A Bristol University (UK) study concluded that although there is a great deal in common between dog and cat caretakers there are some clear differences, one of which is that cats were more likely to be owned by someone to degree level.
The study showed a clear difference in the level of education attained by cat and dog owners. However I think this has to be qualified by saying that people with degrees are not necessarily smarter than those without a degree. That must be an obvious observation. People who get degrees are better educated in the conventional sense, though. Some people would say that life experiences are a better form of education that academic study.
The Huff Post author, Joan Liebmann-Smith Ph.D., writes that the American Veterinary Association’s (AVMA) study indicates that it is dog owners who are better educated – the opposite conclusion. However, I have not seen this study. I think you have to buy it at exorbitant expense.
I would tend to believe the Bristol University study as it fits better with previous studies and with observation. Or, perhaps, there is a difference between the United States and the United Kingdom in respect of companion animal ownership.
The AVMA has some other interesting information on cat and dog ownership that might be linked to the education of the owners. Surprisingly, the dog owner spends almost as much per year on veterinary bills as a horse owner. The overall bills are are almost twice the amount for cats. The amount spent on each dog for veterinary treatment is $200 per year (2007) compared to $81 for each cat. Also the dog owner takes their dog(s) to the vet 2.6 times per year compared to 1.7 times for a cat. Is this large difference linked to the fact that the cat tends to get a raw deal at the vets – I am thinking of declawing. Is the cat abused more than the dog? Perhaps the cat is more vulnerable than the dog.
Perhaps dogs become ill more often than cats. It might be as simple as that. There are far more purebred dogs than cats. Highly bred animals tend to be more prone to inherited illnesses than random bred animals. There might be a connection there.
The reason could be that cat owners are on average poorer than dog owners. This might be connected to the fact that it is men who tend to prefer dogs (pack animal mentality) and as it is still a ‘man’s world’ he is able to earn more than a woman despite many women being better educated and keeping a cat. A woman might be living alone and finding it difficult to make ends meet.
I would doubt that the lower level of veterinary expenditure for cat owners is due to a lower level of responsibility in animal caretaking.The conclusion that cat owners are better educated would indicate that they are likely to be more aware of their cat’s welfare and respond to it.
Could it be argued that the higher level of education in cat owners results in a better understanding of the cat? There is certainly a degree of ignorance of the qualities of the domestic cat by a substantial section of the public. It might take a more educated person to appreciate the interesting and beneficial characteristics of the domestic cat.
Perhaps the more educated person is more occupied than the person who is less well educated. As the cat is supposedly more independent and can be left alone more conveniently these people choose to care for a cat allowing them to pursue other activities. The less well educated man (classic dog owner?) might want to spend more time interacting with his dog companion.
It is an interesting topic. I would like to know why there is this clear difference but can only speculate at present.