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People and Their Pets and Personalities- Do They Have Similar Personality Traits?

Updated on February 12, 2014

Every aspect of our lives has a connection to our personality. From the clothes we wear, the profession we engage in, and even the pets we love say something about our personality.

A common theory about personality is known as the The Big 5 Personality Factor. It was developed to try to understand the unique personality characteristics each of us possess. Personality plays a big role in the psychological makeup of a person. The Big Five personality factors is defined by 5 words: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Aggreeableness, and Neuroticism. In reality, people are a combination of these traits and can actually be defined in much greater depth than these 5 characteristics. But for simplicities sake, we can use The Big 5 to take a look at people’s personality and how they match up to the pets they choose. Our personality plays a big part in the choices we make, including the pets we take in as part of our family.

Are You a Dog Person or a Cat Person?

The Big Five Personality Theory Related to People and Their Pets

The Big Five personality traits consist of Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. People’s personality ranges from high to low among these traits.

  • Openness in personality reflects creativity, non conformity, and they may be artsy and have an appreciation for the curiousness in things.
  • Conscientiousness involves people who tend to have a lot of self discipline, are very responsible, and tend strategize their actions. They tend to be less spontaneous.
  • People who are extraverted usually are high energy, vivacious, enthusiastic, outgoing, and friendly
  • Those who are agreeable usually offer affection readily, are very social, are trusting, and look to please others
  • Neuroticism usually have attributes of a personality in stress, anxiety, hypervigilance and other behaviors that display worries and fears.

A study was recently done to compare dog and cat people and how they score on the Big 5 Trait Theory. According to Sam Gosling, PhD who studied approximately 4,500 subjects, these people were asked if they considered themselves a dog or cat person. Using an online survey with 44 questions, the Big 5 personality traits were looked at with the participants. The study was done at the University of Texas at Austin to investigate the personality of people who identified themselves as either “dog or cat people”.

Do you consider yourself

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There are Dog People and There are Cat People

In the survey 46% of the participants categorized themselves as dog-people. 12% identified themselves as cat-people. 28% stated they were dog and cat people. 15% said they were neither.

  • Of the 46% who were dog people 15% showed they were more extroverted. 13% tended to be more agreeable. 11% showed greater tendency to be more conscientious than cat people.
  • 12% of the participants were self proclaimed cat people. About 12% of cat people tended to be more neurotic than dog people and were a little more than 11% exhibited openness than dog people
The actual purpose of the survey will help match the needs of people and pets when considering pet therapy. Personality tests may help create a better match for people in picking the most effective pet for people who would benefit from animal therapy. Nevertheless, there may be real personality related reasons why people choose the pets they do.

What pets do you own?

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People Are Attracted to a Pet that Matches Their Personality Needs

The survey didn’t show great differences between dog and cat people and there are many people who own cats who are extroverted, and many dog people who were not extroverts. What the research does tell us, is that there may be different activities that attract someone to own a dog, or a cat. But what about people who have both in their family? Being extroverted and aggreeable are strong social characteristics. It would make sense that people who are more social may be attracted to a pet that also has strong social needs. Canines are social creatures who will do anything to please their owners Felines tend to be more curious and tend to be less outgoing, especially towards strangers.

Anthrozoology is the study of how people and animals relate to each other. There is a strong psychological connection between people and their pets. Another study done by Michael Roy and Nicholas Christenfeld had participants match pet owner photos with their purebred dogs, using appearance alone, and had an accuracy rate of 67%. These results tended to show that people may pick dogs that resemble themselves since in this study there was no correlation to how long people owned the dog. So the dog and the people couldn't have picked up characteristics from each other.

Do you have more of a dog or a cat personality?

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Our Lifestyle Affects Our Pet Choices

People pick a pet for certain reasons, and it usually expresses something about them. Even certain breeds of dogs and cats say something about the pet owner. Different pets and their attributes can elicit certain feelings from the person. Cats tend to give quiet comraderie, a dog tends to give active friendship. People tend to be attracted to to dogs and cats that mirror our own personalities.
No matter what research shows, there is not a clear delineation between dog and cat lovers and their definitive personality type. Dog and cat owners may not be that different when it comes down to it. Sometimes people are forced to pick a pet due to allergies, or space restrictions. Lifestyle very much affects choices of pet animals.
Pets fulfill an emotional and social need which add to our mental well being. They are part of our family and blend into our home life. They are as much a part of our family as any other member and the bond that we feel with our pet is very strong.

Dogs are social creatures and extroverted people may be more attracted to owning a dog. Because cats are more solitary and don’t travel in packs seem to attract people who are more introverted. Dogs like to be with people. Even going back to evolutionary times, cats are lone hunters, dogs always have traveled in packs, and always need to be in a group.

It also can be noted that people who own cats seem to be different than people who own just dogs or dogs and cats. There doesn’t seem to be too much differentiation between people who own just dogs and people who own dogs and cats in their personalities. But for the people who only owned cats there seemed to be some clear differences. Cat owners were 33% more likely to live by themselves than dog owners were. Cat owners were more likely to live in an apartment. Dog owners are more likely to live in a house, be married, and have a family than people who only owned cats.

People and pet relationships are psychologically complex (not as complex as people and people relationship, though). Those who own more than one pet do so for many reasons that help fill a mixture of needs, love, emotional feelings, companionship, and perhaps even fear of loneliness.

Owning a pet intertwines with our personality, and the psychological rewards we get from sharing our lives with our pets. Our pets reflect many things about ourselves and offer us great rewards that are returned to us in so many ways.   

Personality theories may tell us some things about our psychological selves. What our pets do for us is, bestow a love and loyalty on us that creates a personal and deep bond. What pets do for us is transform our personalities in ways we can never fully understand, we just know they somehow make us better people for having them in our lives.


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