Do cats love their owners more than dogs do? Ask a feline fan and the answer is a resounding yes. But question a dog owner and he or she will inevitably respond, “No way!” So who can you believe? A neuroscientist sought to answer this exact question, and the results may finally put the cats versus dogs debate to rest.
Paul Zak, PhD, devised an experiment for the BBC2 series Cats v Dogs where he took saliva samples from 10 dogs and 10 cats after the animals had played with their owners for 10 minutes. Dr. Zak wanted to test the pets’ saliva for oxytocin, a chemical known as the love hormone.
Zak found that on average, there was a 57.2 percent increase in oxytocin in dog saliva, compared to a roughly 12 percent increase in oxytocin in cat saliva. “I was really surprised to discover that dogs produced such high levels of oxytocin. The dog level of 57.2 percent is a very powerful response,” Zak said. “From this sample it’s true to say that these dogs love their owners five times more than the cats do.”
But this study wasn’t all bad news for cat people. “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,” Zak explained.
And just because this experiment, which was done on such a small scale that the results shouldn’t be generalized to all cats and dogs, found that dogs adore their humans more doesn’t mean that cats don’t love their owners at all. Your cat shows affection in myriad ways, including through obvious signs like purring, as well as the lesser known behaviors, like headbutting and blinking slowly. It’s also possible that we should be looking at a different indicator than oxytocin to determine how much our cats love us (like interrupting our sleep at 3 a.m. to run circles on our beds).