What Does Your Pet Say About You?
The Psychological Differences Between Dog and Cat People
Psychologists note that people have distinctly different personalities when it comes to their pet preferences. People who have dogs, people who have dogs AND cats, and people who have neither a cat nor a dog all fall into the same loose category – Dog People. People who have only cats are in a category all their own – Cat People.
Data published by the American Humane Association shows about 62%-72.9% million households have pets. Of these, approximately 37%-46% have dogs. The estimated number of dogs in the US is 70-78 million. Fewer households (30%-39%) have cats but the cat population is 74-86 million. Dog people tend to have a single dog as a pet. Cat people are more likely to have multiple cats.
As might be expected, it appears that cat and dog people often reflect some of the personality qualities of their pets. Dogs are social animals and thrive being part of the pack. Dog people tend to be extroverted. Cats, on the other hand, will occasionally be social but tend to wander off on their own. You can play fetch with a dog for hours, but a cat loses interest quickly. Cat people tend to be introverted.
Denise Guastello presented research she performed while working at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin at the 2014 convention of the Association for Psychological Science. She found dog people to be more lively, energetic, outgoing, and tend to follow rules closely, while cat people to be more open-minded, sensitive, and nonconformist. In her study, cat people also scored higher on intelligence.
Beatrice Alba and her colleagues from Melbourne, Australia presented another point of view in an article written for Anthrozoos. They point out an old saying “Dogs have owners, cats have staff” and ask the question, “Are people more likely to choose pets that align with their personality?” The group studied whether there were gender differences at play. For example, do male dog people tend to score higher on a need for dominance? However, when accounting for gender differences, both men and women who were dog people displayed higher assertiveness.
Does a person’s personality influence their choice of pets, or does a person develop personality characteristics because of the pets they have chosen? This question remains unanswered. However, it is widely accepted that having a pet decreases stress and can be better for your health. But even here, there’s a difference. Dog people tend to be healthier than cat people in several parameters such as body mass index and blood pressure. Walking the dog may pay off!
- American Humane Association U.S. Pet (Dog and Cat) Population Fact Sheet 2012.
- Coren S. Canine Corner: Personality Differences Between Dog and Cat Owners. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201002/personality-differences-between-dog-and-cat-owners. 2010.
- Alba B et al. Personality Characteristics of Dog and Cat Persons. Anthrozoos. Volume 11, Issue 1, 1998.
- Becker K. HealthyPets with Dr. Karen Becker. Mercola. http//healthypets.mercola.com. 2014.
Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP
Edited by the Staff at Pet Health
© Pet Health, a division of Women’s International Pharmacy, Inc.