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.
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.
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:
|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.
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):
- Sam Gosling, a psychologist at the University of Texas in Austin
- Attachment to Feline Companions by Zasloff and Kidd 1994