Dogs or Cats: Who loves their owner more?

In Cats, Dogs by Paul1 Comment

Full disclosure: My wife and I have three guinea pigs, I’m allergic to cats, and there’s a distinct possibility that we might add a German Shepherd puppy to our growing family in the future. I mention this to say that the conclusion of the study is not influenced by any bias I might have.

I have a lot of friends that have dogs as well as friends that have cats. Sometimes they’ll say that they’ve had a dog (or cat) that shows more love than their cat (or dog) ever had. And they’ll all tell stories about the pros and cons of each type of animal, with both lists sometimes including the same facts!

Dogs and Cats

As an owner of guinea pigs, I can tell you that I’ve seen the full range of emotion from them. Is it ever love? Possibly. But I’ve seen guinea pigs make the shift from hiding every time we sneeze, cough or breathe to begging and every time we sneeze, cough or breathe.

Now there’s been a study that may have shown that one type of pet loves their owner more. There may be edge-cases where it seems as though the opposite is true, but we’re just looking at a study of a “cuddle chemical” that is released when we’re happy. It’s called oxytocin, and it’s a hormone that is produced in the brain that encourages bonding.

Researchers tested pets for this hormone before and after they saw their owners. Using ten dogs and ten cats, they tested each animal’s saliva. Each animal then played with their owner for about ten minutes. Afterward, their saliva was checked again.

The oxytocin levels were elevated in both animals, but the results showed exactly what many of us assumed: cats showed an increase of 12 percent of the hormone compared to a whopping 57.2 percent in dogs. One dog’s actually increased by 500%!

Neuroscientist Paul Zak, who worked with the results, “was really surprised to discover that dogs produced such high levels of oxytocin. It was also a nice surprise to discover that cats produce any at all. At least some of the time, cats seem to bond with their owners.”

So there you have it. Are you surprised?


  1. I’m interested in the study and the results of the oxytocin production. I’m not surprised that any pet who is loved and cared for by his/her owner loves in return. I own, have rescued and fostered, and lost dogs, cats, birds, iguanas, and fish. I’ve never had a pet who was not loving and responsive to me.

    Some of my dogs demonstrably loved me more; some of my cats have demonstrably loved me more. I think it depends more on the creature and the relationship than the species.

    It was interesting reading, however, and I thank you for posting it.

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