Are dogs or cats more popular as pets in the UK?

Are dogs or cats more popular as pets in the UK?

It’s a question liable to make fur fly, but that doesn’t stop many of us wondering who would win the pet popularity contest: dogs or cats?

It’s a tricky one. Some of us are unquestionably cat people. Some are most definitely dog people. Others are just as happy with dogs as they are with cats.

Undeterred, we’re keen to get to the bottom of it. Are cats more popular than dogs in the UK? Or are dogs more popular than cats? Let’s see…

Nation of animal lovers

 Our love for our pets runs deep. Last year, a study by pet food company Freshpet revealed that more than a third of UK adults prefer their pets to their partners. Why? According to those questioned, compared to human companions, cats and dogs don’t nag, don’t judge, never talk back and are better at snuggling.

And while we’re looking for answers in scientific studies, there’s one that cuts straight to the chase (although, anyone in the cat corner might want to take a seat).

The poll revealed that more people like dogs than cats. According to the survey, which questioned nearly 2,000 people, 74% said they like dogs ‘a lot’, but just 41% said the same thing about cats.

However, this study was carried out in the US a decade ago, so it doesn’t really answer the question: are dogs or cats more popular as pets in the UK?

The question is still firmly open for debate.

How are cats and dogs different?

 Cats and dogs are paws down our favourite four-legged friends – but they couldn’t be more different.

Each has their own tendencies, quirks, foibles and traits. And they need to be looked after in different ways – they are fed differently, handled differently, and behave differently.

Here are a few of those differences in more detail.


  • Dogs are never happier than playing a game of fetch or bounding around open spaces for hours at a time. This also means they can be more prone to injury so pet insurance is always a good idea.
  • Cats are certainly agile and enjoy playing games, but they could never be described as athletic. Instead, they are nimble and love pouncing and stalking.

Popularity factor: If you love the great outdoors, a dog is for you. If you prefer curling up on the sofa, go for a cat.


  • Dogs have a pack mentality and they see their owners as the pack leader. They look for direction and follow it closely, and are very sociable.
  • Cats are independent, solitary creatures. They are happy with their own company and really only need their owners for food and a clean litter tray. However, they can be extremely affectionate when they want to be.

Popularity factor: If you want constant affection, it’s a dog all the way. If you’re less needy, a cat will be the perfect four-legged friend.


  • Dogs are incredibly versatile. They can be trained to carry out roles such as guide/hearing dogs; law enforcement dogs; therapy dogs; search and rescue dogs; service dogs, and military dogs.
  • Cats offer companionship, make great family pets and with a cat in the house, there’s always someone to talk to.

Popularity factor: When it comes to versatility, dogs win it hands down.


  • Dogs are playful and active during the day. If they’re not taking a nap, they’re probably by your side as you go about your day-to-day activities.
  • Cats are more nocturnal, sleeping by day and springing into action in the evening.

Popularity factor: Depending on when you get your energy burst during the day will depend on whether a cat or dog is best for you.


  • A dog’s memory is about five minutes.
  • Cats can remember up to 16 hours.

Popularity factor: If you don’t mind your pet bearing a grudge, it’s a cat all the way!

Bathroom behaviour

  • Dogs can take a while to housetrain and you have to pick up their poo when you’re out and about.
  • Cats can be housetrained in an instant. All they need is access to a litter tray and the rest is instinct. However, used litter trays can be pretty smelly!

Popularity factor: Let’s be honest, neither option is ideal.

Do dogs or cats make you happier?

 Both cats and dogs make great pets – which means it can feel like cats and dogs are as popular as one another. They offer love, affection and companionship, as well as improved health and well being.

A recent study by social research organisation NORC at the University of Chicago found that dog owners are happier than cat owners. But it’s best to take these findings with a pinch of salt. Other factors will almost certainly play a part.

The study also revealed that dog owners are more likely to be married and live in a larger home. And let’s not forget that dogs need walking – getting outside and doing something active every day is a great way to reduce stress and boost feelings of happiness.

However, cat owners shouldn’t despair. Previous research has exposed the mental and physical benefits of owning a pet. That’s right, any pet.

One survey of cat and dog owners found that pet owners aged 55+ are more likely to be satisfied in their jobs, while nearly half of those surveyed said they never felt lonely thanks to their pet.

Meanwhile, other research has claimed that owning a pet can mean better cardiovascular health and lower blood pressure, while bonding with a pet has been linked to reducing symptoms of depression.

So, let’s not go jumping to any conclusions about whether cats or dogs are more popular as pets just yet…

Do dogs make better pets?

 If you think that dogs make better pets than cats, here are some points to help you win the argument...

  1. No litter tray

Even the most ardent of cat lovers will not love their cat’s litter tray. The smell – and the litter itself – gets all over the house. Yes, you need to pick up dog’s poo, but at least it happens outside, not inside your home.

  1. The L-words: love and loyalty

Dogs love you unconditionally (it must have something to do with that five-minute memory span!) A dog will stick with you through thick or thin and wouldn’t dream of trying to trade you in for another owner if things don’t go their way. Dogs are far more loyal than cats. There’s a reason why they’re called man’s (and woman’s) best friend, after all.

  1. Walkies keep you fit

Taking your dog for regular walks is a great way to get fit and stay healthy. As well as the physical benefits, dog walking often means you get to meet other dog owners so you and your pooch can start making new friends together. Dogs love running and exploring, so it’s always best to have quality pet insurance for your own peace of mind.

  1. They adapt better to change

If their owners act like change is no big deal, dogs will generally follow suit. Most dogs tend to be calmer when faced with a change to their lifestyles, while cats are usually more sensitive to their environments and don’t like change.

  1. Easier to train

Because you can train a dog, it means you can control them more, which in turn means less destruction. A stern ‘no’ can have power over a dog. Try doing the same to a cat and you requests are likely to fall on deaf ears.

  1. Lots of variety

From a tiny chihuahua to a huge Great Dane, dogs come in all shapes and sizes so there’s a hound to suit everyone. Luckily, pet insurance comes in all shapes and sizes, too.

  1. Name calling

Unlike cats, dogs will come running when you call their name, although new research does suggest that cats can tell the difference between their names and other words – which means they’re just ignoring you.

Do cats make better pets?

 For feline enthusiasts looking to put the cat among the pigeons, here’s the other side of the argument. If you secretly know that cats make better pets than dogs, sit back and enjoy.

  1. They need less attention

A huge advantage of cats is that they can be left unsupervised. In fact, a lot of the time they would prefer it if you did. Cats are self-sufficient and happy with their own company, meaning owners can go to work or stay away overnight without having to worry about their feline friend.

  1. They don’t need walking

Dogs need walking whatever the weather, cats take care of their own exercise requirements. When it’s blowing a gale outside, you might just want to stay tucked up inside with your cat.

  1. They need less space

While the smallest of dog needs space to stretch their legs, the largest of cats is happy in a small space (more often than not a box!) That means even if you live in a studio flat or small house, there’ll be plenty of room for your moggy.

  1. They are quieter

Cats are quiet animals that don’t make a big, noisy fuss. They won’t bark at the sound of the doorbell, howl along with the radio, or disturb the neighbours. Admittedly, some cat breeds such as the Siamese or Bengal are quite vocal, but they’ll never be in the same loud league as dogs.

  1. The don’t roll around in muck

Cats are incredibly pernickety about their cleanliness and spend a lot of time making sure their fur is just right. You won’t find them rolling around in a stinky mess or muddy puddle.

  1. They are cheaper to look after

Cats are cheaper to feed than dogs – even the hungriest of hungry cats. You’ll also save money on vet bills, boarding, bedding and pet insurance. With quality cat insurance you know you can care for your feline friend when they need it most.

  1. It’s an honour to earn their respect

Dogs are easily pleased. Cats, on the other hand, are far more discerning about who gets their love and affection. You have to work hard to earn the love and respect of a cat, but once you’ve won that love they can be as loyal and affectionate as a pooch.

Are there more cat or dog owners in the UK?

 Every year, the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) publishes its Pet Population report, which asks are there more cat or dog owners in the UK? They also look at statistics like the top ten most popular pets.

The latest figures reveal that 7.5 million households own a cat, but 9 million own a dog. That’s 17% versus 25% of UK households and a clear winner: dogs.

Looking at those figures in a bit more depth, we find that dog and cat ownership is highest among 45-54-year olds – 30% for dog ownership and 21% for cats. These figures drop to 22% and 17% respectively among millennials.

So, there you have it. It turns out dogs are more popular than cats in the UK.

Not that statistics are ever going to persuade cat lovers that’s the case!

If you own a pet – either a dog or a cat – you’ll want to take the best care of it as possible. This includes taking out quality pet insurance. If you have more than one pet at home, multi-pet insurance might be the best option for you and your extended four-legged family.


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