She seemed so nice at first. I’m talking about Annie Shirreffs, my editor at Catster. Then she gave me
this assignment: What might happen if cats ruled the world.
At first, I thought the idea
was really creative. After all, I’ve
been writing stories about cats
for nearly 30 years now (I began
when I was 3 — in human years).
I’ve written about litter box indiscretion maybe 5,000 times, but
this is the first time anyone has
asked me to write about feline
Cool! A chance to be original
and to think outside the box, so
I sat down at my computer
and, even with our cat, Roxy,
sitting on my desk and offering
directions, nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Not a single word to type on my
keyboard, except the following:
Ba0003 c000-= 11 vg. Roxy typed
that, not me. I believe that may
be secret code for plans to take
over the world.
Days went by, and still not a
single word typed — until it hit
me like a whiff of catnip. Annie
had it all wrong. The story should
not be what will happen when
cats take over the world but
instead how cats have taken over
Cats rule! That’s not just an
expression; it’s reality.
At this very moment, Roxy has
hopped into my lap. She spontaneously decided it’s time to
be petted. I don’t know why she
chose right now. It doesn’t really
matter. What Roxy wants, Roxy
gets. And she doesn’t wait to get
what she wants.
And Roxy’s not alone. Adding
up the cat population in the top
20 cat-owning countries, there
is a total of about 420 million
cats, with about 85 million cats
in the U.S. alone, according
to the American Pet Products
Association. I very much doubt
there’s a home with one or more
cats, from Singapore to St. Louis,
where cats aren’t in charge. And it’s
been that way from the beginning.
Cats do what they do on their
Case in point: Cro-Magnon
human began the domestication of dogs by domesticating
a now-extinct wolf-like canid
species somewhere around
27,000 to 40,000 years ago.
They were bred to guard
human settlements and to
hunt, to work for us.
We did nothing to domesticate cats — it was their idea,
probably as far back as 12,000
years ago. Cats decided to take
advantage of the easy food
source, catching vermin, in
close proximity to people. And
soon they began to cautiously
All along, we’ve trained
dogs. All along, cats have
astutely trained us. Even
when their services as vermin
catchers were no longer a priority,
they’ve purred their way into our
hearts and our homes.
Look at the data. Today, about
half of all dogs share a bed with
a member of the household. Cats
snooze wherever they want, as
they live on their own terms.
Back to Roxy. Our loving cat
has no sympathy if we have a late
night. If doesn’t matter what time
we get to bed; at 7: 30 a.m., she’s
reliably meowing in our faces. If
that doesn’t work, she pounces on
us. Anything to get us up so we
can feed her.
Though most cats in the U.S.
now live indoors only, so much
hasn’t changed. Barn cats and feral
cats still manage to fend for themselves. And thank goodness.
Studies suggest that without
those barn and feral cats, rodent
numbers would spiral out of con-
trol, and along with it so would
disease. Back in 1997, a study from
the U.K. found that cats were
responsible for killing upwards
of 200 million animals (mostly
But the without-cat scenario
gets worse. Without cats, there
would be nothing on the internet
worth watching; Tom and Jerry
and The Siamese Cat Song would
have never existed, and there
would be no purpose for empty
Cats already rule the world. But
we’re not following their examples. Purring isn’t only thought to
be an indication of affection; it’s
a self-calming mechanism. Cats
also purr when they’re in pain,
sometimes before they die, and
sometimes as a replacement for an
irrational response. Maybe humans
should learn to purr as well.
Steve Dale is a certified
animal behavior consultant.
He’s authored several books
including the ebook, Good
Cat. He hosts two national
radio shows, and is heard
on WGN Radio, Chicago. He’s on the Board
of the American Association of Humane-
Animal Bond Veterinarians, and Winn Feline
Foundation. His website: www.stevedale.tv