Italian researchers found that the majority of children aged 3 to 6 show a preference for dogs over cats — regardless of their familiarity with each species.

Kids playing with dog. Study finds kids of a certain age prefer dogs over cats. Diyosa Carter, Getty Images // Kids playing with dog. Study finds kids of a certain age prefer dogs over cats. Diyosa Carter, Getty Images (Kids playing with dog. Study finds kids of a certain age prefer dogs over cats. Diyosa Carter, Getty Images)

When the kids were asked to choose the animal with the facial features that appealed to them the most, “they preferred dogs over cats in every comparison,” said the study's co-author, Marta Borgi of the Istituto Superiore di Sanita in Italy. The study did, however, show an increased appreciation for cats in older children, suggesting that cats are, perhaps, an acquired taste.

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"The appreciation of less-popular animals like cats probably needs time to develop, and appears more dependent on their physical appeal and on our contacts with them," Borgi said.

The researchers hope their results will have implications for helping choose ideal companion animals for autistic children or other kids whose social development may benefit from interaction with pets.

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