GROWING numbers of French homes are choosing cats over dogs as their preferred pet, according to new research by an animal welfare charity.
The Société Protectrice des Animaux (SPA) says there are now an estimated 10.7 million cats living in people's homes across the country - up 750,000 in a year.
This compares with just 7.8 million dogs - an annual decline of 696,000. The SPA says it is seeing an increasing number of dogs being abandoned by their owners and fewer people showing an interest in adopting one.
In 2006, the number of adoption requests at one SPA refuge were split 50:50 between cats and dogs. Last year, the charity said 58% of visitors wanted a cat.
SPA president Caroline Lanty told Le Parisien that cats were cheaper to look after - about €600 a year in vets' bills compared with up to €1,000 for a dog.
"In urban areas, people are now preferring cats because they think they are less demanding," she said.
"Unlike dogs, cats do not present much of a cleanliness problem, do not need to be taken for regular walks – and they don't bark.
"Today, whenever people come to see us to adopt a dog they expressly ask for a small one."