Some point to the fact that dogs are defined by statute as "personal property" (A.R.S. section 1-215(30)) as support for this position. Cats are not included within this definition, these people argue, so therefore cats are classified as wild animals. Livestock also are not included within this definition, though, and they clearly are not wild animals. Like domestic cats, livestock are considered to be personal property, notwithstanding the statutory definition.
Others argue that, because cats are not required to be licensed or vaccinated against rabies, they must be classified as wildlife. The fact that dogs must be vaccinated and licensed has little to do with their classification as domestic animals, and more with the historical role of the "dog catcher." In the earlier days of American life, dogs often were allowed to roam free during the day, and were brought in at night. Up until the early 20th century, it was not uncommon to visit a small community and find dogs running loose. As dog predation of livestock became a problem, laws were passed requiring licensing of dogs and prohibiting them from running loose. These laws served the goals of restraining dogs and providing accountability for damage caused by them. Cats were not included within these laws because they had not posed the same problems -- their predations were generally considered to be beneficial, as they reduced pest populations.
The requirement for rabies vaccinations actually arose independently of the licensing requirement. As the threat of rabies increased, dogs were required to be vaccinated as a condition of licensure. Because cats are not licensed, they are not required to be vaccinated. In contrast, some wildlife is vaccinated against rabies. Obviously, rabies vaccination is not a characteristic that determines the difference between wildlife and domestic animals.
The legal distinction between wild and domestic animals actually depends on ownership. Arizona follows the common law doctrine of animal ownership, which distinguishes "ferae naturae" (wild animals) from "domitae naturae" (domestic animals). As the Arizona Court of Appeals explained in Booth v. State, 207 Ariz. 61, 83 P.3d 61 (Ct. App. 2004): "A wild animal, ferae naturae, as opposed to a domesticated animal, domitae naturae, is owned by the state or the people at large. An individual does not acquire property rights in an animal ferae naturae as long as the animal remains wild, unconfined, and undomesticated."
A domestic cat, like a domestic dog, is not owned by the people at large, but rather by one person or family. If a cat is feral, then he or she could be considered wildlife (ferae naturae), but the same could be said of a feral dog. The "untamed" and "wild" nature that we often see in cats is not enshrined in the law. Cats enjoy and deserve the same protection under Arizona's laws that covers dogs -- as well as other domestic animals, including livestock and exotic pets. Don't let your cat's "savage side" fool you into believing that she is left to the wilds.