Did you cry when Old Yeller died? Do you post angry comments about a dog dying in a hot car, yet scroll by that story of the woman who died in a car accident? Have you considered (or maybe even purchased) equipment to video chat with your pet while you're at work?
Empathy is a complex emotion for us humans. In many ways, it seems to be disappearing from society. Because of the constant media barrage of violence, death, and despair, we are becoming increasingly desensitized to the suffering of others. So why is it so easy to generate empathy for suffering animals?
Children and animals both demonstrate an innocence that we feel compelled to protect. So in fact, our increased empathy for dogs and cats has nothing to do with a preference for a certain species, and everything to do with our innate human desire to protect and nurture those who are innocent and helpless.