Cats vs dogs: Who loves us more?

The biggest debate mankind has had to face. No, not whether the chicken or egg came first, or the correct way to pronounce the word ‘scone’, but whether cats or dogs are the superior pet.

After much dispute between the two sides, and one Hollywood film starring Jeff Goldblum and a bunch of spy animals, the BBC have finally waded in to provide us with a new round of ammunition for dog lovers. For their new documentary ‘Cat vs Dogs’, neuroscientist Dr. Paul Zak studied the levels of oxytocin found in both dogs and cats to see which animal loved their owner the most. Oxytocin is a hormone known as the ‘love hormone’ or ‘hug hormone’, and if you couldn’t work out from these names, is released when you see and are around your loved ones. Oxytocin is particularly important for women, as it is released during pregnancy to encourage a bond between the mother and child.

Previous studies into oxytocin levels in animals revealed that dogs did release it when around their owners; however no study has been done involving cats, or with the dog results compared with those from other animals.

The research for the BBC led by Dr. Zak tested the saliva of cats and dogs before allowing them to play with their owners for 10 minutes. After playing their saliva was sampled again, and the percentage increase in oxytocin was calculated to discover which animal felt more love for their owner. The oxytocin hormone level was found to rise by over 57 per cent in our canine friends. For reference, when we see our loved ones, our oxytocin level rises between 40 and 60 per cent, so it may well be the case that your dog loves you more than you love your partner!

But don’t despair cat owners; while researchers predicted that cats would not experience any rise in hormone level, they actually did display a twelve percent rise, so maybe cats do love us after all. However that is still almost five times less ‘love’ than the dogs felt. In fact one very sweet dog had a whole lot of love for its owner and experienced a five-hundred percent increase in the oxytocin hormone.

Dog owners obviously feel this love too, as a separate research study from Manhattanville College, New York, led by Katherine Jacobs Bao, found that “dog owners were significantly more conscientious and less neurotic than cat owners.” Dog owners were also found to be more confident and happier people than those with cats for pets, presumably as they are less likely to die as a crazy cat lady surrounded only by 150 cats. Sorry, cat lovers.

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