Are You a Cat Person or a Dog Person?
- October 17, 2021
BY JOHN M. OLDHAM, MD
Do cat people and dog people have distinctly different personality styles? There’s a lot of opinion out there about this—there’s even a Wikipedia site called “Cat people and dog people.” Then there’s our much-viewed blog from early 2019, “Are You a Cat Person?”
I’ve been mulling this over since last summer, when I read “I can’t stop wondering what’s going on inside my cat’s head.” New York Times opinion columnist Farhad Manjoo wondered, “When my new kittens look at me, what do they see?”
And then: “What is it like to be my cats? Are they ‘conscious’ in the way I am? What, anyway, is consciousness? And if a cat can be conscious, can a computer?”
Well, here’s a recent look by Columbia magazine at just that question, entitled “What are they thinking?” Michelle Ashkin is featured, a science educator in the field of cognitive ethology. She teaches a three-week course for high school students called “Inside the Animal Mind: What Animals Think and Feel.” And she makes a compelling case for the cognitive abilities of, yes, cats and dogs, but also cows, sheep, chickens, birds, wolves, and many others. She emphasizes “the realization that other animals are beings in their own right.”
Cat people and dog people
So back to human beings. Turns out there’s a fair amount of research studying what types of human personalities prefer cats and what types prefer dogs. Here’s a nice brief slideshow about work done at the University of Texas in Austin. Based on a survey, using terminology from the Five Factor Model of Personality (also known as the Big Five Personality Traits) the researchers identified some general trends.
If you’re a dog person, compared to a cat person, you’re more likely to be conscientious (self-disciplined, strong sense of duty, tend to be a “planner”), extroverted (outgoing, enthusiastic, positive, energetic), and agreeable (trusting, altruistic, kind, affectionate, sociable). If you’re a cat person, you’re more likely to be open (curious, creative, artistic, nontraditional thinker) and neurotic (easily stressed, anxious, worrier).
This sounds like dog people are more self-confident and sociable than cat people. True, cat people may be less comfortable in the social world but quite content to snuggle up with their meower by the fireside. Mind you, these trends don’t account for many of us who are in both camps. You may also prefer lizards or parrots. Or you don’t want any pet whatsoever, thank you very much.
NPSP25 dog people and cat people personality styles
In the language of NPSP25, how would these trends line up? Cat people might be more likely to show high scores on Devoted, Solitary, Sensitive, and Idiosyncratic styles, while dog people might show high scores on Conscientious, Self-Confident, and Adventurous styles. Admittedly, we don’t have research to show this. What do you think? What does your cat (or dog) think?