Are Dog People Different from Cat People?

Many people have asked that question and a variety of research studies have tried to answer it.  Most (but not all) studies separate people into three groups – those who have one or more cats, those who have one or more dogs, and those who have at least one of each.  While the results from these studies vary, in part because they used sampled different groups of people, most all of them do find differences.

Another reason for different findings stems from differences in the questions that are asked.  Is the goal to find out if the relationship people have with their dogs is different from those with cats?  Or is the study attempting to find out if there are inherent personality differences between dog and cat owners?  These two types of questions actually overlap.


For example, a study conducted by found 43% of dog owners preferred to spend time with their dogs over people; 52% of cat owners felt that way, and 59% of people who owned both dogs and cats preferred to spend time with a mixture of people and pets.

(For those of you who don’t know, Rover (according to its website), is an “online marketplace for people to buy and sell pet care services including pet sitting, dog boarding, and dog walking”.  Rover surveyed a approximately 1200 pet owners across the country, through an independent survey company prior to announcing its new cat sitting services.)

That result makes sense in light of findings from Dr. Sam Gosling at the University of Texas at Austin who studies personality traits in both people and animals.  He looked at differences in the so-called Big Five personality dimensions among dog owners, cat owners, and those who own both.  The results from the surveys of 4565 dog and cat owners showed that dog people scored significantly higher on the extroverted and agreeableness scales, both of which are associated with social orientation. So if dog people tend to be more socially oriented, that fits with Rover’s finding that fewer of them would rather be with their dogs than with people, as compared to cat owners.

Gosling and his colleagues found statistically significant differences between dog people and cat people on all the Big Five dimensions (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness). Unearthing the reasons for these differences will require more research.  But the studies highlight an important difference in methodology.

Gosling’s study asked participants whether they identified as a cat person or a dog person (they did not ask if participants owned a dog or cat).  The Rover study asked specifically about dog or cat ownership.  Those are different ways of identifying “dog people” versus “cat people” or people who identify as both.

The Rover study didn’t ask about personality differences among dog or cat people/owners, but rather about the characteristics of their relationships with their pets. The study concludes that there are more similarities than differences.  Among the similarities – the majority of both dog (69%) and cat (67%) owners report they say hello to their pet before their family when they get home.

One of the differences reported is that 37% of dog owners say they are not sad if their dog cuddles with other people (it’s not clear if these are other family members or non-family), and in fact are glad their dog likes other people.  For cat owners, it’s a different story.  Thirty-eight percent of cat owners ARE sad if their cat cuddles with others, and would rather have all of the cat’s affection for themselves.

Could this be related to the additional differences on the personality dimensions Gosling found?  In that study, dog people were statistically higher on the conscientiousness dimension, and lower on neuroticism and openness.  We could speculate that being more possessive about their cats’ affection could be linked to the higher scores cat people had on neuroticism.  The lower scores of dog owners on the openness scale doesn’t fit very well though.

The Rover study found additional differences as well. Dog people admit they can’t even count the number of times they talk to their pets every day, but cat people say it’s between 1-5 times per day. Dog people are more likely to wake their pet from a dream than cat people.

And in case you’re wondering if it’s true that living with a pet is good for our health, one study found this was not the case.  Data from a huge study of over 42,000 people in the California Health Interview Survey showed that when controlled for demographic and socioeconomic factors, there was no evidence that pet ownership was related to better health in the respondents.

Despite that finding, we wouldn’t trade the years we’ve spent loving our dogs and cats for anything! We know they’ve enriched our lives in countless ways, even if we’ve lost sleep when they’ve woken us up or almost pushed us out of bed, or when we’ve worried about making sure they were taken care of when we were traveling and couldn’t take them with us.

That’s one reason we decided to start pet sitting after our beloved Coral died in 2016.  We wanted to be the kind of caretaker for other people’s pets, that we looked for long and hard for Coral.  And we’ve had so much fun and learned so much from getting to know the different personalities of the dogs who stay in our home.   And we’re looking forward to doing some cat-sitting as well!

For more information about each of these studies, use the following links:

Rover Study:

Gosling Study:

California Health Interview Survey Study:


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