Yesterday I was reading an article from last Sunday’s Daily
Herald, (Healthy Pets section, June 12, 2011) entitled “Dogs vs cats: Your
choice says a lot about you.” I was interested in this article because I have
long had a theory about men and women and dogs and cats. My theory has to do with
why people prefer a dog or a cat and what that says about their attitudes
From my unscientific observations, it seemed to me that more men liked dogs than
cats. Cat people were much more often women than men. Men who didn’t like cats
said that cats weren’t friendly, they were aloof and even mean. Some men were
even afraid of cats. Men preferred dogs, I thought, because dogs are by nature
loyal and companionable. In the wild, dogs are pack animals and so they are
wired to prefer the company of groups. When domesticated, dogs became faithful
companions because they view the human as being the “alpha” or leader, and most
will easily submit to a human master’s wishes but be happy about it.
This fits with what a man likes to have in a woman – a loyal companion who is
willing (at least traditionally) to take a subservient role. Even if men today
aren’t overtly sexist, many still seem to have the need to dominate, or at
least to lead. They prefer a woman to be dependent on them, because it
validates them somehow.
More women like cats than men do (I am not saying that more women like cats than
dogs) because women accept cats for who they are; and women who are cat people
admire the grace and beauty, the independence and perhaps even the aloofness of
cats. Cats can also be affectionate companions, but on their own terms. I think
women who like cats admire these qualities and either aspire or have achieved
them. Blind loyalty is not a desired characteristic – earned loyalty is. Cats
will give you their loyalty if you have shown that you deserve it and have
inspired their confidence. Cats don’t “need” people the way dogs do. Another
reason women may prefer cats to dogs is that cats are less work. Women’s lives
are generally very busy and adding a needy dog to their daily chores may be
Therefore, when a woman meets a man who is a professed cat-person, she should take notice: this man is worth getting to know – he is not like all the others! Blind
loyalty is not as important to him and what he admires in a pet is more likely
to be what he admires in a woman as well: independence, loyalty that is earned,
grace and beauty.
Of course, this does not mean that men who are dog-people are all alike and want
to dominate women. In fact, if a man says he prefers dogs it may be because he
doesn’t really know much about cats except what the stereotypes say: they are
aloof and unfriendly. In this case, a cat-owning woman may “convert” a man into
a cat-person or at least one who enjoys both kinds of pets equally for their
However, I do believe that a man, unless he is allergic to cats, who absolutely REFUSES to see the good qualities of cats, is much more likely to be sexist and to want a woman he can dominate, a woman that is not a “threat” to his masculinity.
I admit that my “theory” relies on generalizations and stereotypes, and that
modern men are not as sexist as they were in the past. My niece’s husband, for
example, is clearly a dog person, but not sexist – if he were, I don’t think she
would have married him. But perhaps he would be willing to accept a cat as a
pet as well; circumstances (such as her allergies) just do not allow it.
So when I read this article, I wanted to see if my theory were validated by
scientific research. The article says:
A team of researchers at the University of Texas, led by psychologist Sam
Gosling, found that those who define themselves as “dog people” are more
extroverted, more agreeable and more conscientious than their feline-loving
Agreeable?? Cat people are not as agreeable? I beg to differ. But I read on…
Self-described “cat people”, by contrast, are more open, more creative and less traditional but also more neurotic.
Oh, well, open and creative, less traditional – OK, now this team of researchers
seems less biased toward dog people. These characteristics do describe me.
Neurotic?? OK, I admit it.
The article goes on to say that stereotypes have long pegged dog lovers as more social and interactive with a craving for adoration – think pack leader – while cat people often are seen as reclusive or loners with a sensitive streak – think crazy cat lady – but this research is the first of its kind to offer hard data on the two personality types.
“Dog people” – based on how people identified themselves, not on what animals they actually own – tend to be more outgoing and social, whereas “cat people” are more curious, creative and philosophical.”
Hmmm, I’m beginning to like this study!!
Pet owners seem to agree with this idea, the article says, and that neither one is
better than the other – they are just different. The author quotes Peg
Silloway, who wrote a book called “The Cat Lover’s Book of Days: A Year of Cat
History, Lore and Laughter.” She says that dog people do in fact enjoy the
adoration and unquestioning loyalty of a dog and that people were are always
part of a group (social) have the pack mentality of dogs. Cat people, Silloway
says, enjoy a pet that doesn’t need them but is a loving and loyal companion to
a person who has earned its trust and affection.
Gosling affirms that there may be significant differences in personality traits between
dog people and cat people, and that these traits make a dog or a cat a more
suitable pet to each. The temperament and needs of the pet play a big part in a
pet lover’s preference.
Dog lovers say: dogs are loyal and affectionate, and don’t need litter boxes.
Cat lovers say: cats are independent, quiet and clean.
Dogs require you be their leader and demand attention, while cats, being lower
maintenance pets, are better for independent people who are always on the go. Kelly
Meister says in her blog “Kelly’s Critter Talk” writes that it is possible that
cat lovers’ relationship with their cat is “uncomplicated” and that cats “seems
willing to take whatever we do offer, in terms of time and energy, without
I don’t know if I agree with the above statement. Cats get upset if you are gone
too long or if you neglect them, and they show it by soiling your bed, your
carpet, or your couch, instead of their litter box. They may also give you “the
look” when you come home after an extended absence, and run away from you,
unlike their usual greeting when you get home of rubbing themselves against
your leg and purring.
In Gosling’s study, over 4,500 people were asked whether they were dog people, cat
people, neither or both and were rated on five personality characteristics:
openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
Neuroticism was defined as “emotional sensitivity and the ability to experience
unpleasant emotions easily.”
Here’s how the percentages in the study broke down:
46% were dog people
12% were cat people
28% said they were both
15% said they were neither
I would have been interested to know what percentage of each were men or women.
Using a 44-point assessment, the article concludes, dog people scored higher on extroversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness, and cat people scored higher on openness and neuroticism.
I do believe that my unscientific and biased theory, based on the findings stated
in this article, does have some merit. And I do agree that I am definitely a
cat person as defined in Gosling’s study. If social means always being part of
a group, that may be something I’ve always aspired to, but the fact is that in
the end, I have fewer friends than such people. It seems to me that “social” people who feel a strong need to always belong to a group are susceptible to getting involved in cliques. I strongly dislike cliques and try to avoid them. Perhaps that is why I seldom find myself a part of a “social group” in spite of a longing to be a part of one.