The American Kennel Club recognizes 190 dog breeds, but there are only 42 recognized cat breeds in the United States, according to the Cat Fanciers’ Association. And while dogs come in all shapes and sizes, cats are, essentially, cats. The reason for this disparity? Over thousands of years, dogs have been selectively bred to produce certain traits, often in order to make them better at performing specific jobs. Cats, on the other hand, have only held one or two roles in human households — as companions or as pest control. While some new cats breeds have been developed in the past 75 years, there hasn’t been a need to improve on what cats do best — cuddling and hunting.
Companions for thousands of years:
- Cat lineages have been bred to produce felines with minor physical distinctions — from rounder or leaner faces and shortened snouts to coats in a variety of colors, textures, and lengths.
- Dogs, on the other hand, vary from short-legged (Corgis and Dachshunds) to tall, lean, and leggy (Greyhounds and Whippets), and from massive (Mastiffs) to dainty (Malteses and Shih Tzus).
- Skeletal evidence from western Russia suggests that dog domestication dates back at least 19,000 years. Cats were first domesticated about 10,000 years ago, based on remains found in the Near East.