As if dogs and cats didn’t already have enough of a perceived gulf between them, along comes a survey that shows that millionaires greatly prefer dogs over cats.
About 58 percent of millionaire pet owners have a dog, according to a study by the Spectrem Group’s Millionaire Corner. That’s a full 21 percentage points over the 37 percent of millionaires who own a cat. Comparable figures for more average households with pets are significantly lower in the doggy department: 39 percent have dogs, and 33 percent own cats.
Millionaires own a higher percentage of both dogs and cats, but the margin between their pet of choice is also huge. Why would there be such a disparity in their choice of best furry friend?
I asked a wealthy acquaintance who has three dogs (all adopted) and zero cats. She requested that I not to use her name, perhaps for fear of hissing from the cat community, or perhaps because she doesn't want another person to dump their unwanted dog on her property. (That’s how she got her most recent dog three years ago.)
“Dogs are some of the few people I can be sure love me for more than my money,” she said while stroking the shaggy head of her freshly shampooed terrier/lab/shepherd mix. “It’s unconditional. They love me no matter what I look like, and they’d love me if I were as poor as when I started out.”
Imagine if people were always trying to befriend you or woo you because they saw you as a means to more money. Who could you trust? You know your dogs aren’t after your pocketbook, so they’s probably be high on the list.
Even those of us not rolling in dough revel in that “I love you more than life itself” gaze that greets us no matter how schlumpy we look. It’s like dogs can see right into the best parts of the soul, not caring about bad hair or net worth. This woman tells me that her dogs were the only ones who didn't avoid her after her facelift. "They didn't care about the bruising and puffiness. They were my angels.
“And god they’re incredible stressbusters,” she continued.. “Once I look in their eyes after a hard day, I can feel my blood pressure plummet,” she said. “Hugs and snuggles are life savers.”
I played devil’s advocate: But cats are cute and furry and some are really friendly. Why not a cat?
“Some are just lovely, but really, they’re too much like people. They aren’t always there for you. Their love isn’t quite so unconditional,” she said, and showed me a small scar on her arm from years back. “This is just one reminder of what used to happen when I’d try to be affectionate with my old cat.”
She said most of her well-to-do pals have dogs, and that most adopted their dogs. According to her, and from what I’ve observed for years, it seems that when you give to animal causes, you’re pretty aware of the problems with buying from pet stores and backyard breeders.
I wondered aloud if most wealthy cat owners adopted their cats or bought them.
“I have no idea. Cats are nowhere on my radar anymore,” she said.
What do you think? Why would the rich tend to be drawn to dogs far more than they are to cats? If you’re well off, do you favor dogs or cats? Let’s try to figure out the reason for the survey results. Maybe it’s something as simple as dog owners being more outgoing, and therefore more apt to answer surveys!
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Maria Goodavage is author of The New York Times bestselling book Soldier Dogs. She has been a staff writer at USA Today and the San Francisco Chronicle, and is a regular contributor at Dogster online magazine. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, daughter, and a big dog.