LOS ANGELES — Cats. Dogs. Those can be fighting words in some circles. • Cats are "nasty, stinking creatures," says Mark David of Warrensburg, Mo. And dogs? They're noisy, disruptive and "lick you and themselves," counters Sanford Reikes of Louisville, Ky.
Clearly, there are dog people and there are cat people. But it's not much of a contest: 74 percent of people like dogs a lot, and only 41 percent like cats a lot.
Cats win the dislike vote handily, according to an Associated Press-Petside.com poll. Fifteen percent of the adults questioned said they disliked cats a lot while the number who said they disliked dogs a lot was just 2 percent.
Joseph Moreus, 61, of Westminster, Calif., understands why dogs come out on top.
"They have more personality. They are loyal," he said. "Cats are all about cats, but dogs are interested in pleasing their owners. Cats don't care if they please you or not."
And cats can be destructive, said Joy Rasch, 70, of Kennewick, Wash., who gets mad at the neighborhood cats who kill robins, quail and squirrels in her back yard. Male cats will spray their territory or get in the wood pile at 3 a.m. and "screech like bad brakes on a car," she added.
Of course, cat lovers, if smaller in numbers, are equal in passion.
"Cats are 1,000 times smarter than dogs," said Bonnie Hanson, 77, of Sioux Falls, S.D. She and her late husband had a black Siamese cat, Kitty, that she said "always wanted to comfort people, anybody who was ill or unhappy."
"My husband would have chest pains and wouldn't tell me. But Kitty would come and look at me and I'd know. We called him our psychic Siamese," she said. "Every cat I ever had was a help and a comfort."
More than two-thirds of people in the United States have a pet, said Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the ASPCA Adoption Center in New York City. About 39 percent of households have dogs and 34 percent have cats, Buchwald said, using numbers supplied by the Association of Pet Product Manufacturers.
Those most likely to dislike cats were blacks, Hispanics and married men. Men were a bit more likely than women to say they disliked cats.
Dog people are more adamant about their preference than cat people, the poll found. Of those who owned only a dog, 34 percent said they disliked cats; of those who owned only a cat, only 5 percent disliked dogs.
David, 28, who runs a landscaping company in Warrensburg, dislikes cats but he says he owes his life to a dog. Two years ago, Zena, his 5-year-old black Lab, was with him when a tractor rolled onto his leg, leaving him pinned and bleeding. Zena went to get his wife. "She wasn't a Lassie by any means, but she was smart enough to go for help," David said.
Still, all this sniping doesn't mean there is no harmony in the country. Sixty percent of all adults said they liked both dogs and cats.
Cats are independent so they give you a little more freedom, but dogs are better companions, said Janet Hardy, 69, of Abingdon, Md., who grew up with both.
David Kyser, 73, has also had both — and can tick off their relative merits. "Cats take care of themselves. They are very clean. Dogs are not so clean and they need some activity. They are good if you have a house full of children," said Kyser of Austin, Texas. "Cats just kind of sit around being cats."
And some, of course, don't want either species for a friend.
"I have a fear of dogs and I don't like cats," said Willie Thigpen, 60, of Greenwood, S.C. He and his wife raised three children, but they never had a pet. "And now I don't want to take care of nothing except me," he said.
The AP-Petside.com poll was conducted Oct. 1-5, 2009, by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media. It involved telephone interviews on landline and cell phones with 1,967 adults nationwide, including 1,166 pet owners, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.2 percent for all adults. The margin of sampling error is higher and varies for results based on subsamples.