People often argue good-naturedly about cats and dogs, debating the merits of each species of pet. Around the water cooler at work, or at a neighborhood backyard barbecue, you’re likely to hear someone remark casually, “I’m definitely a cat person,” or “I’m a dog person, 100 percent.” But what do these proclamations really mean? Is our preference of pet indicative of our living situations, personalities and lifestyles? Does one really predict the other? Are there fundamental differences between people who prefer cats and people who prefer dogs, or is it all in our heads?
Research conducted by a variety of sources has proven that, indeed, there truly are measurable differences between cat owners and dog owners. Some of these discrepancies may seem like common platitudes, but it turns out that these banalities are genuinely valid. Psychologist Sam Gosling of the University of Texas in Austin conducted a study in 2015 to discover personality differences between cat and dog owners. In 2018, Mars Petcare conducted a survey of 1000 cat owners and 1000 dog owners and found some unique distinctions between the two groups. Psychologist Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia also conducted research on the differences between cat and dog owners. To summarize their findings:
- Living situation: Cat owners are more likely to live alone than dog owners. Cat owners are also more apt to live in an apartment, whereas dog owners more commonly live in a house.
- Marital status: Cat owners are usually single, while dog owners are more liable to be married with children.
- Gender: Cat owners are more likely to be female. Dog owners, more often, tend to be male.
- Work: Cat owners are four times more inclined to work in a creative field than dog owners. Dog owners, meanwhile, are twice as likely to work in finance than cat owners.
- Money: Dog owners tend to earn more money than cat owners. Accordingly, dog owners also admit to spending more money on accessories for their pets than cat owners.
- Film preference: This may seem odd, but cat owners tend to lean towards watching documentaries, independent films and musicals, while dog owners enjoy watching action, romance and horror flicks.
- Favorite pastimes: Cat owners prefer reading, writing and gardening in their free time. Dog owners enjoy more active pursuits such as sports, dancing and travel.
- Exercise: Dog owners are much more likely to participate in regular exercise, especially running, than cat owners.
- The arts: Cat owners are more appreciative of the arts (including theater, music and visual arts) than dog owners.
- Beliefs and interests: Cat owners tend to have more unconventional beliefs and interests than dog owners, whose interests and beliefs trend towards the conventional and traditional.
- As children: Adult cat owners are more likely to have had cats as children. (Guilty!)
- Stress: Cat owners claim that their pet reduces their stress and provides them more comfort than dog owners do. Cat owners also own up to sharing secrets with their cats, while dog owners, on average, do not.
- Personality traits: Cat owners are more “neurotic” than dog owners (as a cat owner, I take offense to that!). Cat owners also tend to be more introverted, trusting and non-aggressive while dog owners are more likely to be extroverted, sociable, dominant and self-confident. (Let me guess… cat owners are also more easily offended than dog owners, right?)
But what about people who own both cats and dogs? Dr. Cohen discovered that these pet owners are much more likely to possess the personality traits of dog owners.
Although there are definite differences between those who own cats and those who own dogs, some similarities have been found:
- 20 percent of all cat and dog owners take their pet on vacation with them
- 33 percent of all cat and dog owners buy presents for their pets on holidays and birthdays
- 25 percent of all cat and dog owners eat meals with their pets
These differences bring up a lot of questions and leave room for further discussion. Are these life decisions noted above precipitated by your choice of pet, or does your status determine the type of pet you choose? Do cat owners tend to live in apartments more often than dog owners because many apartments won’t accept dogs? Are single people more likely to own cats because cats are more self-sufficient than dogs, and able to be alone for longer stretches of time? Some of the findings are self-evident and obvious, like dog owners getting more exercise than cat owners. If you’re a cat owner like me who’s attempted to harness a cat (and has the scratches to prove it), you know that it’s much easier to walk a dog than to walk a cat.
No matter what kind of pet you own, dog and cat owners both share the most important trait: a love of and a feeling of great responsibility for their pets. Dogs and cats both enrich the lives of their owners and, for many of us, are our best friends. Which is better? That depends upon your personal preference.