One question comes up frequently with pet lovers: do cats or dogs care more about their owners? As scientific studies and research have found, the answer isn’t quite one or the other. There are many factors in this long-standing debate, so here’s an overview regarding the differences between a dog’s affection towards its owner and a cat’s.
Cat and Dog’s Affection Towards Their Owner Measured With Oxytocin
Many in the past have attempted to answer whether which pet loves its owner more, including in the BBC Documentary Cats vs. Dogs. The neuroscientists working for the show managed to find a scientific solution to the question by observing the level of oxytocin produced by dogs and cats. Oxytocin is known as the love hormone and is responsible for stimulating pleasure and assisting with bonding behaviors, among other functions.
During the study for the documentary, a neurologist gathered saliva from ten dogs and ten cats before letting them play with their owners. Afterward, they tested their saliva again for oxytocin and found a significant difference. Cats only produced around a 12% increase in oxytocin, whereas dogs produced 57.2% more; that’s a percentage higher than humans. Not only did this study demonstrate that a dog’s affection towards its owner is five times higher than cats, but only half of the cats in the group showed an increase in oxytocin at all.
Do Cats Love Their Owners?
While dog owners may feel triumphant over cat lovers due to the results of this scientific study, there is far more depth and complexity to this debacle. Although dogs may have exhibited significantly higher oxytocin levels compared to their feline counterparts, that isn’t to say that cats are incapable of loving their owners; quite the contrary. Cats may have a reputation for acting aloof and uncaring, and while that may be the truth in some cases, they’re more than capable of expressing affection for their owners in a variety of ways. From curling up on their owners’ laps to purring and making intense eye contact, a cat’s love for its owner comes in many forms.
Studies have shown that cats can form attachments to their owners in a manner similar to human children and their parents. In fact, they’re capable of developing enough familiarity with their owners that they can recognize their scent and understand their feelings to some extent. Many cats perceive their owners as a source of security and are capable of experiencing separation anxiety just like dogs do, albeit in different ways.
The Bottom Line
So, is a dog’s affection towards its owner more than a cat’s? When it comes to the production of love hormones, yes. However, it’s important to remember that canines and felines are two different animal species and, as a result, express their care and affection differently from each other.