University of Copenhagen: Danes favor canines over felines

Just over twenty years ago, Statistics Denmark presented the results of a survey of attitudes among Danes towards pets under the heading, “The dog is man’s best friend, but there are more cats than dogs”. Back then, it may have seemed that cats were winning the popularity contest at the expense of the dogs, a trend similar to that in other Western countries at the time.

However, new figures from a comprehensive study conducted by researchers at the Department of Food and Resource Economics and the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at the University of Copenhagen demonstrate that dogs have clearly taken the lead.

“Not only has the proportion of dog families continued to increase in relation to cat families, but the overall number of dogs living in Danish families now exceeds the number of cats,” says Professor Peter Sandøe, who together with Associate Professor Thomas Bøker Lund led work on the study.

According to the study, 20 percent of Danish families own dogs today, whereas 14 percent own cats. This equates to about 810,000 dogs among families, while the number of cats stands at roughly 730,000. In the study twenty years ago, cats came out over canines.

Danish families and their pets
The most common pets in Denmark and how many families who has them.

Pet Number of families Percentage of all danish families
Dog 617.935 20 %
Cat 426.592 14 %
Fish 104.749 3 %
Birds 99.076 3 %
Rabbit 86.647 3 %
Horse 80.342 3 %
Reptiles / Amphibians 31.976 1%
Insects-spiders 13.171 <1%


The dog opens hearts and wallets
The study also studies the significance of dogs and cats to their respective owners. Here, the vast majority ­– over 90 percent of survey respondents – report that their pet matters to them personally. Nevertheless, the love of dog owners supersedes that of other pet owners.

“Compared to the other animals, including cats, it’s clear that people bond most with dogs. Among respondents with both dogs and cats who expressed that their pets meant a great deal to them personally, 78% stated that their dog meant most to them, while only 11% sided with their cat,” explains Peter Sandøe.

With regards to vet bills, dogs win big. Participants in the study who expressed that they were personally attached to their pets, were asked how much they would be willing to spend on a treatment to make their very sick pet healthy again. The alternative being for their pet to be euthanized.

Here, 45% indicated that their dogs mattered most and would pay 5,000 Danish kroner (€675) or more to treat their dog. Among the cat owners who replied that their cat meant much to them, just shy of 23% would pay this much to treat their kitty.

“The study confirms that dogs can open human hearts and wallets like no other pet,” says Peter Sandøe.

Together with Associate Professor Thomas Bøker Lund and a number of other researchers from the Danish Center for the Study of Companion Animal Welfare, Sandøe is now beginning to analyze the large amounts of data generated by the pet survey conducted together with Statistics Denmark.

“As we publish the study’s results, we hope to further explain Danes’ relationship with their pets in the years ahead,” concludes Associate Professor Sandøe.

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