Dogs and cats are everywhere. On social networks, in advertisements and, above all, in millions of homes around the world. Despite their great popularity, these two species compete for the title of man’s best friend. A recent study looks at our preferences when it comes to pets and shows that they are not that natural.
Researchers from several international universities wanted to determine whether our personal fondness for dogs or cats could be explained. Indeed, some people tend to be more attentive to doggies than to cats. Previous studies have even suggested that pet owners are more willing to pay veterinary bills for a dog than a cat, but they were conducted on unrepresentative samples of pet parents. “We and others have found that people are willing to spend much less on their cats than on their dogs. We wanted to know if cats could end up having the same status as dogs today“, Dr. Peter Sandøe, professor at the University of Copenhagen and lead author of the study, told Frontier Science News.
Mr. Sandøe and his colleagues called on a survey institute to recruit 2,117 dog or cat owners living in Denmark, Austria and the United Kingdom. These three European countries have many similarities, but they were urbanized at different times in their history. Scientists have hypothesized that felines occupy a lower place on the socio-zoological scale than canines in territories with a more recent agricultural past, like Denmark.
More confident does not mean more pampered
To verify it, the academics asked volunteers to answer questions. They aimed to understand the emotional attachment of owners to their animals as well as their expectations in terms of veterinary care and the amount they were willing to invest to take care of the health of their little companions.
This methodology made it possible to highlight the fact that the study participants seemed to care more about their dogs than their cats. And this, whatever their country of origin. They said they were more attached to their dog and were more inclined to subscribe to mutual insurance to cover their health needs. Dog owners also expected that there would be more veterinary treatments available for their furballs than cat owners, and they were willing to spend more to take advantage of them.
However, the researchers found that volunteers’ attitudes toward dogs and cats changed depending on their nationality. The Danes and Austrians were, for example, much more attached to dogs than the British. People in Denmark were also much less likely to have insured their cat than their pooch, unlike their counterparts in the UK. “The British are often described as a people of cat lovers, which is certainly borne out by our study. The Danes still have a long way to go, but they may eventually get there,” emphasized Dr Peter Sandøe at the specialized site.
The findings of this study, recently published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science, show that increased care for dogs is not a universal phenomenon, but rather the result of millennia of domestication. In addition, it is very possible that “dog parents” insure their little companions more because their veterinary care is more expensive than that of their worst enemies, the cats. Nothing to do with a supposedly natural penchant for doggies.