An international study has suggested that people are more emotionally attached to dogs than they are to cats.
However the difference in attachment levels, based on attachment scores and willingness to spend money on each pet, appeared to vary across different countries.
The study, led by Dr Peter Sandøe of the University of Copenhagen and supported by the University of Glasgow, aimed to develop upon previous research which, while concluding that dogs were more cared for than cats, often relied on convenience samples and focused on one country. This new approach would compare how attachment levels varied across three different countries – Denmark, Austria and the UK.
These European countries were chosen because they each urbanised at different times, with the UK urbanising first and Denmark being the last. The scientists predicted that more distant history with rural animals would affect a country’s societal attitude towards pets today.
The scientists surveyed 2,117 people that owned either dogs or cats. This sample consisted of 844 dog owners, 872 cat owners and 401 people who owned both dogs and cats.
The survey included the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale, which studies emotional attachment to pets, investment in veterinary care and expectations for available care.
The results showed that respondents across all countries did appear to care more about their dogs than their cats. This was based on their attachment scores, how often they insured their dogs, the treatment options they expected and how much they would pay for these treatments.
However they also revealed differing attitudes across the three countries, based on how marked their preference was.
While pet owners in the UK only showed a slight preference for dogs over cats, the difference was more significant in Austria and most noticeable in Denmark. Danish pet owners were much less likely to pay for insurance or treatment for their cats than they were for their dogs.
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.”
Image © Shutterstock