Cats as companion animals are on the increase (2012). Cats have surpassed dogs in some countries and that applies to the United States, the "world leader in cat ownership".
Apparently 12 out of 15 countries that are considered key market places for consumer products related to keeping cats have shown increases in cat ownership over the period 1998-2002 (e.g. Brazil: 28% increase). One reason will be increased human population but I think you'll find that the domestic cat has increased in popularity because they fit in better to a modern, mobile and busy life. Or we think they fit in better or they are more convenient within our modern lives. Reasons given include:
- They are easier to care for. One aspect of this is the fact that cats use litter boxes and don't have to be taken out. This easy-to-care-for-reason is a little bit worrying because there may be misconceptions about cat caretaking or there might be misplaced expectations about it. This can lead to relinquishing the cat.
- They are generally smaller than dogs and small enough to be kept in "smaller living spaces". This includes apartments. Personally, this concerns me a little as well. Apartments are not ideal habitats for the domestic cat. It can cause stress in a cat. I don't know of any studies on this. There should be some. Cats are convenient but that should not undermine cat welfare.
- "They can endure long separations without apparent problems". Another concern for me. The word "apparent" should be emphasised. My experiences are different. Cats do have a problem with separation and indeed being separated for a single day can be an emotional problem for a domestic cat. Once again there may be misconceptions about cat caretaking that drives the cat market. We do have a world feral cat problem, you know. And that problem is wholly caused by abandoning cats that are unneutered or unspayed. The reasons for abandoning a cat are numerous but one is unrealistic expectations. Another would be trying to shoehorn a domestic cat's life into a lifestyle that suits the person but not the cat.