Around one in four UK households owns at least one dog, while around one in five households owns a cat.
That translates into around 10 million dogs and 7 million cats in the UK, which differs from patterns seen in several other countries where cats now outnumber dogs as pets.
The researchers surveyed 1278 households in a community in Cheshire, in the north west of England. They used face to face doorstep interviews to find out if there was a particular profile for cat ownership.
The households were all located on the edge of a town in a semi rural community. Occupants, all of whom were over the age of 16, were asked for details about their household, such as age, sex, and employment, and whether they owned any pets.
The results, which were based on responses from 1142 households, showed that just over half (52%) owned a pet. Around one in four (24%) owned a dog, while around one in five (22%) owned a cat.
When all the other factors were analysed, the findings showed that cat owners were significantly more likely to own a horse.
Households with just one dog were less likely to own a cat than those with no dog, but those with several dogs were more likely to own cats.
All male households were significantly less likely to own a cat than mixed households, whilst female only households were more likely to do so.
Those aged between 20 and 59 were significantly more likely to own a cat than those aged 60 and above, as were households with children.
The authors caution that their study focuses on one small geographically defined area and so can't be taken as automatically applicable to the rest of the UK. But the percentage of the population found to be pet owners does reflect national figures, they say, adding: "the results gained from this study may at least be indicative of similar communities in the UK."
The benefits of pet ownership on health and wellbeing are many, say the authors, noting how few older people owned a pet in their survey.
"The elderly are a group that may be most isolated and would benefit from the companionship of a pet, as well as having something to care for," they suggest.