Domestic Cat and Human Relationships

This is about the domestic cat’s impact on relationships or potential relationships in the family. It is a little bit controversial (a good thing!) and tricky to write about. Nothing said is either a criticism of men or women. It is meant to neutral and observational.

People who are dog owners are more open to liking cats and dogs than cat owners who tend to exclusively like cats¹. Cat people are more likely to be atheists because they are more open minded². There are more domestic cats than there are dogs. In the West, is the percentage of single women growing and marriage failing?

Happy family with dog and cat

Harmony in the family. Photo by Julie Bayer-Vile

The cat is often firmly at the center of the family even if we don’t recognise it. Our cat’s presence has an impact on decision making sometimes at fundamental levels. An example would be moving home. A cat can’t really successfully live in a non-ground floor, conventional apartment but an apartment is where the humans might have to live because one of them might have a nice job to go to in the city and houses are too expensive. Does this family move from their house in the country or suburbs and buy a apartment? Do they relinquish their cat? Do they argue about it?

At the root of possible stresses in a woman’s relationship with a man is the oft quoted differences between people who like cats and people who like dogs. These differences are reflected in the personalities of cats and dogs. Sometimes the domestic cat highlights these differences. There have to be compromises in a relationship but occasionally the domestic cat pushes a couple apart if their relationship is fragile.

For example, the couple argue about something – anything. A typical family scene. The women is upset and walks away. She picks up her cat companion and cuddles him while walking out into the garden seeking solace from the strains of the relationship. The man looks on and thinks, “she prefers her damn cat to me…”.

There is another dimension to cat caretaking. On occasion a cat will prefer one person in a relationship and may even actively dislike the other. This may be due to all manner of reasons that are nothing to do with the person the cat dislikes. It may be that the cat had a previous poor experience with a person who is similar in appearance or behavior to the current caretaker, which makes the cat anxious or wary when near the current caretaker.

A cat that belongs to one party to a relationship may stop the relationship developing. The man and woman might get on fine but the man is a dog person and the woman a cat person. Dog people and cat people don’t mix. Is that right? It is not that black-and-white.

Apparently in a study run by Ball State University, USA (located at Muncie, Indiana), one conclusion was that people believe they are like the pet they keep. That makes sense. People also like people that are similar in personality. Although that is not black and white either. Dog owners saw themselves as being more ‘friendly’ than cat owners. While cat owners saw themselves as more independent, inline with the cat’s image as a solitary self-sufficient animal. However, that should not stop the cat owner from being as friendly as a dog owner.

It is said that there are ‘dog people’ and ‘cat people’; a clear demarcation between the two. However, there must be a large group in the middle ground who simply like companion animals. Although in typical human style, there are people who love the dog and hate the cat. It can be that clear cut. And with regret, the study concluded that the cat is more likely to be hated than the dog. This is probably is a result of a lack of knowledge about the cat and/or a fear of the cat. The cat is a more stealthy predator and a true predator/carnivore. The dog is an omnivore (although there is debate about that).

It is said that the cat is less ‘sociable’ than the dog. This is expressed in the cat playing for a few minutes and then tiring while the dog will often tire out the human. I don’t think this is necessarily true by the way.

The University of Texas conducted a study of 4,565 people which cross-referenced their personalities with their preferences for dogs and/or cats. I have not seen the actual study but one aspect must have been to compare a person’s personality with the personality of their pet. Some of the conclusions were:

  • people who liked dogs are slightly more extroverted, “agreeable” and conscientious (self-disciplined etc.) than cat people. They are more conventionally minded too.
  • people who preferred cats are slightly more open minded and ‘neurotic’ than dog people. People who are more open minded are less conventional and are more imaginative and like adventure.

Stanley Coren in his book Why We Love The Dogs We Do refers to similar research that he carried out (is he a dog person?). Can scientists who are dog people be objective about cat people?

His study concluded that people who just kept a cat where different to people who (a) kept a dog and (b) people who kept a dog and a cat.

His findings included the following:

  • cat owners (a person living with a cat only) were 33% more likely to live alone and;
  • 200% more likely to live in an apartment (is this one factor in the trend for more indoor cats in the USA?)
  • Dog owners are more likely to live in a house with a wife and kids (classic family scene!)
  • The single women was more likely to have a cat.
  • People who only live with a cat are more introverted and have cooler personalities (in this instance this word means “less agreeable”). They tend to interact with others less than dog owners.
  • Cat owners are more helpful, trusting and less assertive and dominant. People who have these characteristics can also be more suspicious of others and tend, therefore, to be more manipulative.
  • Dog owners are more dominant and assertive.

What does this say about the domestic cat and human relationships? For a start a woman who is single and living with a cat is more likely to be suspicious about the advances of a man!  She’ll be a tougher nut to crack.

If there is such a clear connection between a person’s preferences in respect of a companion animal it would be wise of a person who is looking for a partner to ask whether they like dogs, cats or both.

It is interesting to speculate how the companion animal affects the personalities of their carers and vice versa. The differences between men and women are reflected in their preferences regarding companion animals. The woman is a cat and the man is a dog. But there a gazillions of shades of grey in between. I’ll leave you to form you own conclusions and leave a comment if you’d like to.


  1. Why We Love The Dogs We Do by Stanley Coren
  2. Unknown source.
  3. Original Flickr photo
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Domestic Cat and Human Relationships — 4 Comments

  1. Such an interesting article. My two longest and most significant relationships both involved cats. In both of those relationships the cats preferred me to her, and it was sometimes even a problem – she would say I loved my cats more than her. This is a general theme in my life though and it really doesn’t bother me. The second of those two relationships – she said that its not normal how much I love my cats, albeit that she is a very loving and good cat caretaker herself, I just go further than she. In the end, now, I have gone back to living alone, and I took a year to find just the right place that my kitties would be happy – they were of course more important than me in this case. I am free to go out and do what I want, whereas they must have the best possible place so they can be happy right where they are – both inside and outside. I still get comments like ‘you feed your cats better food than you buy for yourself’ – and I laugh, but actually I am proud of the fact. They are after all in a sense, more important than me because I love them.

    I am also a person who falls into the statistic of generally not liking dogs, even the ones who are my ‘friends’ by virtue of the fact I see a lot of them. They still really bug me with loud barking and so on. I occasionally meet a dog who is not loud or invasive and I like that very much. They are usually also the dogs who have the most commendable caretakers who give them the respect they deserve at all times. Usually however, dog owners walk their dogs twice a day and keep them in an apartment and the dogs bark at the doorbell and everyone who walks past if they happen to be in the garden. So annoying for the poor neighbours who must listen to this day in and day out. Dog owners mostly don’t think it matters. One even said people should appreciate it because its like having neighbourhood security.

    I would say dog owners are insensitive to the fact that to an outsider, their dog is a little intimidating if large, and people without dogs are generally not used to talking over the sound of a barking dog. Personally I find loud noises in general quite debilitating at times. I am a man, and very much a cat person and very much not a dog person as a result of my experiences. Yet people’s dogs always seem to like me and that’s clearly because I connect with the dogs more than their owners sometimes. This is because I have had a lot of practice with cats. My cats are my family.

    I live alone now, and I am very happy with just my cats. I also fall into the slightly antisocial statistic you mention because, after my last relationship, I started to replace social life with time spent with my cats instead. I often feel limited with people and I crave being with an animal, specifically a cat. So I don’t go out as much as I did now, and people have asked me whats going on etc. I explain I don’t feel ‘so social’ these days without bringing up cats.

    I would say that now with my new flat, in a nice surrounding, ground floor of course, and my cats, that I am happier than I have ever been. I will of course be open to a new relationship but it will be clear that for me, my cats come first, before anything goes on. I would say your article is very interesting and I’d like to see those statistics continually updated. Just the other day a local newspaper here in Switzerland published an article the title of which was ‘Pets are being considered more and more as Family Members’. Quite true I would say.

    Needing people can be very frustrating anyway. So glad I don’t anymore. It’s always a person who is part of undoing my general happy mood both at home and away. I see a lot of people can’t survive without a considerable social life. I see people everyday, I don’t feel the need to increase that by upgrading my social profile with parties every week. I did plenty of that when I was young anyway. It’s often ego which feeds into the statistics you have presented.

    I suppose there are still men out there who would actually be embarrassed to prefer cats. Can you imagine! Anyway, I am glad the world is changing slowly for the better. This article with its statistics should be updated each year I would say, to measure the changes that are happening. There are still a lot of tough guys out there with big mean looking dogs at their heels. The term is still ‘crazy cat lady’ and not man, otherwise I would be one. There is one huge huge difference in human, cat and dog relationships which must have a large effect of insecure people. Dog will just about love anyone it seems. They will come when called even if you only just met him or her. So I can understand why an insecure person would choose a dog and certainly not a cat. Imagine Mr tough guy calling a cat to ‘come here’ and the cat looks the other way like nothing happened, as they do sometimes. It doesn’t work for Mr.

    OK this is a bit of an obvious one, but it is nonetheless an existing phenomena and the result has a part in the statistics you presented here. A cat will not always love anyone right away, often far from it. But my cat’s love me very much. People comment how dog-like they are with me. Playing, following and fetching etc. To me its far more gratifying and special to win the love of a cat than to just be loved by a dog for no reason other than you are there and perhaps give them food. I guess this is a survival mechanism for dogs given they are pack animals.

    What I am saying is actually very obvious if not boring and has been said many times before amongst cat people. What do dog people say to each other about all this I sometimes wonder? I guess I feel the need to re-say all this stuff because I am confronted by it everyday still. So since I am a cat person does that make me more feminine I suppose would follow according to the article. Not at all. I would say I am just less masculine. Its ugly to be over masculine. But I am not feminine. My cats are female as it happens – I just lost my boy 🙁 – and 2 of them seem very much like tomboys if you will. And my boy seemed quite delicate and feminine, if one uses an old fashioned structure for analysis. Perhaps they do have the aeffect on me of making me more sensitive. It’s hard to say.

    • Fantastic comment. Adds all the bits I left out. One problem is that men are pack animals and need to follow the crowd (of other men). So many won’t admit to liking cats. The human world is very good at pigeon-holing people into stereotypes. It is quite hard to be an individual. You are, thank God. Your empathy with the domestic cat comes across very strongly in your writing. I am the same. I love animals and cats. I have some successful YouTube videos (although I have stopped uploading videos because I have run out of material). And some of the visitors have accused me of being gay (because I like cats). This is not true. I just like cats and animals. YouTube is quite a good reflection of modern young society. And a lot of it is not very enlightened.

      • My writing doesn’t leave much room for breaths I see upon re-reading. It’s funny but I used to joke about this phenomena you mention of youtube comments. As a joke, with a drop of seriousness, if I wanted to offend someone I would accuse them of being a youtube commenter – the filthy grease on civilisation’s axle. I hope it is possible to upload a video on youtube and have comments turned off because I know from what I have read that there are an awful lot of ugly, pointles for the sake of it, comments that get made over just about anything. Another little pocket of existence that makes me embarrassed to be human. Youtube comments.

        I have also been accused of being gay, not just by tough guys, infact less so, more by women and even gay men. They just don’t get me I suppose and people need to ‘tag’ others as Rudolph termed it, a good word for it. Liking cats and openly expressing love towards them just falls right into this. Actually, the screensaver on my phone shows my boy Red when he was a day old kitten with his 2 littermates. There are occasionally moments where somebody I am with or near sees this as I start to use my phone, and for a minute I feel a little self concious depending on who sees it. In this day and age most will ‘get’ loving animals in general but perhaps some won’t be too easy with the idea of a man being totally into little baby kittens. I have a friend who has kittens each year and I often spend time with them on a daily basis. I am free to go in and out of the house and there are times her teenage daughter has friends over for a party and I am also there out in the garden playing with the kittens. I know based on their reaction that they think it is a bit odd. To make everybody comfortable and easy about it I will make a joke of it by introducing myself as the ‘crazy cat guy’ – stating that I often lurk in the garden with her mother’s cats and kittens. Swiss youth today is certainly on average not like British or Canadian/US – but that serves as a good example of how I must work with stereotypes upon my daily business with cats and kittens. I know they think I am nice and funny and socially quite agile, because I go over and above to show them so as to not allow them to settle on the ‘odd cat guy’ – rather the cool, nice guy who likes cats really alot, if you will. I usually stop playing with the kittens and smoke a cigarette or what have you with them since they come outside to do that because they are not allowed to smoke indoors. To be honest I think they might leave a little confused about my identity, but in a nice way I suppose.

  2. Very Interesting research on cat and dog owners in First World Country’s.Have personally owned some sort of a pet since a toddler! In India, the reasons might be different and here is my personal reason for owning both dogs and cats.Owned 2 dogs, first a spitz named “Blondie” and later a dachshund named “Lucky” for 19 years from 1976 to 1995.The reason i took to cats was because it was not possible to maintain a dog in my flat in Mumbai.Parents were aging and i was occasionally sailing on the “High seas” as a Marine engineer upto 2006.My first cat,”Trixie” accidentally entered our home, a dying mix/albino Siamese kitten given to me free by a pet shop owner in 1995.She lived with us for 12 years and after her death i got my present cat “Matahari”, a traditional Persian cat.Now , after the demise of my parents i am living alone along with my house-keeper and two cats.Cats are comparatively easier to maintain compared to dogs as is my personal experience .If not for the demise of my parents and myself living a bachelors life, i would have still been a dog owner.Circumstances made me keep cats as pets and now i can’t live without their presence in my house.As for my personality and nature, being both a “Dog Owner
    as well as “Cat Owner” means psychiatrists would find it difficult to “Tag” me and anyhow, it doesn’t bother me!

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