Dog lovers might think cat owners often feel superior to them - and they might be barking up the right tree.

A study of 600 college students conducted by Carroll University in the United States found that respondents who preferred cats to dogs scored more highly on IQ tests. The research correlates with an earlier study conducted by Bristol University in the UK - showing that households in which someone was qualified to degree level were more likely to own cats and less likely to own dogs than other households.

But before you rush out and buy a cat in the hope it will make you smarter, apparently it's more to do with the personality traits of dog and cat owners and the lifestyles of each group.

The Bristol researchers speculated that people who are more highly qualified and work longer hours might be more likely to have a more low-maintenance pet like a cat than a dog.


The Carroll study suggested dog owners were more likely to be lively, energetic, outgoing and to follow rules obediently - all qualities associated with dogs themselves. Cat lovers were more likely to be introverted non-conformists and more open-minded and sensitive than dog fanciers.

Interestingly, the British study showed much lower levels of pet ownership overall than in New Zealand: just 26 per cent of households owned cats, compared to more than 50 per cent here.

Bad news, maybe, for birdlife and Gareth Morgan, but good news for their happy - and maybe healthier - owners.

So are cats good for our health, too? Samantha Boston, a former vet nurse and pet advisor for Bombay Petfoods who also fosters cats for the Lonely Miaow cat-rescue organisation, says research shows spending time petting a cat can reduce people's heart rate and make them feel calm and happy.

Another study has shown the frequency of cat's purr - in the range of 20-140 Hz - is at a level corresponding to "vibrational/electrical frequencies used in treatment for bone growth/fractures, pain, edema [swelling], muscle growth/strain, joint flexibility, dyspnea [breathlessness], and wounds."

A study by the researchers at the Stroke Research Center at the University of Minnesota found the stress-reducing properties of owning a cat can result in lowered risk of heart attack or stroke, or even developing heart disease. The 10-year study showed those who did not have a cat had a 40 per cent higher risk of having a heart attack and a 30 per cent greater risk of dying from other heart diseases than those who have or have had a cat.

"I know for myself I look forward to spending time with my cats," Boston says. "I always feel better when I hear my cats purring. It's lovely to have a little happy creature nearby - they give off a really good vibe."

But don't stress if your rental agreement or lifestyle doesn't allow you to have a cat of your own.

There are now two cat cafés in Auckland where people keen for a casual cuddle can get their hands on some feline fur. Glenfield's The Cat Lounge and Barista Cats in the CBD are busy with bookings for quality time in the company of cats. Boston has visited one with friends and loved the hands-on experience.

She admits to being a "cat person" and thinks those strongly in the dog camp should think again: "If they spent some time with cats they would find that they are very nice."

As satirical website The Onion recently reported, "Recent studies have shown that cat owners feel superior to others after being told of recent studies proving cat owners are superior to those around them."

Now that's something for dog owners to chew on.