World Cat Day, also known as International Cat Day, is celebrated throughout the world on August 8. It was founded in 2002 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and other animal rights groups. The cat is a small, furry, domesticated, carnivorous mammal that is valued by humans for its companionship and for its ability to hunt vermin and household pests. Although cat ownership has commonly been associated with women, a US poll reported that men and women were equally likely to own a cat.
Cats have been associated with humans for at least 9,500 years, and are currently the most popular pet in the world. Owing to their close association with humans, cats are now found almost everywhere in the world. Cats are a common companion animal in Europe and North America, and their worldwide population exceeds 500 million. In 1998 there were around 43 million cats in Western Europe, 33 million in Eastern Europe, seven million in Japan and three million in Australia.
A 2007 report stated that about 37 million US households owned cats, with an average of 2.2 cats per household giving a total population of around 82 million. In contrast, there are about 72 million pet dogs in that country.
Despite being solitary hunters, cats are a social species and use a variety of vocalizations, pheromones and types of body language for communication. These include meowing, purring, trilling, hissing, growling, and grunting. Interactions with cats may improve health and reduce physical responses to stress: for example the presence of cats may moderate increased blood pressure.
Cat ownership may also improve psychological health by providing emotional support and dispelling feelings of depression, anxiety and loneliness. Their ability to provide companionship and friendship are common reasons given for owning a cat.