Do people really care less about their cats than about their dogs? A comparative study in three European countries
Frontiers in Veterinary Science. Frontiers
Previous studies have shown that cat owners seem to care less about their cats than dog owners care about their dogs – both in terms of their emotional state of attachment and in their willingness to pay for services that potentially benefit the animals. One study speculated that this difference is “driven by the behavior of the pet” – that the behavior of dogs encourages care more than the behavior of cats – and therefore is a universal phenomenon. However, previous studies mostly relied on convenience sampling of owners and were undertaken in single countries. Based on responses to a questionnaire from cat and dog owners drawn from representative samples of citizens (18 to 89 years of age) in three different European countries, Denmark, Austria and the United Kingdom, we tested the degree to which owners care about their cats and dogs. We used four different measures: Lexington attachment to pets scale (LAPS), possession of pet health insurance, willingness to pay for life-saving treatment, and expectation of veterinary diagnostic and treatment options. Dog owners had higher LAPS scores in all countries. However, the difference between dog and cat owners was greater in Denmark than in Austria and the United Kingdom. More dogs than cats were insured in all three countries, but the ratio was much less skewed in favor of dogs in the United Kingdom compared to Denmark. In terms of expensive life-saving treatment, in every country, more dog owners than cat owners were willing to spend over a certain amount, but the differences were much more pronounced in Denmark compared to the United Kingdom. In Denmark and Austria, dog owners expected more veterinary treatment options to be available, but species made no difference to the expectations of UK owners. People care more about their dogs than their cats in all countries, but with a clear cross-country variation and a very modest difference in the United Kingdom. Therefore, it does not seem to be a universal phenomenon that people care much less about their cats than their dogs. This finding has practical implications for future efforts to expand the level of veterinary services provided for cat owners.