According to research published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, church-goers are less likely to own a cat than atheists.
Professor Samuel Perry, from the University of Oklahoma, said cats could be seen as a “god substitute”.
The study, which was carried out in the US also finds that owning a pet provides some of the social interaction people get from church
Speaking with The Times, Professor Perry said:
“People who are heavily connected to a church or faith community already have plenty of social interaction.”
Professor Perry added that pets were “in some ways substitutes for human interaction”.
He further noted that owning a pet is said to replicate some of the benefits of joining a faith community, and while cats are “pretty low-maintenance, we end up serving them a lot, cats are very godlike in those characteristics.” He said:
“They want to interact with you but it’s always on their terms and it’s always about them. We want to always win their affections and it bothers us when we think they might be somehow displeased with us.
The study of more than 2,000 people finds that those who never set foot in a place of worship own two pets on average, while faithful worshippers have 1.4.
It also noted a “strong, negative association between worship attendance and cat ownership”, adding that “frequent worship attendees and the most conservative evangelicals report owning fewer pets”.
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