Friday, June 12, 2015

Fun Friday Facts #110: What Makes a Person a Cat Person or a Dog Person?

I don’t want to write this blog post, because: a) I’m tired, OMFG, what was I thinking when I decided FRIDAY would be a good day to write a regular blog post? Past Me was about as sharp as a marble sometimes; and b) I’m now pissed off after spending the past 45 minutes doing research, which in this case amounts to reading generalization after generalization about how dog people are friendly, extraverted, and conscientious, while cat people are cold, aloof, and introverted, and dog people should never, ever marry cat people because we are so deeply, horribly, and fundamentally flawed.  

I don't want your smelly dog in my house anyway. *pout*

According to research performed at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI, dog and cat owners do tend to have differences in personality. In a survey of 600 college students, the researchers found that dog lovers are “more energetic,” extraverted, and more likely to follow the rules. Cat lovers, on the other hand, are non-conformists who tend to introversion, sensitivity, and open-mindedness. Cat lovers are, somewhat perplexingly, both more neurotic and more open to new experiences – adventures, art, new ideas, etc. Cat lovers are also smarter, BECAUSE OF COURSE WE ARE.

Carroll University researcher Denise Guastello believes that extraverted people may decide they prefer dogs because they believe that dogs’ supposed personality traits make them an ideal pet for an active, extraverted person, while introverted or shy people may choose cats for themselves for a similar reason. The study also suggests that dog and cat people want different things out of their pets – dog people say they want “companionship” from their dogs, while cat people claim to want “affection” from their cats. That’s all well and good, but if you want companionship, cats are the reason why bathroom doors have locks.

I took this picture while I was writing this.

One sociologist has a different theory about cat people and dog people – and it’s one I like, because I’m a feminist killjoy. Lisa Wade PhD, writing for the blog Sociological Images at The Society Pages, asserts that the cat person/dog person debate is really a discussion about one’s perceived masculinity – or lack thereof. She writes,

After all, don’t we stereotype women as cat people and men as dog people? And don’t we think men with cats are a little femmy, or, at minimum, sweeter than most…even, maybe, gay? And don’t we imagine that chicks with dogs are a little less girly than most, a little more rough and tumble? The cat person/dog person dichotomy is gendered.

Dr. Wade goes on to point out that, while dogs are considered a “manly” pet, this is only true if the dogs in question fulfill an arbitrary size requirement. A large dog is a “real” man’s perfect companion; it is loyal, dependent, obedient, and perhaps crucially, doesn’t talk back. A small dog, on the other hand, emasculates its male owner more and more with each high-pitched yap. I would take this a step further and venture to suggest that the breed is important as well; I recently got into an argument with some man somewhere (I can’t remember who or where) about whether or not a standard poodle makes an appropriate “man pet.” Apparently it doesn’t, because despite the fact that standard poodles are huge and also a hunting breed, the word “poodle” alone is enough to make a red-blooded man’s balls just shrivel up and drop right off. Even so, Dr. Wade points out that cat owners are considered “less cool” than dog owners and “no one ever fears ending up a ‘crazy dog lady,’” although that might have at least as much to do with the lowered risk of toxoplasmosis as with the gendering of pet preferences. In any case, one thing is clear: men who love cats (and small dogs) need feminism, too.


  1. I can see the theory of dogs being more "masculine" than cats, but I had a friend who used to claim men were like cats. Aloof most of the time unless they wanted something and when they do want something they are perfectly willing to slut it up to get it. Also there is the entire look at my bumhole thing that cats do.

    Personally I love cats and dogs, so I'm not sure what that says about me.

    1. According to Modern Dog Magazine blogger Stanley Coren, linked to above, if you like both dogs and cats, the dog-liking cancels out the cat-liking and you are therefore technically a dog person.

  2. I have had both cats and dogs. I'm an animal person mostly! Love them both.

  3. I tend more to the introverted/extraverted theory. All the people I know who own cats (and no dogs) are introverts (including happily married heterosexual men who obviously prefer the cat and don't want a dog) while all the people I know who like dogs are extraverts - including heterosexual women. Mixed households can't be judged, because different pets might be for different household members for all I know.

    I liked dogs better when I was younger. Once I hit my teens though, dogs were just too messy and in your face. I want a pet that, while it might follow you into the bathroom, at least does so with a bit of dignity and style.

    My husband is an extravert (but so far we only have cats - he is campaigning to change that, while I am stalling) and was initially offended by my dog/extravert comparison, until I found an ideal example. Now we agree that there is a sliding scale of extraversion/doggishness and also intraversion/cattishness. After all, some dogs are more reserved than others, while some cats are more outgoing than others.

    If dogs are regarded as masculine, I would hazard a guess that's because 'extraversion' is regarded as the societal norm in a patriarchal society, while we introverts continue to be regarded suspiciously - men more than women, because women are already 'different', while the introverted man is not what he is supposed to be and is somehow lacking in 'blokeishness'. Gendering of pets is an effect, not a cause.

    1. Sure, I don't think that anyway is saying it's a cause. I'm not sure if I was clear that the study participants chose their favorite pets based on what they *perceived* the animals' qualities to be, not on what they actually might be. As anyone who's ever owned a cat can tell you, they are often far from aloof, and as any dog owner can attest, dogs are often rebellious and sneaky. I think it's important to keep in mind that the study surveyed college students, and I don't know if any of those participants had actually owned the animal in question. The information I read seemed to suggest that the researchers only asked them what species they preferred or which would be their first choice for a pet, not whether or not they now own such a pet or have owned one in the past.