The Surprising Differences Between Dog Lovers and Cat Lovers

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September 19, 2014 • 141,532 views

Story at-a-glance

  • Do you identify as a “dog person” or a “cat person?” Results of a recent survey suggest that dog lovers and cat lovers really do possess different personality traits.
  • Dog people tend to be more outgoing and energetic, as compared to cat people who are more introverted, sensitive, and open-minded. The study also suggests cat people are more intelligent.
  • The study involved a survey of 600 college students, 60 percent of whom said they were dog people, with just 11 percent identifying as cat lovers. What dog people value most in their pets is companionship; cat people cited affection as their favorite feline trait.
  • Researcher Denise Guastello, an associate professor of psychology, believes the type of environments dog and cat people prefer, coupled with their own personality traits, are significant factors in their choice of a pet.
  • Guastello feels that an understanding of why people identify as either cat or dog lovers can assist pet therapy programs in making better matches between owners and pets.

By Dr. Becker

According to a new study, “dog people” and “cat people” really are different in terms of their personalities. For example, study participants who identified as dog lovers tended to be more lively and extroverted. They were also rule-followers.

People in the study who identified as cat lovers were more introverted and sensitive than dog people, and more open-minded. They also described themselves as non-conformists who were not always inclined to follow the rules – especially if they felt their approach was more practical.

Whether You’re a Dog or Cat Person May Be Linked to the Environment You Prefer

According to study researcher Denise Guastello, an associate professor of psychology at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, the differences in personality between dog and cat people probably correlate with the types of environments the two groups prefer.

"It makes sense that a dog person is going to be more lively, because they're going to want to be out there, outside, talking to people, bringing their dog," Guastello said. "Whereas, if you're more introverted, and sensitive, maybe you're more at home reading a book, and your cat doesn't need to go outside for a walk."

The study also found that cat lovers scored higher on intelligence than dog lovers.

Dog People Most Value Companionship, While Cat Lovers Appreciate How Affectionate Their Pets Are

For her study, Guastello surveyed 600 college students. She asked them whether they considered themselves dog lovers or cat lovers, and what qualities they most appreciated in their choice of pet. The students were also asked several questions intended to evaluate their personality type.

Only 11 percent of participants claimed to be cat people, whereas about 60 percent identified as dog lovers. The remainder said they liked both animals, or neither animal. The dog lovers most appreciated the companionship of dogs, while the cat people put affection from their kitties at the top of the list.

People Probably Choose a Pet Based in Part on Their Own Personality

Guastello believes people may choose pets based on their own personality. Cats, for example, are viewed as independent and cautious, and people who also have those traits are more apt to gravitate toward cat ownership.

Guastello feels that understanding why people identify as either cat or dog lovers may assist pet therapy programs is making better matches between owners and pets.

Because the study involved only college students, Guastello doesn’t know if the results apply to other age groups. However, an earlier study of over 4,500 people also found that dog lovers tend to be extroverts and rule-followers.

Prof. Guastello’s findings were presented at the annual Association for Psychological Science meeting held earlier this year.

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