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Church attendance in the US suffers at the hands of…cats

Cat god image © Unsplash

A study published at the end of last year revealed faithful churchgoers had fewer pets on average than those who didn't go to church, and cat owners were the least faithful of all.

By Nick Whittle, 11 Jan 2020

Researcher Professor Samuel Perry's study of the habits of more than 2,000 Americans, drawing on data from the 2018 General Social Survey, has uncovered some surprising facts relating to Christian church attendance.

Of the subjects studied, those who went to church without fail owned fewer pets than those who never went to church. In particular, writes Perry in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, he found, “A strong, negative association between worship attendance and cat ownership.

God substitute

Professor Perry concluded that avid church attendees – those who believed in God – had no need for a pet. He surmised that the rigours of pet ownership mirrored those faced within a religious setting.

Pet ownership is a partial substitute for human bonding and interaction," writes Professor Perry. “Americans more deeply embedded within a religious community may have less need (or time) for pets generally, and specifically more independent “roommate pets,” like cats."

Sky News reporting on the story quoted Professor Perry, from the University of Oklahoma, to say, “Cats could be seen as a ‘god substitute’. 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.”

Notable cultural author Christopher Hitchens, a staunch non-believer, previously wrote of our relationship with pets, “If you feed a dog, they think you are God, while if you do the same to cats, they draw the conclusion they are gods.

Cats may sometimes share the cold entrails of a kill with you,” he added, “but this is just what a god might do if he was in a good mood.”