Cats are the most popular pet in the world, outnumbering dogs by as many as three to one, and they rule the Internet. However, a recent paper reveals it's man's best friend that can boost coverage of a news event.

To determine if canine-centric stories were more likely to be picked up by media outlets after appearing in The New York Times, researchers at the University of California and the University of Miami identified 18 dog-related articles that appeared in the newspaper's national section and 334 non-dog-related stories since 2000.The researchers then looked at 10 other newspapers — both local and national — to see which, if any, of the stories were picked up the following day.

They found that a front-page story in The New York Times was picked up by other newspapers at 3.1 times the rate of a story from the last page of the Times' national section.

However, if a story that involved a dog appeared on the last page of the national section, it would still appear in another newspaper at 2.6 times the rate of a non-dog-related story with the same placement.

In other words, "having a canine subject in a national news event produced coverage of the story that was 80 percent as large as the effect of the difference between being NYT front-page and back-page worthy," according to the paper, which was published in "PS: Political Science and Politics."

What is it about dog-related stories that gets them nearly the same attention as a top news story?

The authors suggest it may simply be that journalists and newspaper editors choose to cover stories about man's best friend because they think they'll appeal to audiences. (You clicked on this story, didn't you?)

Or maybe it's just that the journalists and editors themselves like dogs and are drawn to stories about them.

While it could be argued that opting to run a canine-centric story in lieu of other news contributes to a less-informed audience, the paper's authors argue that sometimes writing about dogs can draw attention to important issues.

"How many [Americas] learned about what President Obama was doing in April 2009 as a result of the arrival of Bo, his Portuguese water dog?" they write.

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