Man has lived with animals for companionship for thousands of years and it is thought that domestic cats were part of ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek culture as far back as 5000BC, reaching northern Europe by AD100. Certainly cats are as popular as dogs as domestic pets these days, and there are thought to be more than eight million of each in our homes today - it's difficult to be more precise than that, as non-pedigree varieties of both species are very popular but numbers are not monitored by the registration bodies of pedigree animals.However, despite the popularity of cats as pets, they still remain very independent creatures and should be allowed to maintain their individuality. Cats tend to show affection on their terms and cannot be cajoled into sitting on laps or being cuddled in the way that many dogs can. Cats need their own space and although they make wonderful pets, it's important to remember that they live in your home, rather than you living in theirs! They do not need to live in sub-tropical conditions with the central heating on for twenty-four hours a day throughout the year, apart from during exceptional drops in temperature, when you would do this for your own comfort anyway. Most varieties of cats have lovely warm fur coats that will keep them snug and cosy whenever the weather is cold, and it is not necessary to incur huge fuel costs on their behalf. Nor do they need to be provided with knitted woollen jackets to keep them warm - most cats will hate being restricted by additional clothing provided by their humans, and will try and remove them, often causing stress. Some cats chew wool, and so this could be quite dangerous, as could the risk of choking when trying to remove their 'clothing'. It may be possible to train a cat to use a harness and lead so that they can accompany you on your walks, although it is not natural for them to go on 'walkies' in this way, and most cats would prefer to go outside when it suits them. There is also an additional risk that they could be seen by a dog for whom it may be instinctive behaviour to chase cats, and in this situation your cat may well panic and slip its lead, or actually be harmed by the dog. A cat in a state of panic is not easy to restrain and they could easily have a serious mishap in their attempt to escape. There is also a similar risk if you take your cat on holiday - they could try and escape from your caravan or rented cottage in their wish to return home again, as cats are very territory-conscious and generally prefer to be in a place that they know is safe. Although cats will appreciate a reasonably regular routine when it comes to feeding times, you do not need to be a slave to these if you have other commitments that prevent you from returning home at exactly the correct hour for Kitty's dinner. Obviously if you are going to be away overnight, you should arrange for someone to call in and feed your cats, or if this not possible, maybe put them in a reliable cattery whilst you are away. If you are just going to miss one meal by your absence you might want to invest in a mechanical feeding bowl that will open at the appointed hour - although these are not a good idea in very hot weather when the food may go 'off'. Although cats do not need to be let out if you deviate from your usual routine, your cat will either need access to the garden, or to a litter tray (which ideally should be renewed twice a day). In most cases when you are going out for the day, or maybe going out after work, your cat will not suffer from your late return home - you may be treated to a look of disapproval when you return but no harm will have been done, especially if you leave some additional dry food down for him, and it is important that your life is not governed by your cat. Of course there may be exceptions, such as if you have kittens that need additional meals, or a cat that is unwell and needs to be fed regularly or given medication at a certain time. If you condition your cat to completely set mealtimes at exactly the same time everyday, they could become stressed if this routine is broken - and it will not be good for you if you feel you have to be home at a certain time every day because of your cat. If you're feeling concerned that they may be lonely in your absence, maybe a feline companion would be a good idea. Most cats are not totally solitary (although all cats sleep for a large proportion of their lives) and another cat could provide the companionship that they need even if they are not 'best mates'.Cats also live very happily and healthily on proprietary cat food - unless your Vet has advised that they need something different for a particular medical problem. Cat food provides a good balanced diet, and it will also be easier for someone else to feed your cat if you are away or unwell yourself. It is not necessary for cats to live on prawns, smoked salmon and finely minced chicken - but if they get used to this early on it will be difficult to wean them off it! They certainly shouldn't be fed on leftovers from your own meal as a rich diet could upset their stomachs. It's important to remember that your cats are animals, however much you appreciate their companionship, and try not to let them rule your life! Of course, you do owe them a happy and healthy lifestyle as they are dependent on you. They should be given somewhere warm and dry to sleep (and it is not essential that they sleep on your bed!), food, water, regular vaccinations and health checks at the vet, together with your love and attention, but this does not mean that you should be their untiring slaves night and day! If cats are humanised to a great extent, they can become irritable if this lifestyle ceases, even momentarily, and some cats will retaliate by biting and scratching their owners or temporary carers.