Cat People Versus Dog People

In conversation a person might ask “Are you a cat or dog person?”. People like to categorise people into one camp or the other as if they are distinct groups. Less often people ask whether you like animals or cats and dogs.

Cat people versus dog people

Similarities

Although there are people who only like dogs or cats and who may even be highly critical of a person in the other camp and of the other species of animal, there are probably more people in the middle area who simply prefer either a cat or a dog. These people have a lot of common ground in respect of their reasons for keeping a companion animal.

The point it that, in my opinion, the similarities between dog and cat people are probably greater than the differences. Often the choice between cat and dog can be due to practical considerations. Some dog owners should be cat owners because we know that dogs become stressed when alone for long periods at home. That said, cats can become stressed to but are probably more tolerant of being alone.

Although dogs and cats are quite different in their behaviour, social organisation and in the way that they interact with their human companion, both cat and dog owners like the same things about their companion animal. For instance, both are considered “family members”.

Companion animal caretakers like to talk to their dog or cat, play with them and share their human food with them. They like their animal’s company and feel less lonely as a consequence. The fact that both dogs and cats receive the affections of their “owners” and gave affection back indicates that the differences between cat and dog owners is less than the similarities.

Differences

Should the title to the article be about women versus men? Where there are differences between cat and dog people it seems to follow the human gender.

Some people will disagree strongly with what I have written and remark that some marriages have split up partly because the husband prefers dogs and the wife prefers cats. I don’t think this will be the true reason for the split, though.

Of course, there are differences. Here are some:

Cat

Dog

Caretaker more likely to let their cat go on the bed and furniture compared to a dog. Caretaker more likely to take dog on a trip including errands in the car and for walks etc..
Easy to care for because they are fastidiously
clean and don’t require walking.
Require walking and washing which may come about in part because the dog goes for walks and cats don’t.
Cats are quiet. Dogs can be noisy. They can cause a nuisance for neighbours through noise.
Cats are smaller. Dogs can be large with consequentially greater impact on the household.
Cats mark territory by scratching. Dogs scratch the area where they will lie down.
Cats are “independent and aloof” – this is a concept that is now regarded as incorrect. The domestic cat has adapted to be sociable in the houshold with other cats and dogs and humans. Dogs are more sociable  – pack animal mentality.

You’ll probably find that some dog caretakers consider the cat aloof and non-interactive or less interactive than a dog.

I believe that this is a misconception amongst dog owners. In a study², cat caretakers stated that what they most like about their cat is the interactive behaviour.  Cat people know what this means.

My cat has just joined me at the computer while I am typing this, for instance. Cat caretakers like the way their cat stays close to them, sleeps next to them and greets them when returning home. My cat is always making demands on me, talking to me. It is a highly interactive relationship as good in that way, I suspect, as a human to dog relationship. Once again, I see great similarities between dog/human and cat/human relationships.

There is a tendency for the single career woman living alone in an urban setting to be a “cat person” and the family man or single man to be a “dog person” but I think these are at the ends of the spectrum of the types of people caretaking for companion animals and perhaps stereotypical.

Some studies¹ do show a difference in the personalities of cat and dog owning people. For example, dog caretakers were 15% more extroverted than cat people and cat people were 11% more “open” than dog people. “Open” means more open to new ideas and experiences. OK, these are differences but around the 10% mark. This is not a lot of difference.

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between cat and dog people is that a dyed-in-wool cat person would not accept a dog as a companion animal while a dog person is more likely to accept a cat. Perhaps dog owners are more likely to be cat and dog owners while cat owners are more likely to only accept cats. Does that make cat caretakers more decisive in their thinking? I believe this is more a reflection of circumstance; life style limitations forced on single women by society more than the personality of the person. I don’t know.

A possibility as to why women prefer cats is that they feel more comfortable in their company due to the simple reason that the cat is less dangerous and less intrusive. The cat is smaller (and quiet) and really can’t do harm. Dogs really can do harm particularly to the more vulnerable in society: children and the elderly. A man is more able to take charge of a dog and thereby nullify any perceived danger. Women prefer small dogs which supports this thought.

Conclusion

There are differences between cat and dog people that tend to follow human gender but the differences are exaggerated and are sometimes due to societal pressures and simple practicalities.

Associated: Some UK stats

Refs (studies are not necessarily a reliable reflection on what is actually happening):

  1. Sam Gosling, a psychologist at the University of Texas in Austin
  2. Attachment to Feline Companions by Zasloff and Kidd 1994
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Comments

Cat People Versus Dog People — 9 Comments

  1. There is a big difference between cat and dog relationships with people.
    To have a fawning obedient dog little or no effort is required of the human. It is the instinctive pack animal behavior of the dog that brings this about. It makes the human feel important and in charge. The relationship between a cat and a human is much more sophisticated even with the friendliest of cats, and requires a great deal of input from the human. The cat has to see the human as a mother replacement with all the benefits of it’s biological mother, including feeding, protecting, caressing, warmth, and conversing to an extent. The paddling and kneading as if getting milk is perhaps the most obvious of these transferals of instinct. In other words cat and dog ownership are worlds apart.

    • I agree the cat and dog are different but the basics of the human-animal to animal relationship are the same, or the reasons and benefits to both parties are the same.

      Do you agree that Harvey?

  2. There is no comparison between cats and dogs, each are very different species and should be loved for who they are and there is no reason why we can’t love both for their different ways.
    I admit I love cats more than any other animal in the world and since having cats in my life I would never want another dog for all we always had family dogs as I was growing up.
    My late mother loved cats passionately but my late father preferred dogs, men ruled then and I think those days most men were ashamed to admit they liked cats in case it looked unmanly.
    So maybe that’s why it seems that more women than men prefer cats?
    This is one good thing about progress, that most men now are not afraid to show their caring emotional side and I for one much prefer men who do that because they are usually kinder and more compassionate towards animals.

  3. Hi Michael: No. Two totally different mechanisms are at work here. You can never say your relationship with your boss is the same as your relationship with your mother.

  4. We are bosses to dogs and mothers to cats. I like that and I agree what you say but I don’t believe it is that black and white.

    The point I am making is that the common denominator with both cats and dogs is that people want the companionship and interaction that both bring to them.

    Being a boss is different to being a mother so the style of interaction can be different but mothers can be bosses and bosses can be mothers.

  5. Honestly, i was a “DOG MAN” having owned dogs till 1994. I took up to cats accidentally and for practical reasons as dogs are more difficult to maintain compared to cats. My first cat “Trixie”, a oriental/siamese mix was a dying sick kitten given to me free of charge by a pet dealer in Mumbai’s famous Crawford market.She lived in our household for 12 years.Now i have two Traditional Persian cats, their lives well documented on “P.O.C” and having their own blogs.Cats as pets to me was initially due to sheer practical reasons but now i have become a “CAT MAN” !

  6. Michael,I can’t find anyway to contact you other than to reply here. I posted to you on the listing for my cat Cowboy. My email to you on the subject bounced back, so I posted it there. Thanks.

    • Thanks Debbie. There is actually a contact link in the menu bar at the top of the page but I’ll make it clearer. I am don’t ming being contacted. I have responded to your other comment.

  7. My houseguest said he thought Lilly was like a dog in the way she behaved. I agree there is a big similarity. Lilly and Gigi fetch balls just like dogs do. Active cats can be very dog like and they can get along with dogs but some dogs are just awful for everyone except their owner. No cat could get along with such a dog because of loud barking and space invading behaviour. Cats end up tolerating dogs more than anything.

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