Cat People vs. Dog People
By Brad Bell
Some people may believe that a cat is the ideal pet, and others may believe that a dog is the ideal pet. People who view a dog as the ideal pet could be labeled as "dog people." Moreover, people who view a cat as the ideal pet could be labeled as "cat people." Why is there a difference in perceptions of the ideal pet with respect to a dog versus cat? I believe that there may be three basic explanations.
First, whether a person can be viewed as a cat person or a dog person may simply reflect differences in pet ownership. For example, a person may have only had dogs as pets, and thus the person would believe that the dog is a ideal pet simply because the person has never had a cat as a pet. The perception of the dog as an ideal pet may not reflect any negative attitudes about cats. Also, the perception of the cat as the ideal pet may reflect that the person has never had a dog as a pet, and the person may have no specific negative views of dogs. Thus, this explanation suggests that the characteristics of a cat person may not necessarily differ from the characteristics of a dog person, other than differences in pet ownership.
Second, the differences between cat people vs. dog people may reflect specific atttitudes about the behaviors of cats and dogs. For example, a person may not like dogs barking, and thus he or she would believe that a cat is a better pet than a dog because of this. In contrast, a person who identifies as a dog person may see a dog as a better pet than a cat because the dog chases after a ball.
A third possibility is that the difference between dog people versus cat people reflects differences in their personalities. The personality of a cat person may be different from the personality of a dog person. A person may prefer to have a pet that is compatible with her or his personality. For example, an outgoing person may prefer a dog as a pet because the cat is seen as less sociable. Gosling, Sandy, and Potter (2010) found that people who identified themselves as being a dog person were higher on extraversion, on the average, than people who identified themselves as a cat person. However, not all the personality differences between people who labeled themselves as a cat person versus a dog person may make sense. For example, Gosling, Sandy, and Potter found that people who identified themselves as a cat person where higher on openness, on the average, than people who identified themselves as a dog person. It is not clear why this may be true. It is important to keep in mind that correlational findings do not allow one to make causal conclusions. Thus, the personality differences may not reflect that personality influences whether a person labels himself or herself as a dog person or a cat person. There may be other explanations for the findings. (1)
1. Gosling, Sandy, and Potter (2010) found some other personality differences between people who identified themselves as a cat person and people who identified themselves as a dog person. See their article for information on the other findings.
Gosling, S. D., Sandy, C. J., & Potter, J. (2010). Personalities of self-identified "dog people" and "cat people." Anthrozoös, 23, 213-222.