People really do love dogs more than cats, according to a new study.
Scientists spoke to more than 2,000 pet owners in the UK and two other European countries and found that they were more attached to their pooches than felines.
They also insured their dogs more often, and would pay more for them to be treated by a vet, according to the findings.
Previous studies have suggested pet owners are less emotionally attached to and less willing to finance care for cats than dogs, possibly because of cats’ behavior.
Cats may be perceived as caring less about humans and needing less affection in return.
But the Danish research team said that previous studies were often conducted on “non-representative” samples and didn’t take into account possible cultural differences in attitudes to pets.
Study first author Dr Peter Sandøe, of the University of Copenhagen, said: “We and others have found that people are willing to spend much less on their cats than on their dogs.
“We wanted to find out whether cats could eventually end up having the same high status as dogs do today.”
The team recruited representative samples of adult pet owners from the UK, Denmark and Austria.
They said they chose the three countries because, although similar in many ways, they all urbanized at different points in history: the UK earliest, Denmark latest, and Austria between the two.
The scientists believed that a more distant history with rural animals among the general population is a cultural factor that might affect attitudes towards pets today.
The final sample consisted of 2,117 people who owned either dogs or cats: 844 dog owners, 872 cat owners, and 401 owners who owned both dogs and cats.
Participants were asked to answer questions aimed at understanding a range of different dimensions of care.
The questions included the Lexington attachment to pets scale, which aims at understanding owners’ emotional attachment, as well as questions about how much they spent on veterinary care and their expectations for available care.
The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science, showed that people appeared to care more about their dogs than their cats in all three countries across all measures.
They had higher attachment scores for their dogs, insured their dogs more often, generally expected more treatment options to be available for dogs, and would pay more for those treatments.
However, the researchers also found “striking differences” in attitudes between the three countries.
Although the preference for dogs was only slight in the UK, in Austria the preference was more marked, and in Denmark it was very marked.
Dr. Sandøe said: “While people care more about their dogs than their cats in all countries, the degree of difference varied dramatically between countries.
“It doesn’t therefore seem to be a universal phenomenon that people care much less about their cats than their dogs.
“We suggest instead that the difference is likely to depend on cultural factors, including whether the animals spend a lot of time with their owners in the home.”
He said the difference between dog and cat owners’ reported emotional attachment was greater in Denmark than the other countries, and Danish owners were much less likely to have bought insurance for their cats than their dogs.
The difference in willingness to pay for treatment was again much greater in Denmark.
Dr. Sandøe said: “There seems to be no natural limit to how much people will end up caring about their cats compared to their dogs.
“The British are often portrayed as a nation of cat lovers, which is certainly confirmed by our study.
“The Danes have a long way to go but they may eventually get there.”
He said that may be due to a more recent more agricultural past, where most animals are kept at a greater distance, and dogs work much more closely with humans than cats.
However, the researchers believe other factors could be involved. For instance, people may take more care to insure their dogs because dog treatment is more expensive, or report greater attachment to dogs because the dogs help them in everyday life — for instance, with exercise.
Study co-author Professor Clare Palmer, of Texas A&M University in the US, added: “Our study only looks at three countries located in central and western Europe.
“It raises intriguing questions regarding what comparative studies of other countries might find.
“Perhaps there are countries where the level of care for and attachment to cats is, in fact, higher than dogs?
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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