Why are dogs more loyal than cats?

Dogs have a reputation for being man’s best friend. They are believed to be extremely loyal. Dogs are known to develop extremely close relationships with their owner, while cats are seen as loners. Are these reputations deserved? Are dogs really more loyal than cats? 

Why are dogs more loyal than cats?

Both dogs and cats are capable of being affectionate and loyal towards their owners. However, generally, dogs are much more loyal than cats. It turns out there are some valid reasons for this. 

Cat Social Structure

The social structure of cats and dogs is very different. Until recently, it was thought that cats were independent, and didn’t interact with each other in a social way. Recent research has revealed the truth is more complicated.

Many cats do live with other cats, but the social order is much looser. There’s generally an alpha cat or couple of cats. Other cats will defer to them. They have their choice of territory and food. 

Cats are known to form close bonds with one other cat. If they live with other cats, they tolerate them. They even timeshare territory. One cat will have a certain hunting ground in the morning, for example. Then another cat will use the territory in the evening. Each cat has its own home territory that it will defend from other cats if necessary. 

Not all cats live with other cats. Some are content to live alone, and have little interaction with other cats.

Lions have a different social structure from other cats. The females form a close-knit group, known as a pride. Males generally guard the pride, while the females hunt. Kills are shared among the pride, which is something that doesn’t occur among any other cat species. 

Dog Social Structure

Dog social structure is much more, well, social. Dogs naturally live in packs. They work together, much like a human family. Cats, with the exception of lions, hunt and eat individually, even if they live with other cats. 

Dogs, on the other hand, hunt and eat together. They have a well defined social structure. The alpha male and female are at the top of the social order. Next are the betas. The betas are subservient only to the alphas. The omegas are at the bottom of the pack. They are subservient to the betas and alphas. 

How Social Structure Affects Your Pet’s Relationship With You

Dogs are much more social with each other. It’s difficult for them to live alone, because their hunting style is based on hunting as a group. Cats, on the other hand, fend for themselves well. 

Why does this matter in terms of your relationship with your pet? Dogs naturally social disposition transfers to their owner. If you train them correctly, you are the alpha. You receive the same loyalty an alpha dog would receive. 

Your dog will defer to you, and want to please you. They look to you for guidance. You are their leader, and you always will be. 

Cats, on the other hand, aren’t nearly as subservient. They may have a group alpha, but they do not share many of the same social rules as dogs. For example, lions are the only cats that share their kill. A beta cat isn’t expected to bring its catch to the alpha cat. There is some deference, but not submission as their is with dogs. 

Cats can certainly be highly affectionate, but there’s a different attitude and motivation. They are much more self-focused than dogs. A dog wants to do things for you. A cat wants you to do things for it. They may return the favor, but they don’t exhibit the same loyalty a dog does. 


Breeding also plays a key role in a dog’s loyalty. Dogs were bred to be man’s best friend. They are very different from their ancestors, wolves. If you take a look at domesticated wolves, it’s easy to see how different they are from dogs behaviorally speaking. 

Wolves are generally shy and standoffish around humans. They can be trained, but they lack the innate desire to please present in dogs. They are also less reliable in terms of behavior. Unlike domesticated dogs, the loyalty to a pack doesn’t extend easily to humans. 

Dogs have been domesticated for 30,000 years or more, according to archeologists. Over time, owners would naturally choose the dogs who made the best pets to breed. Generation after generation, dogs became more domesticated, and the personality we know and love today was formed. 

Cats were domesticated about 9,000 years ago. That’s plenty of time to fully domesticate them, but they aren’t completely domesticated to this day. In fact, researchers believe that humans never actually domesticated cats. They domesticated themselves. 

Rodents were attracted to the crops and food stores produced by humans. Being a cat’s natural prey, it would live where they were plentiful. Cats and people learned to tolerate each other, because the relationship benefited both of them. The cats provided rodent control, and the humans provided the cats with a food source. 

Even now, the common house cat has changed very little from its ancient origins. The only major difference, genetically speaking, are the stripes and dots seen in some breeds of house cat. 

Dogs Need Us

Dogs have a greater need for humans than cats do. A domesticated cat can usually learn to survive on its own fairly quickly. It’s capable of hunting, finding shelter, and defending itself, because they retain essentially all their wild instincts. 

A dog, however, has a more difficult time. If you’ve ever seen a dog who has been cast aside by its owner, it can be heart breaking. They often become thin, and some even starve. This happens because they aren’t skilled hunters. All dogs retain some of their wild instincts, but it’s often not enough to allow them to survive in the wild.

Are Dogs Actually More Loyal?

It’s impossible to answer this question with any degree of certainty. First, it depends on how you define loyalty. Then, you’d need to decode how cats and dogs show loyalty. Dogs certainly seem more loyal, but are they really?

One study claims that the reputation is undeserved, and cats are just as loyal as dogs. This study looked at the attachment styles of cats. Dogs, cats, and humans are capable of developing secure and insecure attachments. 

A secure attachment is a sign of a healthy relationship. Time is divided between the relationship and individual activities. An insecure attachment results in clinginess or standoffishness. 

The study found that 64% of cats had a secure attachment to their owners.  This is essentially the same as human infants, with 65% showing secure attachment to their parents. Surprisingly, only 58% of dogs have a secure attachment. 

Of course, it’s overly simplistic to say that a secure attachment is the only criteria for loyalty. However, it does suggest that cats may care more for their humans than they are given credit for. 

Are dogs normally more affectionate than cats?

Dogs do seem to be more affectionate than cats. However, this could be because cats express their affection differently than dogs. 

Differences in When They Show Affection

Dogs are naturally affectionate creatures. For them, affection has a soothing effect. If you’ve ever gotten a hug when you were sad or scared, you can relate. This means that a dog will show affection when it’s sad or anxious, as well as when it’s happy and secure. 

Cats, however, need to feel secure to show affection. Think of it as feeling vulnerable. You don’t want to be vulnerable unless you feel safe and secure. 

Affection is one way dogs develop a bond with their owners, and other dogs. Cats must develop the bond first, before they are comfortable showing affection. 

Differences in How Affection is Shown

Dogs show affection by licking, wagging their tail, climbing in your lap, and running to you. It’s clear that they love you, because the signs are impossible to miss. 

Cats are more reserved when they show affection. They may purr or trill as they climb into your lap. They may rub their head against you. Even sleeping beside or near you is a sign of affection and trust from your favorite feline. 

Why are dogs so loyal?

Dogs are so loyal for the reasons discussed above. However, there’s one more reason you may find particularly fascinating. Dogs feel empathy for their owners. 

When you love someone, you don’t want to hurt them. This plays a role in the loyalty you show to them. The thought of being disloyal feels you with sadness, because you know it would cause them pain. It’s now thought that your dog feels similar emotions. 

Have you noticed that your dog comforts you when you are sad? Perhaps your normally rambunctious pooch refuses to leave your side, lying beside you quietly. Some dogs will lick or even whine at their owners when they think they are sad. 

Empathy doesn’t just occur with a dog’s owner. They show empathy towards all, or nearly all, humans. When a stranger is sad, dogs will introduce themselves gently and somberly. When the stranger is happy, the dog is likely to be rambunctious and happy themselves. 

Are cats and dogs loyal to one person?

Yes, cats and dogs both have a tendency to bond closely with one person. This also varies based on your pet’s personality and breed, however. 

Cats Bond With One Person

It’s common for a cat to form  a very close bond with one person. They may like other members of the household, but they will clearly prefer their favorite person over anyone else. 

Being the cat’s primary caregiver makes you more likely to be their person. However, it doesn’t always work out this way. How you interact with the cat also plays a role. Lastly, personality matters. Cats tend to choose the person who seems to understand them as well as like them. 

Being a Dog’s Favorite Person

Dogs tend to form a closer bond with everyone in the household than cats. However, most will still have a favorite person. Most dogs will love everyone in the home, but love their favorite person more. Cats are more likely to tolerate other family members, and love their favorite person. 

Dogs have similar criteria for choosing this person as cats. Being their primary caregiver will score you points, but it’s not a guarantee you’ll be their favorite. Attention is also an important factor. If you fill their food bowl but your spouse spends time playing with them, don’t be surprised if they become the favorite.  

Dogs also tend to choose a favorite person who matches their personality. If your dog is very social and affectionate, they will gravitate towards a person who is outgoing and energetic. If your dog is calm and reserved, their favorite human is likely to be the same way. 




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