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 per cent of people like dogs a lot, and only 41 per cent like cats a lot.
Cats win the dislike vote handily, according to an Associated Press-Petside.com poll. Fifteen per cent of the adults questioned said they disliked cats a lot while the number who said they disliked dogs a lot was just two per cent.
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 neighbourhood 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."
About 59 per cent of American households own pets, according to the poll. About 74 per cent of pet owners polled said they had dogs, and 47 per cent said they had cats.
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 per cent said they disliked cats; of those who owned only a cat, only five per cent 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, his five-year-old black lab Zena 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 per cent of all adults said they liked both dogs AND cats.
Cats are independent so 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 cellphones with 1,967 adults nationwide, including 1,166 pet owners and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points for all adults. The margin of sampling error is higher and varies for results based on sub-samples.