Why Are There More Studies on Dogs Than Cats?

Over the past couple of years alone, studies have shown us that dogs have really good memories, understand our feelings and are altruistic to each other, just to mention a few pieces of research.

But what about cats? Well, there have been a few studies, like the ones last year that discovered they are just pretending to be indifferent to us, and – sorry cats – that canines are smarter than felines.

Why is it that studies about dogs are so much more common than those about cats?

“The research has lagged behind in cats,” Dr. Elinor Karlsson, a geneticist at the Broad Institute and the University of Massachusetts, told New York Times science reporter James Gorman. “I think they’re taken less seriously than dogs, probably to do with societal biases.”

Dr. Karlsson, who mostly does genetic research on dogs, added that “non-cat people tend to laugh at the idea of studying behavioral genetics in cats, and the animal training world complains that people tend to dismiss cats as untrainable.”

Another reason — which has nothing to do with whether scientists prefer studying dogs — is that there are over 400 breeds of dogs, meaning canines have greater genetic diversity and thus more potential for studying inherited diseases.

On the upside to this imbalance, cats aren’t used nearly as commonly as dogs in invasive experiments. Just how cruel are these experiments? As just one example, at the McGuire VA Medical Center in Virginia, pacemakers were implanted into the hearts of dogs. After the dogs were forced to have heart attacks, they were killed.

But not all research is cruel and invasive. About 3,000 pet dogs are currently participating in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. This breed is disproportionately affected by cancer and the researchers are trying to find out why. Each year samples of the participants’ saliva, as well as hair and nail clippings, are being studied to try to find answers that will not only save the lives of Goldens and other breeds, but perhaps humans as well, since we share 84 percent of dogs’ DNA.

Domestic cats are also affected by cancers like lymphoma and leukemia – and cats share 90 percent of human DNA — yet there’s currently no $32 million research project looking into the causes. Dr. Leslie Lyons, whose research at the University of Missouri focuses on genetic aspects of domestic cats, told the New York Times it’s difficult to get funding.

However, that may change soon. For the first time, the Felis catus genome has been fully sequenced and annotated, and it’s more detailed than the dog genome, Karlsson told the New York Times. The cat genome will, according to a report, “further facilitate research in human medicine as some rare diseases that occur in humans also occur in this popular pet.”

With this genome, hopefully scientists will want to start conducting more studies on cat behavior and how to save their lives – as long as, of course, those studies aren’t cruel and invasive.

Photo credit: LilyRose97

119 comments

Angel W
Past Member about a month ago

not fair

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lynda l
lynda l1 months ago

On the upside to this imbalance, cats aren’t used nearly as commonly as dogs in invasive experiments.

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Danii P
Danii P1 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Mia G
Mia G1 months ago

thank you

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sheena a
sheena arsenault1 months ago

Thank you for posting.

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R1 months ago

FLAG THE SPAM! IT"S A BLOODY ANNOYING NUISANCE!

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Gino C
Gino C1 months ago

Thank you

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Antje S
Antje S1 months ago

NO invasive, torturing research on any animal - that's the Goal to achive..

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Lenore K
Lenore K1 months ago

ok

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Tammy Ritchie
Tammy Ritchie1 months ago

I agree with Sandra M about testing on prisoners but can we do that with pedophiles as well?

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