This research is not current but for a long time I have been reading about cat owners being intelligent, independent-minded people, usually single women. That is the kind of profile we read about. And a research study published in 2010 which hit the news media outlets revealed that “Households in which someone was qualified to degree level were more likely to own cats and less likely to own dogs than other households”.
The news media sometimes translated this statement to the perhaps oversimplified headline that clever people adopt cats and thicker people adopt dogs! I have exaggerated and in any case it’s wrong because not all graduates are clever. A lot are basically thick. Although a lot of dog owners appear to be younger men who have not enjoyed the benefits of an education.
But the intriguing discussion that comes out of that statement is why? Why do graduates prefer to adopt cats rather than dogs?
Cats are better than dogs!
Being a cat advocate, I’m inclined to state that the reason is because they know – thanks to their intelligence – that cats are better than dogs! I’m joking but it’s a nice reason if you like cats.
Cats are easier than dogs
Another possible reason is that graduates are perhaps more likely to be in work. Their work might be challenging. This would allow them less time to care for their companion animal. People think that cats are easier to look after than dogs because they require less care as they are more independent. This is a misconception. But it is a very strong reason why busy graduates in their new job who want to adopt a companion animal might choose a cat over a dog.
If that reason is correct, there will be a lot of domestic cats suffering from separation anxiety in apartments dotted around the UK and other countries. I do not believe that it is fair and right for a single person, working long days, to own a domestic cat. You have got to be around more than that to do your duty by that companion animal. It simply isn’t good enough and I should know because I did it for a while myself and I feel guilty about it. I was a failure of a cat caregiver for a while.
Remarkably, there are some couples who own a dog and who live in an apartment. They work all day and leave the dog in the apartment all day. This is horrendous really. But in general, people know that you have got to exercise your dog every day and they also realise that they can’t leave a dog alone. In fact, the experts say that a dog should not be left alone for longer than four hours. This knowledge helps to protect the dog from separation anxiety through being owned by a person who is absent too much.
The study also found that back in 2007, in the UK, 26% of households owned cats while 31% owned dogs. In those homes where there was a backyard or garden, they were more likely to own cats and dogs than those without a garden.
The classic image of a woman living in a semi-urban environment owning a cat appear to be true. And if you are a dog owner it significantly decreases the chances of also being a cat owner although, we know, that it is not uncommon to find households in which there are cats and dogs getting along nicely. Although if there is a dominant animal within a cat/dog relationship it is the cat dominating the dog judging by what I’ve seen on the Internet!
Dogs are more likely to be owned by rural households and are less likely to be owned by households with cats and children aged 10 years or younger.
Surprisingly, “Female respondents and those aged less than 55 years were more likely to report dog ownership than other respondents”. I thought that the most likely dog owner is a man because men prefer dogs to cats normally as they can become the alpha dog – the leading gray wolf – in the household!
The cat challenge
There may be an element of truth about cats being more attractive to clever females because of their slightly mysterious appearance and behaviour. The cat’s independence is a little bit of a challenge. They are less in your face than dogs. Dogs are very eager to please their master whereas cats can be more of a challenge to some. You have to use your intelligence to obtain their friendship and love. But once you do it is arguably a better relationship than with a dog and it is certainly as close.
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