Study Finds Pet Parents Care More About Their Dogs Than Their Cats

Nevena Nacic
by Nevena Nacic

Pet parents tend to place themselves into one of two categories. You can either be a dog person or a cat person - there’s nothing in between. 

This may come as a shock to all cat lovers, but scientists have found that dog owners care more for their dogs than cat owners care for their cats. At least that’s the case with pet owners across Denmark, Austria, and the United Kingdom.

Although these findings have been observed in older studies, veterinary scientists from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, wanted to find out whether cultural factors had any effect on the results. Their results were first published in the Journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science

“We and others have found that people are willing to spend much less on their cats than on their dogs,” said Peter Sandøe, professor at the University of Copenhagen and the study’s lead author. “We wanted to find out whether cats could eventually end up having the same high status as dogs do today.”

The scientists surveyed 2,117 pet owners, including 844 dog owners, 872 cat owners, and 401 owners who owned both cats and dogs. Participants were asked questions about their pets’ health insurance, their willingness to pay for life-saving medical treatment, and other questions designed to determine how much owners care for their pets. 

Pet owners from all three countries had a higher attachment score for dogs than for cats. Dog owners were more likely to buy insurance for their dogs, and said they were willing to spend more for life-saving treatment for their dogs. 

However, the results of the study varied greatly across the countries. The differences were most noticeable in Denmark, where 41% of dog owners said they were willing to pay a high cost of life-saving medical treatment for their dogs compared to 26% of cat owners. 

On the other hand, the United Kingdom’s results were in favor of dogs, but only slightly. Around 34% of dog owners in the UK said they would pay more for their dogs’ medical treatment compared to 28% of cat owners. According to scientists, such a slight difference isn’t statistically significant. 

‘While people care more about their dogs than their cats in all countries, the degree of difference varied dramatically between countries,” said Sandøe. 

The researchers originally hypothesized that people in Denmark might be more unaccustomed with cats living indoors than people living in Austria and the United Kingdom since Denmark became urbanized much later than these two countries. Thanks to a much more recent rural history, cats in Denmark might be seen as just another farm animal.

According to researchers, several studies hypothesize that when cats are more likely to spend time indoors, they tend to become much closer to their owners, who consequently care more about them. This was confirmed by studies in the U.S. and Mexico, where many cats are indoors-only felines.

So it comes as no surprise that in Denmark, where just one out of five cats is kept strictly indoors and many have outdoor access, most pet owners care less about cats. 

Researchers think that pet owners’ level of care for their pets may depend on the level of interaction and dependence, as well as other factors. 

"There seems to be no natural limit to how much people will end up caring about their cats compared to their dogs,” said Sandøe. “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.”

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Nevena Nacic
Nevena Nacic

Nevena is a freelance writer and a proud mom of Teo, a 17-year-old poodle, and Bob, a rescued grey tabby cat. Since childhood, she had a habit of picking up strays and bringing them home (luckily, her parents didn't know how to say NO). When she's not writing for her fellow pet parents, Nevena can be found watching Teo sleep. To her defense, that's not as creepy as it sounds!

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