David H. Grimm, deputy news editor at Science and the author of Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs (PublicAffairs, 2014), talks about how our attitudes toward cats and dogs have changed over time and what their status as surrogate family members could mean for us and for other animals.
Note: Due to a technical mishap, the conversation with David Grimm ended mid-answer as he was answering a final question about what the treatment of feral cats has to say about the status of pets. To complete the thought, here's what he told Wired Magazine on the topic:
Grimm: ...That’s one reason I wrote about the feral cat issue. They take this bifurcation to an extreme. There are cats on the street that genetically are the same as the cat in your house, but many people view them as vermin. There’s actually a federal law that classifies cats around shipyards as vermin, the same as rats and mice — yet there are 49 felony anti-cruelty laws that say you can go to jail if you hurt a cat or dog or other animal. But even though those laws technically apply to all animals, they’re only enforced for animals in our homes. In our hearts, we’ve made this bifurcation. The animals in our homes are family. They’re like children. But as soon as we leave the house, we have a different relationship with animals.