Dog People and Cat People – They Really Are Different!


“I identify as a woman.” “I am a woman, but I identify as a man.” “I was born a man, but I identify as a woman.” “I want to use the bathroom that most closely represents the gender I identify as.”

Oh for God’s sake, people, shut up! It’s pretty simple from my perspective. You can identify as whatever you like, but if you have a penis, you use the men’s room, and if you have a vagina, you use the women’s room. If you’re transitioning, you use the rest room that most closely corresponds with whatever parts you have, or don’t have.

So how do I “identify”? As a dog person. I have friends who identify as “cat people.” And I think we’re pretty easy to pick out and differentiate from one another. Dog people hang out with dogs. Cat people hang out with cats. And generally speaking, never the twain shall meet. Unless the twains happen to be on the same twacks (sorry, couldn’t resist!). By that, I mean that there are, of course, people who have both cats and dogs, and who claim to love both equally. I did an informal survey among my friends who have both, asking the question “If you could only have dogs for the rest of your life, or cats for the rest of your life, which would you choose?” Everyone had a preference, with most saying that it would have to be dogs.

So, that’s one of the reasons that I believe there are very real differences between “dog people” and “cat people,” and that there are more dog people than there are cat people. In fact, the research backs me up. You actually don’t really have to do much research. Just talk to your friends the way I did, and you’ll find a pretty clear delineation between dog people and cat people. If you want hard numbers to back up the theory, conducted a poll that revealed that there are far more dog people than there are cat people (74% of respondents loved dogs, and 41% loved cats).

Now, keep in mind that this poll does not allow for exclusivity. It wasn’t exactly a matter of “I love dogs and hate cats,” or “I love cats and hate dogs.” Some respondents reported a preference for one or the other, but only 15% of dog lovers said that they hated cats. And only 2% of cat lovers said that they hated dogs.

Speaking for myself, although I identify strongly as a dog person, I certainly have nothing against cats. In fact, when I first moved out of my parents’ home, my first pet was a cat. I was living in an apartment and working crazy hours, so it really wasn’t practical for me to indulge my passion for large dogs. I brought Bruce home at six weeks of age from a local animal shelter. He was an adorable blue-eyed, grey and black tiger-striped kitten, who grew into an incredibly handsome cat with the most startling green eyes. He was my best friend and companion for fourteen years, and when the time came to put him to sleep, I cried all the way to the animal hospital, and all the way home. I grieved for a long time.

So, I prefer dogs. But I am also quite partial to cats.

The Difference

Obviously, though, we have our preferences, and this may have a lot to do with the way in which animals were domesticated. Cats, in the wild, do not hunt in packs – they are solitary hunters. Dogs prefer the companionship of other dogs. Cats can do quite well without a human family, whereas dogs seem absolutely bereft. Dogs need social interaction with humans, and without a human to guide them, they are likely to be very unhappy. Cats, not so much. A cat might play with you occasionally, but it’s not essential to their happiness. Dogs, deprived of play with humans, may demand it. Think about this – the last time you were playing fetch with your dog, who ended the game? You, most likely. Your dog would have probably been happy to enjoy playing with you until he dropped from exhaustion, and even then he would likely have preferred to lie at your feet rather than wander off into another corner of the house to sleep. Dogs need human contact. Cats can take it or leave it.

Do Dog People and Cat People Really Have Different Personalities?

Sam Gosling, a University of Texas psychologist¸ recently conducted a study along with graduate student Carson Sandy. Over 4,500 people were given a questionnaire designed to determine if they were “dog people” or “cat people.” He determined that there were major personality differences between dog people and cat people.

Gosling’s findings suggested that dog owners were far more sociable than cat owners – about 50% are extroverted and 13% more cooperative. Dog people were also found to be more self-disciplined, and to be higher achievers. They also were less likely to want “instant gratification.” They were more likely to be willing to commit for the long haul, looking toward long-term goals.

Cat people were found to be more neurotic than dog people. On the plus side, though, they were also found to be more open to new experiences than dog people. They were also more likely to be imaginative and to have unconventional beliefs. Dog people, overall, were found to be more conventional, and to have traditional interests.

Does it sound as though dog people are a pretty dull lot? You know, I suppose we probably are. Again, I’m not a researcher, but when I consider myself and my dog-loving friends, we’re not exactly the most exciting people in the whole world. We hold down jobs, some of us go to church, we value our friends and family, drink socially, and just generally live quiet, ordinary lives. Nobody among us participates in extreme sports, parties hard, or is especially creative.

The cat people I know, though, are a different lot. They seem to be more likely to change jobs, to embrace religions that some of us find a bit odd (one friend, for instance, refuses to leave the house without wearing a medallion depicting symbols of Odin, and never misses an opportunity to educate people on how to follow the path to Valhalla), or to be artistically inclined. They also seem to be a bit more laid back, and less inclined to push their views on others than my dog-loving friends.

So, cat people and dog people are different. Further research has shown that people who own both cats and dogs are more likely to have the personality traits of people who own just dogs than the personalities of people who own just cats. I’m not sure what this means, and from what I can tell, neither do the researchers. It just is what it is.

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Our Living Habits

Cat owners are, according to the research, far more likely to live alone than are people who own dogs. They are also more likely to be apartment-dwellers. This might not mean much, given the preponderance of landlords who are likely to say “You can have a cat, but not a dog.” The research also suggests that if you grew up with a cat, then you are more likely to have a cat as you go out on your own. Again, this might have little meaning – after all, you tend to gravitate toward what you were used to in the past.

Interestingly, cat people are also more likely than dog people to have more than one animal. Personally, I’ve always had at least two dogs in my home – this is because I think it’s very unfair to adopt a highly sociable animal, and then have to leave him unaccompanied while I’m at work. Perhaps this is also the mindset of cat people, or perhaps it’s simply because caring for cats requires very little work – one, two, or more, the care level is unlikely to increase the way it would with dogs, who have to be exercised regularly, and who (generally speaking) can’t be left to their own devices when it comes to potty breaks. Not too many dogs are going to be litter-trained, for instance.

Pure Cat People

So, what about the people who have only ever owned cats? The research suggests that they tend to be introverted, and less dominant than dog owners. Personally, I think that this is partly because dogs (especially those of certain breeds) are likely to challenge you at some point in their lives. Cats don’t care about challenging you. They’re like, “Meh.” A dog, on the other hand, is going to want to establish his place in the pack hierarchy, and that may mean that at some point he could decide that he, and not you, should be the boss (I talked about this in Boot Camp for the Alpha Dog). So, logically, a dog person may be more self-assured and persistent – because some day, they might be challenged.

Maybe this is over-analyzing, though. It could be that because cat people are more inclined to “go with the flow,” they choose pets who complement that personality trait. They may feel more comfortable with an animal that doesn’t need to be taught to observe certain rules and standards of behavior.

Cat people are also often credited with being more manipulative than dog people. Again, this could have some connection to choosing a pet that complements one’s personality. Cats, being smaller than dogs usually, have to rely more on brainpower than sheer brawn to stay safe. If you’re in a conflict with a dog person, there’s more of a chance of it turning into a physical altercation. A cat person, on the other hand, is more likely to talk their way out of trouble.

The Question No One Wants to Ask

Now, I’m going to dive into a question that I’ve heard asked many times, and never gotten a satisfactory answer. There is a perception about men who own cats. Is it real, true and accurate? You might know what I’m talking about – it’s the idea that any man who owns a cat just has to be gay.

Personally, I think that this goes back to an age-old perspective of dogs as being somehow inherently masculine, and cats as being inherently feminine.  Think about how you talk about animals – in the absence of a statement on the part of the owner to the effect that “Janice is a girl” or “Leroy is a boy,” don’t you refer to dogs that you’ve just met as “he,” and cats that you have just met as “she”? So, you might actually take that perception a step further, attributing “feminine” characteristics to male cat owners. You’d actually be pretty far off making that assumption. The fact is, straight men do own cats.

See, the thing is, humans and animals have been coexisting for a long time. The relationship between people and dogs, and people and cats, goes back a long way, even before recorded history. Somewhere along the line, though, we’ve bought into the stereotype that menare more likely to own dogs, and women (and effeminate men) own cats. After all, we say that dog’s are MAN’s best friend, don’t we? Maybe that’s why we think it’s a little bit odd for straight men to own cats. And why we see male dog owners as perfect breeding specimens for heterosexual women.

Think about this – we talk all the time about “crazy old cat ladies,” but we hardly ever apply the term to men. “Crazy cat guy”? Nope, doesn’t happen. And it’s all about gender constructs. We think of cat-loving men as somehow being less masculine. So, that guy in your neighborhood that has three cats is probably gay, or at least confused about his sexuality.

Fortunately, though, this construct seems to be undergoing a re-evaluation. Maybe that cat guy isn’t gay – maybe he just has a really busy life, and cats are easier to care for than dogs, because they’re more self-reliant. The guy wants animal companionship, but his life just doesn’t allow for a dog. So why not a cat? Or two cats? Or three? Today’s man, too, does not have to wear his masculinity on his sleeve. He doesn’t have to be macho – he doesn’t have to own a Pit Bull or a Rottweiler. He can have a cat. So even though cats have been traditionally seen as companions for women, today’s man can have a cat without being thought of as a “pansy” or “light in the loafers,” to use a couple of really offensive terms.

The Times, They Are a-Changing

Today, gender constructs are changing. So men who own cats are becoming more socially acceptable.  Men who want the companionship of an animal are more likely to embrace cats simply because they require less work than dogs. They’re less needy, and more self-sufficient. They’re easy to care for. Dogs require a lot more work.

So, a man that has a cat can be very much heterosexual. The numbers are difficult to come by, by, but the research suggests that the percentage of heterosexual men who own cats is on the rise.Also, according to the GLCOC (Gay and Lesbian Consumer Online Census), gay men are actually more likely to own dogs than they are to own cats – 41% of gay men own dogs, whereas 38% of gay men own cats.

What Do Women Think?

The research also suggests that the number of women who are looking for partners, are very willing to consider cat-loving men, is also on the rise. It makes sense, because right now, across all sexual orientations, there are probably as many men owning cats as own dogs. Women who dismiss cat-loving men as potential romantic partners are eliminating a significant percentage of the potential dating pool.

Women are, though, generally suspicious of men who own a lot of cats (more than three). This relates less to concerns about sexual orientation than it does to a perception that the guy might just be a little strange – in other words, a crazy cat guy.

So ladies, don’t drain the dating pool. Men who love cats can make great romantic partners. If your “cat guy” doesn’t also love dogs, though, you might be better off to look elsewhere. I know of a few couples who have split up for the simple reason that one half of the equation was never able to fully warm up to the other half’s dog. Personally, I think that there are worse reasons to break up. I’d never consider dating anyone who didn’t like Janice and Leroy.


I’ve always known it intuitively – dog people and cat people are simply not cut from the same cloth. Generally speaking, our personalities are quite different. This is not to say that dog people are somehow “better” than cat people, or vice versa. Both personality types have their good and bad points.

Personally, I am very happy to have a diverse group of friends that comprises both dog and cat people. I suppose I tend more to hang out with the dog people, largely because Janice and Leroy are big, rambunctious dogs who need a lot of exercise, and that naturally takes me in the direction of the dog park pretty much every day. But I do make time for my cat-loving friends, usually getting together for coffee, or going to see a movie.

So yes, dog people and cat people are different in a lot of ways. But they’re exactly the same in one very important way – both dog people and cat people know the importance of having a beloved animal in their lives. And in the final analysis, I really think that’s all that matters.