Study Shows That Atheists Prefer Cats While Christians Love Dogs

Photo by by StockSnap/Pixabay/Creative Commons

Ryan Burge is an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University and can be reached at @ryanburge. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of BCNN1.


I do not, and will not ever, own a cat.

Instead, I own a dog. In fact, as I type this, Lucy, my 7-pound Yorkshire terrier, is snoring next to me on my office chair.

Why do I prefer dogs to cats?

It could be because — along with being a social scientist — I am an American Baptist pastor. And like many other Christians in the United States, I’m more likely to own a dog than a cat.

My friends who skip church, however, prefer cats.

At least that’s what the data indicates.

“Religious Traditions and Pet Ownership” Graphic by Ryan Burge

In a new article published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of ReligionSamuel Perry and I took advantage of several new questions added to the General Social Survey about pet ownership to look at the relationship between religion and man’s best friends.

First, some general results from the data.

Among Americans who said they own a pet, nearly three-quarters (74.9%) said they had a dog in 2018. Fewer than half (40.3 %) identified as cat owners. The average American pet-owning household has 1.72 animals (which also included reptiles, fish, pigs, goats, birds, horses and small mammals).

Evangelicals, mainline Protestants, the religiously unaffiliated and members of what the GSS calls “other faiths” — religious people who are not Christian or Jewish — have the most pets, at nearly two per family.

Catholic households, on average, have one and a half pets, while Jews (.95 pets) and black Protestants (.72 pets) average just under one pet each.

“Religious Traditions and Number of Pets” Graphic by Ryan Burge

What about type of animal owned by religious tradition?

Dogs are the most popular household pet. In fact, there’s no religious traditi­on in which fewer than half of adherents own a dog.

Photo by Helena Sushitskaya/Pixabay/Creative Commons

However, there are some interesting differences among faith groups. Evangelicals and Catholics are more likely to have dogs than are mainline Christians. Mainliners are more likely than evangelicals and black Protestants to own cats. Jews prefer dogs to cats. Jewish families are also more likely than other traditions to own a small mammal or a bird.

Those who claim no religious identity are most likely to have a cat.

We also found one other interesting piece of data.

For our study, we put together a regression model that predicted how many pets were owned at each level of church attendance while controlling for a number of factors that could impact pet ownership, such as income, geography, gender, race and education.

While not conclusive, it appears that the more someone goes to church or other religious worship service, the less likely they are to own a pet.

Why is this the case?

Click here to read more.
Source: Religion News Service