Cats are 'very God like', which make them more likely to be owned by atheists than churchgoers as a substitute for religion, according to a new study.
People who worship more than once a week own 1.4 cats on average, compared to the non-religious who have an average of two, according to research by the University of Oklahoma.
Researcher Samuel Perry said that he carried out the study of more than 2,000 people because he felt that some of what people sought in religion was also what they sought in pets.
Scientists claim the social interaction that many get from a pet means it is not needed elsewhere.
Samantha Chandler from the Anglican Society for Welfare of Animals told Premier she thinks the idea is a bit far-fetched: "I think that is stretching the point a little, I think there is an epidemic of loneliness in this country, caused by a variety of reasons.
"There is huge loneliness amongst some of the elderly and also amongst people who work often very hard and very long hours. I think cats, because they are less demanding than dogs they are often preferred by people who work and people who work very hard and very long hours might actually be less likely to be in church on a Sunday morning because they are desperately needing a lie in so that might have more to do with it."
Chandler said pets do play a valuable role in our society: "I think with dogs, it is that unconditional love that dogs give. They also get people outside; people are much more likely to go for a walk if they have a dog… so it encourages people to go outside.
"There is that old saying about dogs having owners and cats having staff. But I think coming back home to any creature that you have a responsibility for, particularly if you live alone, is probably better than coming back to an empty house."
Writer and atheist Christopher Hitchens said if you feed a dog, they think you are God, while if you do the same to cats, they "draw the conclusion they are gods".