Pets & Animals

Do dogs or cats love their owners more? Study says one pet's more devoted

Both dogs and cats are wonderful pets — for the right owners.

But when it comes to dogs, that mutual affection is a whole lot stronger.

A new study done by researchers for a BBC documentary, "Cats vs. Dogs," have concluded there's five times more love generated in a dog when it sees its owner than a cat.

Our love is chemical, say scientists, so that's how they measured it. As we learned last year, when dogs see their owners, they feel oxytocin, a hormone that stimulates pleasure in our brain and helps us bond with our offspring.

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It's all in the eyes, according to a scientific study.

MORE: Scents and sensitivity: Dogs know when we're happy or angry

This time, researchers tested pets for the "love hormone" before and after they saw their owners. Ten cats and 10 dogs were swabbed for saliva, then played with their owners for 10 minutes. After, the saliva was tested again. While the oxytocin levels were elevated in both animals, dogs showed an increase of 57.2 percent of the hormone compared to 12 percent in the cats. (One dog's hormone actually went up 500 percent!)

This isn't the first study on this subject. Last April, Science magazine revealed staring into a dog's eyes released oxytocin in people, too. Humans "use eye gaze for affiliative communications and [are] very much sensitive to eye contact," says Takefumi Kikusui, from Azabu University in Japan, told TODAY.com in an email. "Gaze, in particular, (over touch, for example) led to the release of oxytocin."

MORE: The eyes have it: Why we bond with our dogs like our babies

"I was really surprised to discover that dogs produced such high levels of oxytocin," neuroscientist Dr. Paul Zak, who worked with the documentary's results, said. "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."

What might come as a surprise, however, is that dogs are also apparently more loving than humans. On average, Zak added, a person's oxytocin levels only rise between 40-60 percent after interacting with a spouse or child.

No wonder we call them our babies!

Follow Randee Dawn on Twitter.

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