Why there are big dogs, little dogs, but just mid-sized cats | Ask The Vet

Dogs really get the dirty end of the stick, which by the way they love to fetch anyway.  This is due to the differing histories of dog and cat domestication.

Ask The Vet | Lion with puppy

The association between people and cats was much different than that of people and dogs.  Cats are thought to have co-inhabited people’s spaces due to the fact that human settlements had more pests such as mice and rats.  The cats were welcome as pest controllers and they still are for many clients we know.

Dog behavior was selected for by breeding that led to a more docile, pleasing, effort-making creature – man’s best friend.  But this was spurred by necessity.  Dogs were part of early civilization economies through herding, hunting, guarding, heating, tracking, attacking, etc.  Cats really had a lesser economic impact on early civilization so they were not as socially domesticated.

Some evolutionary biologists claim that our early relationship with cats versus dogs explains why domesticated dogs range so greatly in size versus domesticated cats. Yeah, we have seen some real fat cats but no Great Siamese, Giant Tabbies, or Tea Cup Maine Coons.

So why is the range in size of domestic cats so much smaller than that of dogs?

Well the theory is as follows; large dogs, such as wolves, were omnivorous and could be fed food from agriculture, and were social in packs, which was compatible with the human social structure.  But, felines had a more solitary social system and were in danger of miscommunicating with humans.  In fact, cats are carnivores, and it was likely too dangerous for people to attempt a cooperative relationship with a cat species larger than what is domesticated today.

So, the moral of this evolutionary story is that cats were actually the ones being ignored by a bunch of human scaredy cats.

Dr. Jed

Dr. Jed Schaible Signature | Ask the Vet

Ask the Vet Dr. Jed Schaible VMD

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November 3, 2010 at 17:00

I love this one! Very thought provoking and fun too.

Kate Smith
November 3, 2010 at 21:40

Very interesting. I my self am a cat person and would love to have a cat the size of a dog. I find my cat to be a much better companion, although she is very dog like. She fetches, likes water and comes when called. She is one of a kind.

November 3, 2010 at 23:22

although smaller cats can sure stand off even the largest of dogs. cats rule!

November 10, 2010 at 15:55

They sure can! And they sure do!

November 7, 2010 at 04:04

Frankly, I’d be scared of a cat the size of a German Shepherd. I’d always think that he’d be sizing me up for his dinner :)

November 10, 2010 at 02:30

Right Karen? I get scared of my angry 10lb angry feline patients. When they are mad, they are mad!

November 15, 2010 at 21:52

Hi there! I really love reading your blog today! Keep making great posts and I will come back every day!!