Here's my take on this....
Most animal species cultivated as pets have commonly been bred for characteristics that reward human interaction with them. For example, we think of dogs as devoted, attentive and unconditionally loving; cats as affectionate, clever and mischievous; birds as cute, quirky and funny; horses as powerful, graceful and exciting; and so on. These behaviors and characteristics are somewhat predictable, emotionally honest, generally positive and for the most part "safe" in ways that interactions with fellow humans are not. When you then involve a person who may be naturally shy and introverted, or who has trouble with complex social situations, or who may have been abused or mistreated by others and suffered some emotional trauma or alienation from human society, then the safety and genuineness of interaction with domesticated animals can seem like a haven. For this group, the compassion and empathy they demonstrate for animals does seem to extend to humans, but they simply choose to lavish their attentions on species that have a natural propensity or selective breeding to reciprocate in a more honest and trustworthy way.
On the other hand, there is a certain segment of folks who seem to lavish pets and stray animals with gifts, medical attention, affection and gourmet meals that they would never consider providing for fellow humans or even themselves. In fact they seem to excessively invest in animals to the exclusion of everyone and everything else, and to a degree that seems pretty pathological - whether putting their lives at risk to rescue one feral cat, or mortgaging their house to pay for an aging dog's kidney operation. Rather than based mainly in emotional honesty or empathic connection, these folks seem to possess a deep-seated compulsion or addiction that obsesses over animals in essentially destructive ways. For this group I suspect there may be an underlying personality disorder involved, or a brain chemical imbalance similar to what presents as OCD.
The final group that comes to mind, and one that (sadly, IMO) seems increasingly common across many demographics, are pet keepers who mainly view animals as novelty, a breeding investment, an indication of social status, or some sort of materialistic benefit. They seem primarily concerned with appearance and grooming, animal performance, rarity of breed, pedigree, etc. and so "treat animals better than humans" only to obtain the highest return on their investment, the best performance in a competition, the highest fees for breeding services or offspring, the greatest appreciation from their peers, increased status in some social stratum, and a sense of advanced social privilege and sophistication in their own self-concept. This group is, I suspect, a natural product of commercialism, consumer identity and the materialistic fixations encouraged by endless capitalist propaganda that seeks to profit from every aspect of our existence.
So these are three groups off the top of my head, but I suspect there are more, and certainly even crossover between even these three, so that each person has a unique combination of reasons for giving animals preferable treatment to human beings.
My 2 cents.
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