Dog People vs. Cat People: Are There Differences In What They Look For in Romantic Partners?

Before you start reading this, please keep in mind that this survey was created for fun reasons and was not designed to be „super rigid proper sciency sciency science“. This was a fun and nerdy way for me to procrastinate, nothing else. Please don’t take it too seriously. It is mostly meant to be fun and interesting to read – do NOT cite this as a scientific source. Moreover, if you are not a psychology-person, feel free to skip the methods and results section. Lastly, thanks for everyone who participated.

Abstract

Dog people and cat people are often thought to be quite different and it has been proposed (by a certainly very trustworthy source on the internet that I am unable to find right now) that pets can serve as a substitute of a romantic partner. This poses the question whether we look for similar attributes in our pets as in our romantic partners. In order to answer this highly important issue, 96 participants filled out an online questionnaire in which they were asked about the importance of a range of attributes in potential long-term partners as well as whether they identified as cat people or dog people and how much they liked dogs and cats. I found first support for my hypothesis. Moreover, results indicate that dog people generally expect more from their long-term partners compared to cat people.

cat1

Introduction

It is widely accepted that dogs and cats are very different animals. While some might argue that cats are bitchy, unpredictable and aloof, other might characterise them as independent, fluffy (LOOK AT THAT PICTURE OF THAT CAT!!!!), elegant and having their own minds. Dogs on the other hand are often valued for their enthusiasm, usefulness, and generally loving nature, while others (i.e. the author) despise the fact that they smell, blindly follow orders and, most irritating of all, try to hump everything. We might refer to those in the latter category as “cat people” and those in the worse category as “dog people”.

Research into cat people and dog people has so far focused on trait differences of those people. For example, Gosling et al (2010) found that dog people are generally higher in agreeableness, extraversion and conscientiousness, while cat people are higher in openness to new experiences and neuroticism (non-psychology people: see big five). Other research (Kidd & Kidd, 1980) has suggested that dog people are generally more dominant than cat people.

However, despite the fact that it is sometimes suggested that pets can serve as a substitute of a romantic partner there is no research on whether we look for similar attributes in our pets as in our romantic partners. This first pilot study addresses this issue. I hypothesise that cat people and dog people differ in what they look for in long-term partners and that these differences are in line with traits associated with dogs and cats. For example, while cat people might value independence more than dog people, dog people might value loyalty more than cat people.

Moreover, it is generally believed (and by that I mean I have discussed it with about five people), that lesbians have a strong preference of cats over dogs, whereas the opposite is true for gay men. This is also investigated in this study.

Methods

Participants

The sample consisted of 96 participants recruited via Facebook. The majority (71) were female, whereas 24 identified as male and 1 participant identified as something else. The sample included 70 participants who identified as heterosexual, 7 who identified as gay, 11 identifying as bisexual and 8 who identified as pansexual. None of the participants identified as asexual. The average age of participants was 24.6 years (SD=6.5 years).

Measures

The online survey assessed the subjective importance of a number of attributes in a potential long-term partner such as independence, success and commitment on a scale ranging from 1 (not at all important) to 7 (extremely important). The attributes were presented in random order. Moreover, participants were asked to indicate their gender, age and sexual orientation. On a separate page they were asked whether they identified as a cat person, a dog person, both or none and to what extent they liked dogs and cats. This question was asked on a 7-point scale ranging from “THEY SUCK”, over the midpoint of “neither like nor dislike” to “OMG I LOVE THEM”.

Results

Factor Analysis and Scales

The importance of different attributes were aggregated into separate scales based on the results of a factor analysis and can be viewed in table 1. As reliability analyses revealed that the remaining factors did not even approach reliability, these items (attractive, willing to spend most time with you, clean and well-groomed, playful, laid back, honest, intelligent, more of a follower than a leader, opinionated, open minded, happy to engage in conflict and discussion and unique) will be analysed separately.

Table 1. Desired attributes in romantic partner scales.

Scale name

Included items

Cronbach’s Alpha

Warmth and commitment

Loyal

Always there for you

Friendly

Affectionate

Committed

0.76

Ambition and success

Ambitious

Successful

Driven

0.71

Independence

Independent

Willing to still have their own life (e.g. separate friends or hobbies)

0.71

Confidence

Confident

Able to make their voice heard

Outgoing

0.69

Cat People vs. Dog People

I initially conducted a series of 2(cat person vs. dog person) X 2(gender: male vs. female) ANOVAs. For reasons of simplicity, only those who identified as either a cat person or a dog person and either as female or male, were included in these initial analyses.

I found that compared to cat people, dog people assigned a higher importance to warmth and commitment (F=4.60 and p=.036) and confidence (F=6.58 and p=.013). They also found it more important for their partners to be more playful (F=7.26 and p=.009) and willing to spend most of their time with them (F=10.12and p=.002). No other differences reached significance and there were neither significant effects of gender nor significant interactions between gender and whether participants identified as a cat person or a dog person.

Next, I examined bivariate correlations between liking cats as well as dogs and the importance of different attributes in a romantic partner. These correlations are presented in table 2. As can be gathered from this table, being willing to spend most time with their partner was negatively correlated with liking cats, as was being more of a follower than a leader. Liking dogs, on the other hand, was positively correlated with warmth, confidence, attractiveness, playfulness, and willingness to spend most time with their partner. Interestingly, liking dogs was also negatively correlated with liking cats (r=.275; p=.007).

Table 2. Correlations between liking cats as well as liking dogs with importance of attributes

Liking dogs

Liking cats

Warmth

r

.249*

-.121

p

.015

.244

Ambition and success

r

.168

-.124

p

.103

.233

Independence

r

.041

-.037

p

.695

.721

Confidence

r

.247*

-.150

p

.016

.151

Unique

r

-.026

.007

p

.805

.946

Attractive

r

.217*

-.160

p

.034

.124

Honest

r

.065

-.008

p

.528

.940

Playful

r

.324**

-.148

p

.001

.153

Intelligent

r

-.102

.122

p

.322

.240

Willing to spend most time with you

r

.323**

-.241*

p

.001

.020

Happy to engage in conflict and discussions

r

.078

.007

p

.448

.944

Opinionated

r

.119

.058

p

.246

.578

Laid back

r

.116

-.138

p

.259

.182

Open minded

r

.123

.087

p

.233

.402

More of a follower than a leader

r

-.013

-.203*

p

.900

.049

Clean and well-groomed

r

.029

.049

p

.779

.640

Discussion

The aim of this pilot study was to assess whether dog people and cat people differ with regards to the attributes they look for in a long-term partner and whether these differences are in line with the attributes associated with their choice of favourite pet; in other words, whether we look for similar attributes in our romantic partners and our pets.

I did find some evidence which supports this idea. Self-identified dog people seem to find the attributes of warmth and commitment as well as playfulness and willingness to spend most time with them more important than cat people. I assume that most people would agree that dogs generally rank higher in those traits compared to cats. However, dog people also ranked confidence as more important, a trait that I had initially thought would be more strongly associated with cats. Interestingly, there was not a single attribute that cat people found more important compared to dog people. This might indicate that dog people are generally more demanding (or, framing it positively, have higher standards) when it comes to their romantic partners.

I also found that liking cats and liking dogs is negatively related and that to each other and that, regardless of whether someone identifies as a dog person, cat person, neither or both, liking dogs is associated with finding it important for one’s significant other to be warm and committed, confident, playful, willing to spend most time with one’s partner and attractive. Liking cats, on the other hand, was negatively related to the importance of the willingness to spend most time with one’s partner.

Lastly, neither gender nor sexual orientation was found to be related to liking dogs or cats or to valuing different attributes in one’s partner. This might simply be lack of sample size and due to the small numbers of men and gays in this sample, but so far these data do not support the idea that lesbians are more likely to be cat people and gay men more likely to be dog people.

This study, albeit only being a pilot study, has a number of limitations. First, the sample size was small and not representative of the general population. Moreover, the attributes were chosen at random rather than based on the previous literature on relationships and importance of different attributes in one’s partner. Furthermore, I did not assess in any way whether participants saw these traits in dogs or in cats. Thus, it might well be possible that cat people ascribe different traits to cats than dog people and vice versa or that everyone associates cats and dogs with different attributes than I do. In further studies, these assumptions should either be pilot tested or be based on existent literature.

Lastly, while you might find that your pet can be a substitute for your partner in some respects, please do keep in mind that bestiality is illegal in most countries 😉

References:

Gosling, S. D., Sandy, C. J., & Potter, J. (2010). Personalities of self-identified ‚dog people‘ and ‚cat people.‘. Anthrozoös, 23(3), 213-222.
Kidd, A. H. and Kidd, R. M. 1980. Personality characteristics and preferences in pet ownership.
Psychological Reports, 46, 939–949.
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3 Antworten zu Dog People vs. Cat People: Are There Differences In What They Look For in Romantic Partners?

  1. Nec schreibt:

    I am amused and impressed by the effort you put into this. Good paper.

  2. myrmikonos schreibt:

    What about owl-people?

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