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Are You a Cat Person, a Dog Person or Both?

And the big difference between the two.

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illustration of 2 women carrying a dog and a cat in their purses
Kaitlin Brito
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For nearly 30 years, my husband and I happily called ourselves “crazy cat people." We adopted three cats during those decades, the first two like surrogate children before our own kids were born.

Tessie, a velvety black beauty, was our last cat, joyfully isolating with our family during the throes of the pandemic, then falling ill at 14 and leaving us bereft but grateful. So when, our nest emptied of cats and kids, we decided to adopt an adorable tricolor corgi puppy named Bamba, friends reacted to posts and pix with congratulations and confusion. Along with quips about the corgi-loving Queen Elizabeth, they snarked, “Not a cat?”

What makes someone a cat or a dog person? Although many people love both animals equally, some adamantly attach to one species. Statistically speaking, according to a University of Texas at Austin study, Personalities of Self-Identified Dog People and Cat People, 46 percent of those surveyed consider themselves dog people, while only 12 percent say they prefer cats. And some stereotypes about cat versus dog owners rang true: dog people, for example, described themselves as more extroverted than cat people.

Avowed “dog mom” Erika Faden recently adopted Luna, a Labrador retriever mix, after the death of her beloved yellow Lab, Stella. She says her canine connection is physiological as well as emotional: “I don’t think my endorphins and oxytocin flow as much with cats as they do with dogs. Dogs make me a better human and make me feel better about myself.”

Childhood experiences also can impact whether one adopts a cat or dog. Annemarie Palmer, who has had cats since childhood, says her first, a stray tiger-striped tabby she named Tigger, found and chose her at age 7 and lived with her into her 20s. “The cat took to me, and I took to him,” says Palmer. “Having the respect of the cat and him seeking me out as his person made me feel really special.”

New research on what humans get from companion animals is emerging. For example, interviews with cat and dog owners for a 2022 University of Sussex study, It Almost Makes Her Human: How Female Animal Guardians Construct Experiences of Cat and Dog Empathy, reveal that the empathy we believe we receive does not differ whether the animal is a dog or a cat.

“There is sometimes the external perception that the relationship with cats is not as strong, but I don’t see that borne out,” says study author Karen Hiestand, a veterinarian and doctoral researcher at Sussex. Hiestand cites an interview with a person with a seizure disorder who believes her cat senses an oncoming seizure and warns her.

Still, many pet owners decide to adopt one or the other animal due to different issues, including their own lifestyles. Being able to travel was one reason we opted for a dog in our fifth decade. Car journeys with Tessie the cat were akin to scenes from The Exorcist, mess and odors included. So far, Bamba enjoys car rides until we decelerate, which triggers worry and barking. Loud barking.

Hiestand advises considering the animal’s needs first when deciding what kind of pet to adopt. “There is a dog or cat for every stage of life,” she says. “But, for example, you probably don’t want to adopt an active collie when you’re 90. On the other hand, a lovely older cat who wants to hang out inside with you might be the best choice.”

Here are some other factors in deciding if cats, dogs or both are right for you.

Your work schedule

Cats are more independent and can be left alone for longer stretches if you work outside your home. Dogs need more attention during the day, so working from home or hiring a dog walker helps. However, some cats also enjoy the outdoors. Retiree Alice Bettencourt has trained her most recent rescue cat, blue-eyed Willow, to walk on a leash so they can view the lizards and birds near their new home in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Your community

Although she works from home, Faden recently discovered that Luna loves the local doggy day care, returning home happy and well-exercised. The day care also provides boarding when she travels. And sometimes neighbors pitch in to help with pet care, stopping in to feed or walk your pet if you are running late, says Ethel Glick-Rosenberg, a longtime cat owner who “switched” to a beagle-basset hound mix, Penny Lane. “When you have dogs, you get to know everyone who has dogs in the neighborhood. It’s a social thing,” says Glick-Rosenberg, who describes Penny Lane as the “queen bee,” of her Mount Laurel community in New Jersey.

Your personality

Leaning more toward introverted than extroverted, I still consider myself a cat lady, though Bamba the corgi has pushed me out of my comfort zone. We know many Manhattan pups (though not their owners) by name now, my husband and I get more exercise and fresh air walking Bamba; and we love our little potato intensely. Plus, he does some catlike things like lazing in the sunniest part of our apartment and leaning against us while we sleep.

Bamba does have a glass-shattering bark, as other corgi owners warned, but it’s mostly to protect us from suspicious takeout and Amazon deliveries. All in all, we’re animal people. Our late, beloved cats gave and adorable new pup gives as much as they get.

So are you a cat or a dog person? Let us know in the comments below.

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