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?
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.
- Why We Love The Dogs We Do by Stanley Coren
- Unknown source.
- Original Flickr photo