Cats can try their best, but they will likely never receive the love and attention that a dog receives. It might be better to move a cat, because new research shows that there are countries where dogs and cats are valued almost equally.
Previous studies have shown that dog owners care more about dogs than cats. The explanation is easy to guess: the dog gives more love in return and needs more care, so you become attached to it more quickly. But this is only part of the story. The researchers compared three countries – Denmark, Austria and the UK – and concluded that the difference between the love of dogs and cats is not the same everywhere. For example, in Denmark people like their dogs much more than their cats, while in the UK the difference is minimal. This means that there is no universal preference for dogs based on their behavior (and British cats are lucky).
This is quite remarkable, because previous studies have shown that cat owners are less emotionally attached to cats than to dogs, and also want to spend less money on cat care because of their behavior. Cats will not pay much attention to people and therefore expect less care in return. But cultural differences have not been considered before.
And now they have done so in Copenhagen. “We found that people wanted to spend much less money on their cats than they did on their dogs. But we wanted to know whether cats could eventually achieve the same high status as dogs,” says researcher Peter Sandhu of the University of California. University of Copenhagen.
So they compared three countries that experienced urbanization at different periods in history. This happened first in the UK, and last in Denmark and Austria in between. It was thought that if more time had passed since most of the population had interacted with livestock, this might influence current attitudes towards domestic animals.
To find out if this was true, the researchers collected data from more than 2,100 people who owned a dog, a cat, or both. Pet owners had to fill out questionnaires to determine how well they cared for the animals: how emotionally attached were they? How much did they want to invest in veterinary care and how much care did they expect to provide?
The dog wins
The dog won in all countries. Dog owners were more attached to their four-legged friend, had better veterinary insurance, expected more treatment options and were willing to pay more for them than cat owners. Nothing new yet. What was surprising was the huge difference between countries. In the United Kingdom, preference for dogs was minimal. In Austria the difference was greater and in Denmark it was completely extreme.
“The difference between the countries was huge,” Sandoe says. “So it doesn’t seem to be a universal phenomenon that people care much less about their cats than they do about their dogs. The difference probably depends more on cultural factors, such as the amount of time animals spend in their owner’s home.”
In Denmark, cat owners had significantly less to spend on their pets than dog owners, while in the UK the difference was much smaller. “The British are known for their love of cats, and this was certainly confirmed in our study. The Danes still have a long way to go, but they are getting there,” the researcher said.
The explanation for the lack of love for cats may lie in the agricultural past, when many people were still farmers and animals were at a greater distance. At that time, dogs worked more closely with people than cats. Since this has happened less recently in Denmark than in the UK, this may explain the difference.
But there are also other factors that can play a role. For example, people may want to insure their dogs better, because treating dogs is simply more expensive than treating cats. They may be more attached to animals because they help them in daily life, for example with exercise.
Finally, the researchers point out that the study is limited to only three countries in Western Europe. Professor and co-researcher Claire Palmer: “This raises the question of what comparative studies in other countries are finding. Perhaps there are countries where interest and attachment to cats is greater than interest to dogs.
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