Do Cat People and Dog People Have Different Personalities?

cat and dog
Dog and Cat, FastPhive, Flickr

A study by psychologist Sam Gosling and undergraduate Carson Sandy (University of Texas) found several personality differences between those who self-identified as either dog people or cat people:

    • Dog owners tend to be more extroverted and cat owners more introverted.
    • Dog owners scored slightly higher on measures of conscientiousness, which is 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 measures of general openness, which encompasses adventurousness, an appreciation for art and emotion, being open-minded about unusual ideas and unconventional beliefs, imagination, curiosity, and a broader variety of life experience.
    • Dog people were more conventional and traditional than cat people.

Stanley Coren’s study of cat and dog people generated some similar findings, such as dog people being more extroverted. Other findings of Coren’s study included the following:

    • Dog owners tend to be more dominant (a trait associated with assertiveness, confidence, aggressiveness, and forcefulness).
    • 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 is easier to have a cat in a small place than a dog, so this finding may have more to do with practicality than personality).

Also, when Coren asked if dog owners would adopt a cat (assuming they had the space and no one in their households had any objections), the majority said they would be happy to accept a cat into their homes, but most cat owners said they would not accept a puppy if the situation was reversed.

A more recent study conducted at Bristol University, UK, found that among UK pet owners, those with cats are more likely to have university degrees than dog owners.

The study, which was conducted as a poll of 2,524 UK households 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 people who pursue university degrees and subsequently work 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 students and busy professionals.

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.

For more cat articles, see the main Cats page. For more dog articles, see the main Dogs page.

References:

    • 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.

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