What about you? Do you care if the people you are friends with are cat people too? What about a potential romantic partner? Dating sites even let you filter choices based on pet preference, and there are multiple website for meeting like-minded pet-loving singles such as Purrsonals.com and DogLoversPersonals.com.
Maybe, like me, you know that you consider yourself a cat person. But have you thought about how being a cat person might make you different from other people? Nowadays, the public tends to tag cat people as female (although that stereotype may be slowly changing), as being overly obsessed about our cats (hmmm, maybe true) and the word "crazy" is often attached to "cat lady." And we are often described in comparison to ...of course..."dog people."
So what does the science say about us? Are we quantitatively or qualitatively different from non-cat people? Are our interactions with our cats somehow unlike the interactions people have with dogs? Are we female,obsessed and crazy? Let's take a closer look at what the research to date has shown us.
Where are we?
First of all, a review of the scientific literature indicates that we are fewer in number than dog people (or at least we are harder to track down for the purposes of research), so we tend to be underrepresented in most research of the human-pet relationship. For example, a large study by Samuel Gosling and colleagues, looking at personality traits and identification as a cat person or a dog person found that only 11.5% of those who participated said they were a cat person (compared to over 45% identifying as a dog person). Another study of childhood attitudes toward pets showed that fewer subjects loved cats than those who loved dogs, and more people who are considering getting a pet are thinking of adopting a dog than a cat.
Is there a "cat person" personality?
Much of the psychological literature about personality revolves around a theory called the Five-Factor Model. It posits that there are five main facets to human personality(Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism). Gosling's study found that in comparison with dog people, we cat folk tend to be less cooperative and compassionate (Agreeableness), less outgoing and positive (Extraversion) and less self-disciplined and organized (Conscientiousness). We also tend to be more anxious and angry (Neuroticism) and more artistic and intellectually curious (Openness).
While that may seem like a mixed bag, the news doesn't get better. Cat people also score themselves as less masculine and independent in comparison to dog owners; females are more likely to identify as cat people than men are, and more people indicate a dislike for cats than dogs. Another study found that cat people are more hostile and that they rate their own cats as more hostile, less friendly and less submissive in comparison to dog owners and their pets.
Are we really like our preferred pet type or is this all in our minds? The evidence is still unclear. One study found that while dog owners may experience their relationship with their dogs as a mirror (giving back acceptance and affirmation), we relate to cats with more of what is called a twinship -- where we believe that our cats experience the same emotional states as us and are in tune with our emotions. If we buy these results, you could interpret this as dog people seek a pet who complements their personality, but that cat people like cats because they are more of a match to their personality. So next time you even think of calling your cat a "jerk," "lazy," or "stubborn," take a hard look in that mirror.
Do cats give us toxoplasmosis and make us crazy?