Recent research from UC Davis veterinary school points to distinct characteristics for so called dog and cat people. As we have all experienced most folks stratify themselves into one or the other of the two categories with very few claiming to be completely impartial. The research indicates that respondents who said they preferred cats tended to be higher in openness and neuroticism, while self-identified dog people tended towards more extroversion and agreeableness.
The study looked at something referred to as the “Big 5” in personality traits. The Big 5 are widely used metrics of personality, often referenced with the acronym OCEAN: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. These traits, as defined in scientific literature, can be broadly applied across all cultures and can form a useful way to understand personalities.
There is more that came from the open ended survey conducted by Mikel Delgado, a post-doctoral researcher and animal behaviorist at the university. Her research confirmed previous such studies, showing that those who identify as dog people tend to be more dominant in social interactions and more narcissistic and those who identify as cat people were more likely to be female.
Amazingly the people that respond to such surveys typically end up being 85 to 90% white female. Re confirming the overall pet ownership profile of a heavy skew towards females. As anyone involved in rescue work knows, the vast majority of the workers and volunteers that make up this sector are female and white.
Being an open ended survey, clearly the study has its limitations along with built in demographic bias that may influence the results but still as one might have guessed, the cat vs dog person does identify distinct personality traits in us.
As Delgado points out some even more basic questions about what pet ownership says about each of us has not been studied. Per example why about 60% of the population are pet owners, they like pets vs the balance 40% that don’t like or don’t want pets? This is a fundamental question that will most probably divulge significant results for the human side and clearly has dramatic implications with regards to the pet population. Can one imagine what animal control issues we’d have if 100% of the people loved and wanted pets?