A new study suggests that dog owners tend to be more lively, outgoing, and rule-following, while cat owners are typically more introverted, sensitive, non-conforming, and open-minded. Cat owners also scored higher on intelligence tests.
The findings were presented at the annual Association for Psychological Science meeting.
“One explanation for these personality differences could be due to each owner’s choice of environment,” said study researcher Dr. Denise Guastello, an associate professor of psychology at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
“It makes sense that a dog person is going to be more lively, because they’re going to want to be out there, outside, talking to people, bringing their dog,” said Guastello. “Whereas, if you’re more introverted, and sensitive, maybe you’re more at home reading a book, and your cat doesn’t need to go outside for a walk.”
The study involved 600 college students who were asked whether they considered themselves dog lovers or cat lovers, and what qualities they found most attractive in their pets. Participants also answered several personality questions.
More participants reported that they were dog lovers: about 60 percent of participants identified themselves as dog people, compared with 11 percent who called themselves cat people. The rest said they liked both dogs and cats, or they didn’t identify with either animal.
Dog lovers reported that “companionship” was the best quality, while cat people reported “affection” as the top cat trait.
Perhaps some people select pets based on their own personality, noted Guastello. For example, cats are often considered independent animals that keep to themselves, and are cautious of others.
“If you’re like that, you appreciate that in an animal, it’s a better match for you,” Guastello said.
“Determining why people identify themselves as cat or dog lovers may also improve pet therapy, leading to better matches between owners and pets who participate in pet therapy,” said Guastello.
“Since the research took place among college students, it’s unknown whether the findings would apply to other age groups,” Guastello said. But earlier studies have had similar results. In 2010, a study involving more than 4,500 people showed that dog lovers are typically more extroverted (or outgoing) and conscientious (rule-following).
This article first appeared on Psych Central on 1 June, 2014.