Cat people and dog people have been battling it out for decades arguing over which pet is superior. Cats are independent so they’re easier to take care of, but dogs are fiercely loyal and both offer unconditional love (well… maybe not all cats).
A new documentary from the BBC, called Cats Vs Dogs, collaborates with vets and scientists to seek answers and put the debate to rest once and for all, by pitting canines and felines against one another in a host of different competitions.
One of the main events is the ultimate test of love: scientists have been studying the amount of oxytocin, the “love hormone," each animal’s brains release, and when. This hormone is produced in the human brain when we care about someone or something. For example, in humans, new mothers release it when breastfeeding their newborns and typically levels rise by 40-60% when we see our children and spouses.
Both cats and dogs release oxytocin when playing with their owners, but it’s the difference in levels that’s the crux of the answer. In their experiment, 10 of each animal had saliva samples taken and tested for oxytocin levels before and after a play session with their owners. The results? The dogs’ average increase in the love chemical was 57.2%, the cats’ was just 12%.
Neuroscientist Dr. Paul Zak, who performed the tests was quoted by the Daily Mail as stating, “From this sample it’s true to say that these dogs love their owners five times more than the cats do. I 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. But the dog level of 57.2 per cent is a very powerful response. It shows these dogs really care about their owners. One dog — a sweet little lapdog — peaked at 500 per cent. It was totally in love with its owner.”
“When it comes to how much dogs love us, there doesn’t seem to be any difference between breeds or sexes. But you can definitely strengthen that loving bond by petting and talking to your pet, particularly when he’s a puppy. And dogs definitely have favourites within the family. I am confident my own dog produces more oxytocin when I play with her than when anyone else does."
The conclusion the scientists came to, was that yes, cats do love their owners… just not as much as their dogs do.
As for the other tests they put the animals through, they ranged from scanning dogs' brains for activity in pleasure areas while listening to recordings of their owners praising them, to testing their counting abilities, to smell, jump and eyesight tests. To see the results you can watch the BBC2 Documentary on YouTube here!