food and the trouble of cleaning a smelly box once in a while, you get a creature that will actively hunt those little pests and exterminate them as nature intended.
I have a friend who owns a couple of bulldogs, and they aren’t good with cats. Since he lives way out in the country, he has had some issues with wood rats raiding his kitchen cupboards. More than once, he has lamented the fact that his bulldogs guard the property but won’t do anything about the rats. Since these dogs would quickly kill a cat, he’s out of luck.
This is one area where cat owners have a practical upside that most dog owners do not. While dogs are usually more able to “earn their keep,” this task is the exception. This means that you, as a cat owner, have something to brag about if a dog owner says that your animal doesn’t earn its keep.
7. Reduced Risk Of Heart Attack
Ok, you might be laughing when you read this, but it really is a scientifically proven fact that cat owners are less likely to die of heart attacks. Here’s just one of the studies that have shown this to be the case. To be fair, it’s not a huge difference, but it does seem that cats somehow do help humans to prevent heart problems.
While studies have repeatedly affirmed this link between cat ownership and reduced risk of heart disease, no one seems to understand why this link exists. This leads me to believe that the answer lies on an emotional level, since those kinds of things are much harder to measure and study.
It could be as simple as this: Cats naturally have a soothing effect on the human mind, and this effect makes a person less stressed and thus less likely to develop heart problems. Other studies, like this one, indicate that pet ownership in general will reduce your chances of serious disease.
8. Cats Are Quieter Than Most Pets
Considering that their wild ancestors were stealth predators, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the cat is naturally a quiet animal. Some people just don’t like a lot of noise or commotion in their home, and for these people a cat makes an ideal pet.
As loveable as a dog can be, they can also be very noisy. Cats, on the other hand, tend to express themselves through body language and maybe the occasional meow. If you live in a crowded area or an apartment building with thin walls, a quiet pet is ideal.
9. Cats Are Easier Than Most Exotic Pets
We have already compared cats to dogs in many ways. But, let’s consider some of the other alternatives. You could get a rodent or a ferret, but those are much dirtier, smellier, and not as personable. Rabbits and rats just don’t have the personality of a cat. Ferrets do have a lot of personality, but they also stink and give a nasty bite. Plus, they steal things.
Reptiles can be great pets, but they will almost never be affectionate in the same way that you might expect friom a cat or a dog. Also, reptiles are harder to keep alive, since they often don’t do well with extended captivity. Cats can generally keep themselves alive if need be.
10. Cats Can Learn To Speak (Sort Of)
Many cat owners have found that their cat will tend to use certain types of sounds in order to communicate different messages. Cats are capable of a very wide vocal range, and this means they can be taught to use those vocalizations to communicate with you.
Of course, cats can’t be taught to use language in the way that a human does, but some people have taught them to mimic specific human words.
11. Cats Seem To Bond A Little Better With Women
No one seems to know why this is the case, but cats make particularly good pets for women. This is one of those instances in which a stereotype, that of women liking cats more than men, happens to be very true.
Studies, such as this one, have shown that women are significantly more likely to own cats than men. It might simply be that the graceful and reserved nature of a feline has a natural appeal for women, just as the rowdy nature of a dog appeals more to men.
12. Cats Are Highly Intelligent
Obviously, humans are the most intelligent animal in the world. As such, we can relate better to those animals that are on the higher end of the intelligence scale. Some people think of cats as being dumb, perhaps because they are a little more subtle in their mannerisms. Such people would be surprised to learn that cats are among the world’s smartest creatures.
This study, conducted using rats, cats, and rabbits, was carried out by psychology researchers in Australia. All three animals were measured for intelligence based on their problem-solving skills.
Cat owners will be proud to see that cats absolutely crushed this competition, showing significantly better performance than the rats or the rabbits. Since that rats have been shown to be fairly intelligent creatures in their own right, this means that cats are definitely on the high end of the intelligence scale.
13. Cats Are Great Comfort Animals
Some people see cats as self-absorbed creatures that don’t really care about their owners. However, this can be proven wrong merely by considering one fact. Cats have a natural tendency to comfort humans when they seem depressed. Somehow, cats seem able to sense when a person is depressed, and if they like you, their natural reaction is to try and cheer you up.
This will usually take the form of rubbing and licking. They will also deliberately act “cute”, repeating behaviors that have pleased you in the past. All of this goes to show that cats do care about their owners, at least in most cases. They just have a less overt way of showing it.
Once again, remember that you are dealing with the descendent of a stealth predator. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that felines are subtle creatures. Still, most cats can sense when their owner is in need of a little affection and they won’t hesitate to show that they care.
14. Cats Are Low-Maintenance Pets
Because of their natural independence, and their tendency toward cleanliness, cats dont really require a lot of work from you. Obviously, they have to be fed, and you have to clean out a litter box from time to time, but that’s about all. Compare that to dogs, that often require extensive measures to contain them in a designated area, more frequent worming, more shots, and more space required.
When compared to birds, reptiles, and other exotics, cats are leaps and bounds ahead in terms of maintenance. Many exotic animals are uncommon because of the fact that only a very experienced handler will have the expertise to keep them alive.
To summarize, cats are very likable creatures for a number of reasons. In spite of their mischievous nature and stubborn demeanor, they have a charm that humans of all ages can’t resist. Our list of reasons includes:
- Reduced Territoriality
- Pest Control
- Increased Health
- Clearly Better Than Most Alternatives
- Increased bonding with women
And of course, the average cat owner can probably think of many other reasons why they love their particular cat. We hope this article has given you a newfound appreciation for your feline friend.
Why Humans Are Obsessed with Cats (Video)
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"In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this."
-- Terry Pratchett