What your preference says about you and your personality
Are you a dog person or a cat person? It’s a simple question, but your answer may say a lot about you, according to a recent study published in the journal Anthrozoös.
A team of researchers at 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 counterparts. Self-described “cat people,” by contrast, are more open, more creative and less traditional.
“There is a widely held cultural belief that the pet species—dog or cat—with which a person has the strongest affinity says something about the individual’s personality,” Gosling says.
Stereotypes have long pegged dog lovers as more social and interactive, while cat people often are seen as reclusive or loners with a sensitive streak, but this research is the first of its kind to offer hard data on the two personality types.
Dog people—defined by 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.
It’s a notion with which pet lovers agree.
“There are dog people and there are cat people; neither is nobler. They are simply different,” says Peg Silloway, author of “The Cat Lover’s Book of Days.”
“Dog people enjoy the adoration and loyalty of a dog. People who are always part of a group have the same pack mentality as dogs, so they enjoy having canines in their home,” she says. “Cat people are comfortable with a creature who doesn’t need them—or anyone else—but who is loving and loyal to a person who has earned its trust and affection.”
The University of Texas study surveyed more than 4,500 volunteers. They were asked whether they were dog people, cat people, neither or both. Based on their responses to a 44-point assessment, participants were rated on five personality dimensions: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism, which in this context relates to emotional sensitivity and the ability to experience unpleasant emotions easily.
Forty-six percent of respondents identified themselves as dog people, while 12 percent said they were cat people. Almost 28 percent said they were both and 15 percent said they were neither. Dog people scored higher on extroversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Cat people scored higher on openness and neuroticism.
“This research suggests there are significant differences on major personality traits between dog people and cat people,” Gosling says. “Given the tight psychological connections between people and their pets, it is likely that the differences between dogs and cats may be suited to different human personalities.”
In other words, the distinct temperament and daily needs of the pet play a big part in the equation. Dog lovers boast that canines are unwavering in their loyalty and affection, while cat lovers brag that felines are independent, quiet and self-cleaning.
“Dogs are much more of an emotional animal in that they require you to be their leader and to interact with them as such,” says writer Kelly Meister, who has a blog, “Kelly’s Critter Talk,” about the human-animal connection. “Dog people seem to want more of an emotional connection with their pet. Independent-minded folks and those on the go are likelier to be cat people because cats are perceived as low-maintenance pets.”
Meister thinks it’s possible that cat lovers prefer cats because the relationship is such an uncomplicated one.
“We often don’t have a lot to give cats, in terms of time and energy, and they seem willing to take whatever we do offer without complaining,” she says.
Larry Kay, co-author of “The Love That Dog Training Program,” has a more lighthearted take on the whole matter.
“If dogs and cats were politicians, then dogs would be loyalists and cats would be independents,” he says. “If dogs and cats were restaurant critics, then dogs would be gourmands—good cheap eats—and cats would be gourmets—only the trendiest restaurants.”
Pamper Your Pup’s Paws
Your pup’s paws are designed to take the brunt of what Mother Nature dishes out, but they still need a little TLC.
Canine paws provide cushioning and act as a natural barrier to infection, disease and parasites. They are built tough, but with walks, playtime and just bumming around the house, your pet’s paws can take a beating. So pamper your pooch for healthy feet.
Watch where your dog walks. Those pads may be strong, but they are no match for broken glass, jagged rocks, frigid snow or hot pavement.
Check paws often. Even typically hardworking dogs with healthy paws can have problems, so keep an eye on them. Minor cuts and scrapes can be treated with antiseptic, but if your dog shows signs of extreme discomfort or if the paw surface is burned, bleeding or swollen, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.
Keep ‘em clean. Wipe your dog’s paws after each walk, and give his feet the once-over. Check for cracked pads, debris between the toes, splinters, burrs, and torn or ingrown nails.
Be especially vigilant in winter. During cold and ice, people often use salt and salt-based products to melt ice. These can dry and irritate a dog’s skin and paws. Use a damp cloth to remove the excess salt, so your dog doesn’t ingest it and it doesn’t irritate his paws.
Trim nails regularly. Neglected nails can be extremely uncomfortable for dogs and lead to injury, so make time for routine manicures. Nails should just touch the ground when a dog is walking. If you hear clicking as your dog walks across hard surfaces, it’s time for a trim.
Do away with dry skin. Occasional dry skin is normal, but persistent dryness can be a problem. Ask your veterinarian if a moisturizer would benefit your dog’s feet. A bit of moisturizer massaged into the pads before an outing offers an extra layer of protection and helps heal chapped paws, but use caution. Too much moisture can be just as dangerous as dry paws. The pads on dogs’ feet are supposed to be tough, not soft and supple.
Persistent paw problems may be symptoms of an underlying medical issue, Newkirk says. If your dog experiences chronic paw problems, such as dryness or cracking, make an appointment with your veterinarian.