Dogs vs. Cats: Popular Opinion

     By Simon N.
Dogs and cats are the two most common pets. Aside from being man's best friends, their popularity could be attributed to pragmatism. Dogs make excellent house guards and hunting assistants; cats chase away pesky rodents and mice. Many psychological studies have suggested the choice of dogs or cats may reflect the personalities of their owners. For example, cat owners tend to be introvert and socially aloof while dog owners tend to be extrovert and socially active. To settle the debate with regards to which pet is better or more popular, I conducted an empirical comparison using two primary methods -- focus groups and an analysis of Google search data.

1) Focus Groups

I had the privilege of discussing this topic with 16 individuals from 8 different countries. Cats were more popular with these groups, but the votes were aligned with gender. Female respondents overwhelmingly preferred cats, while a majority of male respondents chose dogs. The men who picked cats were from Africa and the Middle East, so cultural or regional exception could be in play here. Group members who preferred cats described them as mysterious, curious and independent. Members who preferred dogs praised them for their loyalty, intelligence and obedience. One U.S. Army veteran shared stories of dogs risking their own lives to save their owners. The impression I got from these focus groups is that personality plays a role in one's decision to adopt a dog or a cat.

2) Google Trends

The idea is that people reveal their preference for dogs or cats through their web searches. Data usually don't lie. But here is a word of caution. Although Google is the world's top search engine, it is not the dominant search engine in several populous countries including China (Baidu), Japan (Yahoo) and Russia (Yandex). As a result, we need to be cautious when making inferences based on Google search data.

My analysis of Google Trends found that dogs are overwhelmingly more popular than cats. This finding is aligned with many prominent studies that show dog owners outnumber cat owners by as much as 3 to 1. Dogs are especially popular in Commonwealth countries (UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) and in the United States which is a former British colony. In fact, 12 of the top 15 "dog" countries are members of the Commonwealth. British culture, which has a strong preference for dogs, could be the influential factor here. Support for cats is more diverse. Only 7 of the top 15 "cat" countries are members of the Commonwealth. Dogs are most popular in the United States, while cats are most popular in Romania.

Verdict: Culture and personality play a pivotal role in one's preference for dogs or for cats. One can't affirmatively say that dogs are better than cats or vice versa.

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