Why are there fewer cat breeds than dog breeds

There are several hundred dog breeds, and only less than a hundred different cat breeds. But it’s not only about the count.

Are there any weird cat breeds, like in dogs?

You can see a large diversity between dog breeds. We have large, giant and small dogs. We also have long-legged dogs; flat-faced dogs and heck, there are also some dogs who do not look like ones in the first place.

In cats, the most significant differences, we believe, are that some cats have folded ears, and some cats have no tail. But they all look like cats nevertheless. It automatically raises a question – why is it so? How come we have so many dog breeds and so few cat breeds? Is it fair?

Reasons why we have so few cat breeds

There are to main reasons why we have so few cat breeds when compared to dog breeds:

1. Dogs were domesticated much earlier than cats were. Our current understanding is that dogs people domesticated dogs at least 18 thousand years ago, whereas cats only ten thousand years after that. But that’s not all. The second, and likely the more important reason for such diversity in dog breeds is that they were domesticated different than cats were.

2. We have selectively bred dogs for various purposes, since their early domestication. That is, if a dog was better at guarding, we bred it with others. If another dog was better for herding or hunting, we also bred it with its lookalikes. As a result, we started to create different breeds right from the start.

Cats, on the other hand, had only one purpose humans needed them. To protect granaries from rodents, which, by the way, cats were already perfect at. So, we had absolutely no need to breed them selectively. They roamed and bred however they wanted themselves.

And, while first mentions in selective breeding of cats date back to ancient civilizations, the main job started only in the latest centuries. Therefore, we have been creating new cat breeds for quite a short time. Much too short to create a large variety in cat breeds, comparable to what we see in dogs.

Even more so, as of today, it’s unlikely to change rapidly. Our understanding of breeding animals for their looks has improved. Indeed, many dogs, for example, flat-faced ones, may look cool, but their health suffers. We are hopeful that cat breed registrars won’t let cats have a similar fate. And indeed, registration of new cat breeds is slowing down, so no large variety expected soon.