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Cornell Feline Health Center

Supporting Cat Health with Information and Health Studies.

Too Few Cats in Research

A recent article in the New York Times addresses the issue of “Why Scientists Love to Study Dogs (and Often Ignore Cats)”.

This interesting piece discusses the observation that more research has been done on canines than felines, and offers a number of potential reasons for this discrepancy, including:

  • Historical/societal biases due to the perceived nature of cats (they don’t do what we ask them to do/ they are closer to their wild ancestors)
  • Inherent differences in canine and feline behavior (with cats being perceived as being untrainable..which is not true)
  • The fact that dogs have been domesticated for a longer period of time and that there are more dogs breeds (providing greater opportunity to study inherited diseases)
  • The fact that dogs appear to suffer from similar behavioral problems as humans (like obsessive compulsive disorder)

While it may be true that dogs do serve as reasonable subjects of research, the article points out that cats may, in fact, be more appropriate subjects in some cases, due to the closer similarity of some feline ailments to those seen in humans (polycystic kidney disease, for example).

It’s important to point out that it is also true that cats are brought to the veterinarian less frequently than their canine counterparts, a trend that has been recognized for some time, and for which there is no definitive explanation. The veterinary community has been working hard to inform the cat loving public about this problem, as being proactive about health care in cats ultimately results in better, longer lives for our feline friends.

After much speculation about the reasons for the disparity in canine and feline research, the author writes that one potential reason that he had not considered was offered by a friend. The friend wonders whether the reason that there are more dog studies is that ..."the cats won’t consent?”

We hadn’t thought of that…but perhaps, knowing cats, we should have!

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