The Real Difference Between Dog and Cat People Isn't What You Think

They say you can learn a lot about people by the way they treat their pets. According to stereotypes, if you own a cat, you’re crazy, neurotic, or too independent for your own good. If you own a dog, you’re friendly, conscientious, and extremely extroverted. While these generalizations don’t hold much water in reality, the way that you interact with your pets can actually tell you a lot about yourself. It can also tell you a lot about how you engage with the people around you, which, in turn, can help you navigate successful relationships.

To understand these relationships, you first need to know the five traits that are used to describe human personality: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Based on these five traits, a person’s personality resides somewhere on each of these spectra. For openness, you are either inventive/curious or consistent/cautious. For conscientiousness, you are either efficient/organized or easy-going/careless. For extroversion, you are either outgoing/energetic or solitary/reserved. For agreeableness you are either friendly/compassionate or cold/unkind. And for neuroticism, you are either sensitive/nervous or secure/confident. All human beings relate to themselves and the world around them based on these five domains. For a lot of people, objectively identifying yourself on these scales can be difficult, which is why understanding how you interact with your pet is a great place to start “researching.”         

People typically choose what type of pet to get based on the lifestyle they live. Cat owners tend to be those who work long hours and like to spend their downtime in the comfort of their own home, while dog owners tend to be people who have more time and energy to play and interact with their pet, both indoors and outdoors. You need to understand the ins and outs of your pet’s personality traits to understand what they say about you. What’s their activity level like? How social are they both around people they recognize and around strangers? What kind of temperament do they exhibit on a regular basis? Whether you like it or not, these characteristics are a direct extension of you and your behavior, because your pet, while having its own personality, takes its cues from you.   

For example, if you have a cat that is low on activity, high on being social, has a fairly even temperament, and is waiting for you at the door whenever you return home, extrapolating from the aforementioned personality traits, your pet’s behavior could indicate that you are more cautious, easygoing, solitary, friendly, and secure. Most likely, you are co-dependent, work long hours, prefer low-energy situations that involve eating or watching movies, and are probably a bit pretentious. While you love being around people, you probably prefer large groups to one-on-one situations. It takes a lot to make you mad, but if you get there, you will most likely stay that way until something actively fixes it. These traits do not represent you because you have a cat. They represent you because you have your particular cat, and she or he became an extension of you. These traits also manifest themselves in those that you would be romantically compatible with, allowing you to pick and choose your mate based on coinciding personality traits.  

Interested to learn how this applies to you? To get started, take one of these interactive quizzes, either for cats or for dogs, to find out about your pet’s personality, and then, using the Big Five personality traits, figure out what it says about you! After all, understanding what makes you tick in relationships is the first step in maintaining a successful one.