20 August 2021

Danes favor canines over felines


Dogs beat out cats as the pet of preference in Denmark. This is true when looking at proportions of dog and cat owning families compared to 20 years ago, as well as in terms of how important these pets are to their owners and how much owners are willing to spend to have their pet treated should it become seriously ill. This is the finding of a new study from the University of Copenhagen.

According to the study, 20 percent of Danish families own dogs today, whereas 14 percent own cats. Photo: Getty

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.



The cats are falling behind in both number and significance. Photo: Getty

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.

Fish are the third most common pet among the danes. Photo: Getty

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.

Link to the study’s initial results


Peter Sandøe
Department of Food and Resource Economics
University of Copenhagen
Phone: +45 21 49 72 92
Mail: pes@sund.ku.dk

Michael Skov Jensen
Faculty of SCIENCE
University of Copenhagen
Mobile: 24 26 82 96
Mail: msj@science.ku.dk 

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