I like dogs and cats, right?

Personality: what makes dog and cat people tick

Not only the Internet loves cats: With almost 15 million velvet paws that lived in German households in 2019 according to the industry association for pet supplies, they are also the Germans' favorite animals in the analog world. They are followed by ten million dogs, which are currently the second best friend of humans in this country.

With regard to the relationship with their owner, dogs and cats could hardly be more different: While the former are considered loyal and trusting, the latter are best known for their independence and stubbornness. It is not for nothing that it is often said: "Dogs have masters, cats have staff."

This article is contained in Spectrum Compact, The Fluff Factor - How Cats and Dogs Enrich Our Lives

Of course, this suggests that dog and cat lovers could also tick very differently. And even numerous people who do not have any pets themselves tend to describe themselves more as "dog people" or as "cat people".

Whether animal fans can actually be divided into two such groups based on their character - and how strong the differences are in case of doubt - has been debated by scientists for decades. However, many studies in which researchers examined the characteristics of self-proclaimed dog and cat people have not yet provided a uniform picture. For example, while some working groups found that dog lovers should be more aggressive than cat lovers, others discovered the exact opposite. Still other studies claim to have found no connection between our personality and our pet preferences at all.

A team led by the psychologist Samuel Gosling from the University of Texas at Austin suspects that numerous methodological problems could also have contributed to the unclear study situation. For example, many older studies would only relate to a small, often not particularly diverse sample. In addition, so many different personality traits have already been recorded in so many different ways that in the end the results can hardly be compared and combined into a uniform model. While one study only looked at the sociability of its test subjects, others investigated a broad spectrum of relatively arbitrarily chosen characteristics such as dominance, independence, athleticism, masculinity and femininity of the participants.

In 2010, Gosling and his colleagues therefore carried out an online survey to examine more than 4,500 test subjects using the so-called five-factor model, which is now the standard model in personality research. It describes a person's character based on the values ​​they achieve on the five scales of openness to (new) experiences, conscientiousness, extraversion, tolerance and neuroticism.