Pet owners have traditionally defined themselves as “dog people” or “cat people” in order to explain their choice of pet. They often claim to have personalities that make them a perfect match for one animal and a complete mismatch for another.
But according to anthrozoologist and Bristol University veterinary science professor Dr. John Bradshaw, there really isn’t much of a difference between dog owners and cat owners.
Why We Identify With One Type Of Pet Owner
Dr. Bradshaw is the author of The Animals Among Us, which cites scientific research to explore why so many people have developed such deep relationships with animals.
Last month, Business Insider spoke to Dr. Bradshaw about the real reason someone might call him or herself a “dog person” or “cat person.”
"People refer to themselves as dog people or cat people and I think that the temptation is to think that means that that’s the kind of pet that they have but when people have studied this, they found that actually there isn’t really any great relationship between them,” he said.
Dr. Bradshaw went on to say that identifying as a “dog person” or “cat person” merely suggests what kind of lifestyle one subscribes to, as opposed to how well they are received by dogs or cats.
"I think what some people mean when they say they’re a dog person is it means they are masculine and decisive whereas when people say they’re a cat person maybe they’re more independent and perhaps a bit more feminine,” he added. “So they’re not necessarily talking about the animals themselves, they’re talking about the way they project their own personalities on the ideal cat or the ideal dog.”
Is There Really Such Thing As A “Dog Person?”
While there may be some personal differences between dog owners and cat owners, Dr. Bradshaw says they are “comparatively small” at best.
For example, cat owners were found to be slightly more neurotic than dog owners. This doesn’t mean, however,” someone can be psychologically incapable of forming a loving relationship with any pet he or she desires.
"…there is an enormous amount of overlap and I think that’s really the key point, is that the choice of animal is much more to do with a lifestyle choice than a personality thing, that any kind of person can bond with either species,” Dr. Bradshaw concluded.
Your Cat Isn’t Just Deliberately Ignoring You
The book also reveals why dogs appear to be much more willing to react to their owners’ than cats. Like most differences between the two animals, this personality trait can be traced back to the way each of them evolved.
"Dogs are descended from wolves which are very social animals so right from the word go, they’ve had a basis for understanding the body language of the animals around them, whether the animals around them are other dogs or indeed whether they’re humans,” Dr. Bradshaw said.
Cats, on the other hand, are naturally solitary animals who have only been domesticated for a few thousand years. So compared to dogs, cats have had much less time to understand human body language.
Obeying The Laws Of Nature
Speaking of evolution, The Animals Among Us points out that long ago, humans who were able to develop relationships with animals were more likely to survive. Such individuals were therefore viewed as more desirable sexual partners, which makes sense considering several studies have reportedly found that both sexes are more attracted to pet owners.