Cat People vs. Dog People: Who's Smarter, Healthier, and More Outgoing?

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October 17, 2014 | 64,102 views

Story at-a-glance

  • There are proven differences between cat lovers and dog lovers in terms of personality, intelligence and more
  • Research found dog lovers tend to be more lively, energetic, and outgoing, and tended to follow rules
  • Cat lovers, on the other hand, were more introverted, open-minded, and sensitive, and tended to be non-conformist rather than follow the rules, while also scoring higher on intelligence
  • Cat owners had higher body mass index, higher systolic blood pressure, and worse general health status than dog owners or non-pet owners
  • One striking similarity: more than 90 percent of pet owners, both dog people and cat people, expressed very high levels of attachment to their pets

By Dr. Becker

Are you a “cat person” or a “dog person”? It is possible to be both (and I speak from personal experience!), but in many cases pet owners have a strong preference toward one “side” or the other.

Interestingly enough, there are proven differences between cat lovers and dog lovers, which I’ll share shortly. In terms of sheer numbers, more US households own dogs than cats (36.5% versus 30.4%, respectively1), which would imply that the majority of pet owners are, in fact, dog people.

That being said, cat people are a significant and proud group, and Vet Street recently called out six top reasons why.2

Six Reasons to Love Cat People

1. They Look Past First Impressions

Cats can be aloof, especially at first, but cat people see past the nonchalant exterior and take time to get to know the real “inner” kitty.

2. They Make Great Detectives

Cat behaviors can be perplexing to say the least. If suddenly your kitty stops using his litterbox or turns his nose up at his former favorite food, it may take some detective work to figure out why. Fortunately, most cat owners are up for the challenge.

3. They’re Perceptive

Cat people learn the nuances of their kitty – a flick of a tail, a slow blink, or a long meow… cat owners are able to decipher the meaning (and respond with ear scratches, petting, playtime, or distance, as needed).

4. They’re Patient

It can take time to earn the love and trust of a cat companion, which is why cat owners must have patience. The reward at the end of the wait – a close relationship with your kitty – is well worth it, and cat owners know this too.

5. They Think Strategically

Making changes to your cat’s routine takes planning, creativity, and even a dose of strategy in order to make things go smoothly. If you’ve ever planned for days how to get your cat into his carrier for a trip to the vet, or painstakingly introduced a new food into kitty’s diet one-half teaspoon at a time, you can relate.

6. They’re Softies

Cat people are happy to oblige their cats, even when they demand attention at inopportune times, make your favorite chair theirs, or refuse to eat the food that they loved yesterday.

Cat People and Dog People Have Different Personalities… And Intelligence

If you’re a cat person who has trouble understanding dog people (or vice versa), there may be a bona fide reason. Research presented at the annual Association for Psychological Science meeting showed distinct personality differences between the two.

In particular, dog lovers were more lively, energetic, and outgoing, and tended to follow rules. Cat lovers, on the other hand, were more introverted, open-minded and sensitive, and tended to be non-conformist rather than follow the rules. The study also found that cat lovers scored higher on intelligence. Study researcher Denise Guastello, an associate professor of psychology at Carroll University Wisconsin, said:3

“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… 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."

Past research has also found that your pet preference could say something about your personality. A study at the University of Texas found, for instance, that dog people are more extroverted, agreeable and conscientious while cat people are less traditional, more creative and more neurotic.4

Your Upbringing Might Turn You Into a Cat or Dog Person

It’s been suggested that people gravitate toward pets that are like themselves… so an active person might choose an active breed dog while someone who prizes their independence might choose an independent feline. However, whether you prefer dogs or cats might simply be the result of the types of animals you grew up with, and which earned a forever place in your heart.

The preferences in different geographic locations also play a role. People in Saudi Arabia, for instance, almost always prefer cats, since dogs are considered vermin, not pets.5

Practical reasons may also dictate a person’s preference. If you’re away at work during the day or live in a small apartment, you may choose a cat for a pet. On the other hand, if you have young children you may choose a dog that can play outdoors with your kids.

What Being a Cat or Dog Person Might Mean for Your Health

Pet ownership is associated with numerous health benefits, from reduced anxiety and stress levels to better cardiovascular health. However, one study suggests being a dog owner may be far more advantageous to your health.

After analyzing data from more than 2,300 older pet owners, the researchers found that dog owners had better overall health than either cat owners or non-pet owners. The cat owners, in particular, seemed to fare far worse in terms of health, having higher body mass index, higher systolic blood pressure and worse general health status. The cat owners also exercised less than the others.6

It’s likely not the cats that are making their owners unhealthy, of course. Separate research suggests that pets’ health tends to mimic that of their owners, with older overweight owners tending to have overweight pets, and younger dog owners being more likely to have an overweight dog if they themselves were obese. Other similarities were also found “between the owner's and pet's diet and lifestyle issues with aging.”7

Other Surprising Differences Between Cat and Dog People (and One Major Similarity)

There may also be differences between cat and dog people in terms of pet care. According to a survey of Chicago residents, cats were more likely to have been acquired as strays while dogs came more often from friends, family, or neighbors, pet stores, breeders, or rescue organizations. Cat owners were less likely to spend time training their pets, and also were less likely to take them to the veterinarian for annual exams.8

There was one overriding similarity between cat and dog owners, however, and that was this: more than 90 percent of pet owners expressed very high levels of attachment to their pets. So perhaps there are more similarities than differences between cat and dog people… after all, they’re both ultimately pet owners. Jackson Galaxy, who hosts the Animal Planet show "My Cat From Hell" -- and owns a dog and three cats -- put it well when he told ABC News:9

"We have to stop this ridiculousness of classifying ourselves… I'm a cat guy, I'm a dog guy. I'm 'bi-petual.'"

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1 American Veterinary Medical Association, U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics
  • 2 Vet Street June 14, 2014
  • 3 CBS News May 29, 2014
  • 4 ABC News March 9, 2012
  • 5 ABC News March 9, 2012
  • 6 Scand J Public Health. 2012 Dec;40(8):718-24.
  • 7 Br J Nutr. 2011 Oct;106 Suppl 1:S150-3.
  • 8 Prev Vet Med. 2014 Aug 1;115(3-4):198-204.
  • 9 ABC News March 9, 2012