Proof your cat loves you FIVE times less than your dog: We know moggies are more aloof - but new scientific tests reveal the differences are greater than we think Are you a dog or cat person? Does a dog’s eager friendliness make him superior to an elegantly aloof feline, or vice versa? It’s a debate that has divided animal lovers for generations. Now a new BBC documentary is seeking to resolve the question by discovering definitively which species has the edge: Britain’s eight million cats, or its nine million canines. In Cats Vs Dogs, animal experts Chris Packham and Liz Bonnin team up with scientists and vets to put our two favourite pets to the test in a host of different categories. Think you know which one will win? Don’t bet on it. Here are some of the findings . . . +8 A a new BBC documentary is seeking to resolve the question by discovering definitively which species has the edge - cats or dogs DOGGED DEVOTION Dogs: Almost everything dogs do, from excitedly greeting their owner at the door to lying loyally at their feet, seems to be indisputable evidence of their love. Cats, on the other hand, are more inscrutable and independent. They decide when their owners are granted a stroke or cuddle. Most owners, however, are convinced their puss loves them but just isn’t as demonstrative as a dog. But are they right? Scientists have already discovered that dogs do seem to love their owners — studies have found that both produce the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin when together. It’s the same hormone that pregnant women release during birth and breastfeeding to help them bond with their baby. But cats have never been tested for this. So the show asked U.S. neuroscientist Dr Paul Zak to test both types of animal to solve the eternal question. ‘We have pretty good evidence that dogs actually love their humans,’ he says. ‘A couple of small-scale studies have shown that when owners interact with their dogs, the human and their dog appear to release oxytocin. ‘It’s one of the chemical measures of love in mammals. Humans produce the hormone in our brains when we care about someone. For example, when we see our spouse or child the levels in our bloodstream typically rise by 40-60 per cent.’ Cats: For the new experiment, ten dogs and ten cats had saliva samples taken before playing with their owners for ten minutes. Afterwards, another saliva sample was taken and tested for the presence of oxytocin. The results were astonishing: dogs showed an average increase in the hormone of 57.2 per cent, but cats just 12 per cent. ‘From this sample it’s true to say that these dogs love their owners five times more than the cats do,’ says Dr Zak. ‘I was really surprised to discover that dogs produced such high levels of oxytocin. ‘It was also a nice surprise to discover that cats produce any at all. At least some of the time, cats seem to bond with their owners. +8 Scientists have found that dogs really do love their owners, and release the love hormone when they see them - but cats barely release any at all, which explains the indifference ‘But the dog level of 57.2 per cent is a very powerful response. It shows these dogs really care about their owners. One dog — a sweet little lapdog — peaked at 500 per cent. It was totally in love with its owner. ‘When it comes to how much dogs love us, there doesn’t seem to be any difference between breeds or sexes. But you can definitely strengthen that loving bond by petting and talking to your pet, particularly when he’s a puppy. And dogs definitely have favourites within the family. I am confident my own dog produces more oxytocin when I play with her than when anyone else does.’ So it’s conclusive — people’s cats do love them. They just don’t love them nearly as much as a dog does. TEACHING A TABBY They round up sheep, fetch our slippers; even guide the blind. Their capabilities seem almost limitless. But then again, dogs have been practising for millennia. As long as 35,000 years ago, humans first spotted how good wolves were at hunting and began to domesticate them so they could harness their abilities. Since then, they’ve evolved into the domesticated dogs we keep as pets — and we’ve bred only the most trainable, so the species is dedicated to obeying our every word. By contrast, cats became domesticated 10,000 years ago and have never been bred to be trained. But cat expert Dr Sarah Ellis believes it is possible — she’s taught her cat Cosmo to ring a bell to come into the house, and to change TV channels. It was done in small steps — first rewarding Cosmo with a treat for sniffing the remote, then for touching it, and finally for achieving the task. +8 Cats can be trained, but dogs are still better learners, because they want to please their owners ‘Cats can be trained to do anything they’re physically capable of,’ says Sarah. All they need is those incremental rewards until the goal is reached. Dogs, however, remain superior learners. But why are they so trainable? At the Family Dog Laboratory in Budapest, Hungary, they are performing groundbreaking research on canine brains to find answers. There, dogs have been trained to lie completely still — not even wagging their tail — for the eight minutes it takes to complete a brain scan (if they move by so much as 3mm, it would ruin the experiment). While inside the scanner, they listen to recordings of their owners praising them. Scientists discovered that, on hearing phrases like ‘good boy’, the reward regions in the brain that signal something pleasurable has just happened are activated. It’s the same area that responds to food, drink and sex, proving that dogs find verbal praise as good as a mouth-watering treat. ‘These results are hugely significant because they reveal that dogs get pleasure from our praise,’ says Chris Packham. ‘So in turn, they’re motivated to please us and it’s that which makes them so eminently trainable.’ As cats were ‘only’ domesticated 10,000 years ago and have never been expected to obey our commands, it’s not surprising they lag behind in the training stakes. +8 It is thought dogs ought to be twice as clever because they have double the number of neuron cells WHO’S A CLEVER BOY? So which species is more intelligent — cats or dogs? It’s long been thought that canines might be able to count because they were once pack-dwelling animals that would need to know if another pack they came across was bigger than theirs to avoid conflict. So the Clever Dog Laboratory in Vienna — yes, it really exists — devised an experiment to find out. They flashed up two images in front of a dog — one showed many black dots on a white background, the other just one or two dots. Every time the dog touched the screen showing many, he got a food treat. One husky called Luna scored an impressive nine out of 12. But when the test became more complicated with more dots in each image, more densely packed (though one always had less), she struggled. Luna got just six out of ten correct. ‘They can discriminate between different quantities,’ says the lab’s Dr Friederike Range, ‘but it’s nothing to do with counting.’ Similar, although less high-tech, tests were performed with cats at the Animal Behaviour Clinic in Lincoln. A cat was taught the difference between one and four black shapes placed on a whiteboard and was rewarded every time she picked the bigger number. She got it right four out of five times. When it was changed to three and six shapes, she picked correctly two out of three times then wandered off, refusing to return. ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if cats had some concept of counting, but when’s a cat going to need to count up to ten?’ says the centre’s Professor Daniel Mills. Further research conducted by consultant vet Dick White found that, comparatively, dogs’ brains were 20 per cent larger than cats’. But the number of neuron cells in the brain is thought to be a better indicator of intelligence than sheer size. Dogs are thought to have 600 million cortical neurons, compared with 300 million in cats. ‘It suggests they ought to be twice as intelligent as the cat,’ says Professor White.