Are There Actually Any Differences Between Cat And Dog People?

Do you consider yourself a cat person or a dog person? There’s a long-held assumption that dog lovers are more sociable, extroverted people, while cat lovers are shyer and more introverted. However, as it turns out, there is some debate about whether or not your personality traits are strongly correlated with your choice of pet at all.

Why Are Dogs So Different from Cats?

First, let’s discuss cats and dogs, and their respective differences. Stanley Coren, PhD, writes for Psychology Today that dogs and cats behave quite differently based on genetic predispositions.

“Certainly the relationship between cats and humans has always been quite different than the relationship between dogs and people,” writes Coren. “This reflects the behaviors that both species have kept from their heritage prior to domestication. In the wild, cats are usually solitary hunters and often are active mostly at night. In contrast, wild canines are usually sociable pack animals that work in groups and are active between dawn and dusk.”

As a result of these predispositions, dogs tend to be much more socially needy than cats. They crave socialization and attention in a way that cats do not. It may be for this reason that we often associate dogs with more sociable individuals.

The Case for Personality Differences Between Dog and Cat Owners

Some studies have, indeed, found differences between cat and dog owners. A study headed by researchers at the University of Austin surveyed 4,565 people, asking participants to identify whether they were a dog person, a cat person, neither or both. The participants then completed an assessment that measured their tendencies toward various personality traits.

People who identified as dog people tended to score higher on traits such as extroversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness, while cat people seemed to tend toward introversion, neuroticism and openness (with openness signifying traits like creativity and imaginative thinking).

Additionally, in his own research, Coren found that pet preferences tended to fall along the lines we might stereotypically associate with these personality traits. He reported, for example, that singles were more likely to own cats, while families were more likely to own dogs.

Flaws With The Theory

However, some psychologists have refuted the study and others like it, arguing that it might not be completely accurate. There may be self-selecting factors that lead to these numbers. For example, take Coren’s demographic analysis that singles are more likely to own cats while families are more likely to own dogs. This may not be due to levels of extroversion at all; it may simply be a reflection of the fact that it’s easier to care for a cat than dog, and that many apartment buildings (where singles often live) do not allow for the ownership of dogs.

Similar questions have come into play for personality-related research like the University of Austin study.

“What about other factors not measured in the study?” writes Susan Krauss Whitbourne in a separate article for Psychology Today. “Unlike the subsequent study on the role of demographics and personality in predicting consumer choices, the 2010 study did not take income or education into account.”

Whitbourne goes on to explain that many of these studies also nitpick at the data. In fact, only 57 percent of individuals reported any pet preference at all… That leaves 43 percent of people — nearly half — enjoying both species equally, or disliking both. And clearly, that 43 percent also have their own levels of extroversion, openness and neuroticism, so those qualities seem unrelated to their lack of pet preferences.

“Subsequent analyses comparing dog and cat people left those non-pet personality people out altogether,” Whitbourne says. “But when you examine all four groups, everyone rated high on agreeableness, low on neuroticism, and high on personality openness.”

The Bottom Line 

So, are there definitive differences between cat people and dog people? Our intuition tells us that, yes, there probably are, given the stark personality differences between the two species.

However, the fact that an almost equal number of people have pet preferences versus having no preference at all shows us that there’s more to loving our pets than our own personality traits. Sometimes, you just love your pet because…well, because you just do.

100 comments

Marija M
Marija M10 months ago

tks

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Melania P
Melania Padillaabout a year ago

I think, based on my experience, dog and cat people are different. Not all of them, but for the most part yes. What matters here is that people care about pets and if you get a friend who has a dog or a cat, that is good! I adore all animals as well, but I am a cat person, but, but, I really want to have a dog some day!

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Joy T
Joy Tabout a year ago

I LOVE dogs! I adore kitties, but I *heart*, *heart*, *HEART*, dogs!!

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heather g
heather gabout a year ago

I have always been an animal lover, but with pets, I prefer a dog - preferably two dogs so that they always have company.

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iloshechka A
iloshechka Aabout a year ago

thank u

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Cindy Black
Cindy Babout a year ago

Regarding dogs, cats, and late-nite talkshow hosts: I've noted that JIMMY FALLON is like a dog, always panting with excitement, wantin' to please,, wantin' to go in the car for a ride, wanting to fetch that ball...! While JIMMY KIMMEL is more like a cat -- a little bit mysterious, a little bit sly, sophisticated (well, kinda) and unpredictable.. I love both cats and dogs, but I do like Kimmel's "cat" best!

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Denise S
Denise Simpsonabout a year ago

an animal lover is

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Danuta W
Danuta Watolaabout a year ago

thanks for sharing

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iloshechka A
iloshechka Aabout a year ago

thanks

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Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vagaabout a year ago

thanks

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