When the bubonic plague arrived in Europe in the 14th century, there weren't enough cats remaining to help contain the rat population that contributed to the spreading of the disease. This disease killed approximately 25 million people (one-third of the European population).
By the 1800s, laws were passed forbidding animal mistreatment and felines were once again favored pets. Their popularity continued to increase and by the mid-nineteenth century they were selectively bred for specific traits, such as their colour, coat and personality.
Today the cat is a commonplace fixture in our homes, with more than 500 million cats living among humans.
This information was gathered from "The Secret Language of Cats" by Heather Dunphy