Have you seen the TV show on BBC called Cats vs Dogs?
The show contends that dogs love their owners 5 times more than cats based on a study done specifically for the BBC (not a scientific journal). In it, a neuroscientist named Dr. Paul Zak, tested saliva samples from dogs and cats before and after a 10 minute playtime with their owners. We know that oxytocin is the hormone most often associated with love and bonding.1 So Dr. Zek wanted to explore the effect of interaction with owners for both dogs and cats.
The dogs showed a 52.7% increase in the hormone oxytocin after the playtime and cats only showed 12% increase. Dr. Zek surmised that this finding indicates that dogs love us five times more than cats.
But I am not so sure. Firstly, cats are not dogs. Even though investigations have looked at different species and the levels of oxytocin, the role of oxytocin in bonding in canines has been evaluated in multiple studies 2,3. But are we sure that oxytocin is directly indicative of bonding for felines, who are not wired for group life?
Cats as a species seem to be very unique in their metabolism. They are exquisitely sensitive to certain compounds and require a feline specific thought process when treating them. Again, cats are not little dogs. Who is to say that a cat responds to oxytocin in exactly the same ways as a dog? Perhaps the smaller levels in a cat are all that is required for the bonding.
I don’t think that this study is enough for us to say that cats are not as loving as dogs. I think that we can truly say and believe that cats love us differently than dogs, but I am not ready to write our cats off as unfeeling. I think they love us, just in their own way.
It is not about better or worse, more or less. It is about how much pets enrich our lives!
- Front Psychol. 2015; 6: 1845. Published online 2015 Nov 30. doi: 3389/fpsyg.2015.01845PMCID: PMC4663257 Commentary: Oxytocin-Gaze Positive Loop and the Coevolution of Human-Dog Bonds Sylvain Fiset and Vickie Plourde
- Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc. 2015 Nov 9. doi: 10.1111/brv.12235. [Epub ahead of print] The role of oxytocin in relationships between dogs and humans and potential applications for the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs. Thielke LE, Udell MA.
- Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Jun 24;111(25):9085-90. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1322868111. Epub 2014 Jun 9.Oxytocin promotes social bonding in dogs. Romero T, Nagasawa M, Mogi K, Hasegawa T, Kikusui T