By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 7 April 2011)
Dog Owners More Extroverted; Cat Owners More Open-Minded
A study by psychologist Sam Gosling and undergraduate Carson Sandy (University of Texas) found the following personality differences between those who self-identified as either dog people or cat people:
- Dog owners tend to be more extroverted (sociable) and cat owners more introverted.
- Dog owners scored slightly higher on the trait of consciensciousness, which is generally associated with greater self-discipline and a preference for sticking to plans rather than being spontaneous.
- Cat people were slightly more neurotic than dog people.
- Cat people scored higher on the trait of openness, which includes adventurousness, an appreciation for art and emotion, openness to unusual ideas and unconventional beliefs, imagination, curiosity, and a broader variety of life experience.
- Dog people were more conventional and traditional than cat people.
Dog Owners More Confident; Cat Owners More Modest
Stanley Coren’s study of cat and dog people generated some similar findings (for example, that dog people tend to be more extroverted). Other findings of Coren’s study included the following:
- Dog owners tend to be more dominant (a trait associated with being assertive, confident, aggressive, and forceful).
- Cat owners tend to be more trusting (a trait associated with being good sports, straightforward, modest, obliging, non-manipulative, and non-suspicious).
- Cat owners are more likely to live in smaller homes (i.e., apartments) whereas dog owners are more likely to live in houses (it’s easier to have a cat in a small place than a dog, so this finding may have more to do with practicality than personality).
Coren also found that when dog owners were asked if they’d adopt a cat (assuming they had the space and no one in their households had any objections), the majority would be happy to accept a cat into their homes, but the majority of cat owners would not accept a puppy if the situation was reversed.
Cat Owners More Likely to Have University Degrees Than Dog Owners
A recent study conducted by Bristol University, UK, has found that among UK pet owners, those with cats are more likely to have university degrees than dog owners.
The study, which involved a poll of 2,524 UK households designed to gather pet ownership statistics, found that while 47.2% of cat-owning households had at least one member with a university degree, just 38.4% of dog-owning households could make the same claim. Available financial resources could not explain the discrepancy, as there was no significant difference in average household incomes between cat and dog owners.
Does this mean that cat owners are smarter than dog owners on average? Probably not. Rather, the difference likely stems from the fact that those obtaining university degrees and subsequently working in demanding, highly skilled professions have less time to take care of a pet. Because cats require less maintenance, they are a better choice for busier individuals.
In the UK, an estimated 26% of homes have at least one cat and 31% have one or more dogs. Homes with children under 10 years of age are more likely to own cats than dogs, perhaps because the demands of caring for young children make dog ownership impractical for many families (though Coren’s study found that households with small children were more likely to have dogs than cats, possibly because dogs are more tolerant of rough handling by toddlers).
It should be noted that these are all slight tendencies describing the average owner. There are plenty of dominant, confident, conventional, extroverted cat owners, and lots of modest, open-minded, creative, adventurous dog owners with university degrees.
- BBC News. (6 February 2010). “More Cat Owners Have Degrees Than Dog-Lovers.” News.BBC.co.uk.
- Coren, S. (17 February, 2010), “Personality Differences Between Dog and Cat Owners,” Psychology Today.