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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Dog Owners vs. Cat Owners

Maggie and me in my library
There has always been a difference between dog owners and cat owners. Sometimes those differences can be quite strong with dog owners hating cats or vice versa. According to an Associated poll, there are many more dog people out there, since 74 percent of their test sample favored dogs, opposing the 41 percent who liked cats. Fifteen percent said they really disliked cats while the number of those who disliked dogs was only two percent.

Several new studies have focused on the different personality traits between dog and cat owners. Recently, Sam Gosling, a psychologist at the University of Texas in Austin and his graduate student Carson Sandy conducted a web-based study in which they asked 4,565 individuals whether they were dog people, cat people, neither or both. They were given a forty-four item assessment that measured them on the so-called Big Five personality dimensions psychologists often use to study personalities.
My cats Moggie and Brat Cat - sisters

Stanley Coren, Ph.D, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia’s study involved 6,149 people aged 16 to 94. He tried to get more dog people than cat people so he had 3,362 dog people, 1,223 people, who only owned cats, and 1,564 who owned no cat or dog. He found people who owned both a cat and a dog seemed to be more like the dog owners so his study put those with dual ownership under dog owners. Much of his research agreed with Gosling’s.
My California daughter's cats watching TV  in her apartment.
Both studies found cat owners, those with only a cat, were one-third more likely to live alone than dog owners and twice as likely to live in an apartment or flat. A single woman was the most likely individual to have a cat. Individuals who grew up in a home with a cat were more likely to have a cat. Cat owners tend to be more introverted, more neurotic, and more open minded than dog people with a greater appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, imagination and curiosity.
They also tend to be better at breaking rules. They’re more likely to prefer staying at home reading a book which suits their personality since cats don’t need to be taken for a walk. Also, cats are more independent and don’t require as much attention as a dog.

Maggie begging for a treat before our walk. 
Dog owners are more sociable, more likely to be extroverts, more energetic, more rule abiding, more conscientious and tend to be conventional with traditional interests.  Dog owners are far more likely to enjoy the outdoors and like taking their dog for a walk. Being married, living in a house and having children made it more likely the pet owner would have a dog. Dog owners found dogs more companionable which is one of the reasons why they preferred them.

A study by Denise Guastello, an associate professor at Carroll University in Wisconsin, who recently spoke at the annual Association for Psychological Science in Chicago. Guastello claims that the differences in personality can be related to the environment cat or dog people prefer. Much of this we probably already knew, but her finding that cat owners scored higher on an intelligence test than dog owners regardless of their pet’s intelligence made the news.

As writers how does this relate to writing mysteries? Many cozies have a cat in them. In fact for some reason it’s almost a given that they need a cat. Could it be the popularity of Carolyn Hart, who wrote a mystery series about a book store owner with a cat? Or maybe it’s the popularity of Lillian Jackson Braun's Cat Who books. Or could it simply be because writers tend to spend more time at home writing and a cat doesn’t need as much attention as a dog? Of course, there are dogs in books, too. I think that probably most writers who include cats or dogs in their books have one, too. After all writers are told to write what they know.

Do you have a dog or cat?
Do you include a dog or cat in your mysteries?

Do you like reading books with a cat or dog in them?


E. B. Davis said...

I've never had any pets, Gloria (I don't really think of fish as pets!). Perhaps that's why I love reading books with cats and dogs in them. My family traveled a lot when I grew up so my parents didn't want the hassle. My husband's family thought animals belonged outside (they came from farm country) so had we gotten our kids pets, they would have been excluded from our home. I couldn't deal with leaving a pet outside so we didn't have pets for our children (except for those darn fish--which leaped out of the tank and committed suicide now and then--not a great sight for children!) I love reading about your pets. Give the ponies a pat for me.

Shari Randall said...

Growing up, we had a cat and a dog and a bird (Herbie, named after Herbie the Love Bug, who died rather spectacularly one night during dinner).
I enjoy series with dogs and cats, especially when the writer shows the animal's point of view. A real favorite is the Spencer Quinn (Peter Abrams) series about Chet and Bernie. Bernie the dog narrates and he's a hoot.
Give the ponies a pat from me too!

Anonymous said...

E.B. when I grew up we never had house pets, either, nor did most of the people I knew. Dogs and cats were outside pets. My kids had goldfish, too. We even had a few aquariums at various times, but they're not always easy to keep clean, and neither are goldfish bowls.

Shari, I wanted a parakeet for my 15th birthday, and got one, but I can't remember what I named him or how long he lived. I only read one Spencer Quinn book and loved it and always planned on getting more to read, but alas and alack, too many books out there I want to read and too many already on my shelves waiting to be read.

E.B. and Shari, when I get home from California, I'll give Puffy and Phoebe extra pats telling them they're from you. :-)
Gloria from my daughter's computer.

Warren Bull said...

I remember having turtles and goldfish as pets. My mother had allergies to what animals brought inside in their fur. Turtles and goldfish have short life spans so maybe that makes it easier for me to kill off characters.

judyalter said...

I've rarely been with at least one dog, often three, in my entire life. Don't know how I'd survive without, especially now that I live alone. I had cats when my children wanted them and really loved the last one but will not have another. Their personalities are unpredictable. I can carry on a conversation with my dog but not a cat. I find there are real "dog people" and you can tell who is and who isn't. My children and most of my grandchildren are dog people.

Kath said...

Until last fall I'd almost always had at least one cat. And I still do. And I think I match disturbingly to the description of cat owners.

But we grow all the time, right? So one morning last fall an abandoned three year old American Fox Hound found us at the city park when we were taking our usual walk. And that morning we became dog owners. Or owned by a Hound!!

And the handyman is coming to make a special doggie play yard next week. Not that Rufus who always gives me the expectant eye when Jim takes him out for a walk (expecting a cookie on his return from being a Good Boy.) is spoiled.
Well, Nikki cat just snorted at that. And Nikki cat swears my IQ dropped 50 points when Rufus moved in.


Patg said...

I don't have any animals anymore, Dander bothers me, but I loved my pug dog and my cats. Over time I favored cats much more because I liked their fiesty independence and superior attitudes, and they didn't have to be walked. True, I am not much of an outdoors person, wait for a space station, but I am majorly an extrovert.
I try to talk to all the dogs and cats I pass, they respond nicely. :)

Jim Jackson said...

The math geek part of me wants to understand the statistics behind some of the conclusions -- did the studies account for age, economic status, health status, etc. etc, before coming to their conclusions?

But since I won't get answers to those questions, I will answer yours, Gloria, instead.

Right now, we are without pets. However during my adult life I have had cats for 36 years and dogs for only 19, so I guess that makes me more of a cat person.

My protagonist travels too much to have animals, but I did provide his son with a pair of cats.

I rarely read books with animals as main characters (Edgar Sawtelle being an excellent exception). If an animal appears it has to fit in naturally. I am unlikely to buy a book with a cat on the cover mainly because of my contrarian nature.

~ Jim

KM Rockwood said...

When we got married, my husband had a Hungarian Puli, and I had two cats and two daughters. They mixed very well, although the dog was uper-protective of my younger duaghter (who learned to walk holding gripping his hair)

We've usually had two or three dogs, most of them rescues. Right now, we have a lovable but not bright labrdoodle and a Heinz 57 who came from a prison program. As far as cats go, we have six right now, none of them deliberately acquired. We feed all comers, and if a cat sticks around long enough, we take it to the vet to be neutered & given a rabies shot. Then we turn it lose--it either stays or takes off. Eventually some of the cats become true pets, spending a lot of time inside, but some remain semi-feral.

I did put one cat in a few of my books, but in a minor role. I have started a new book with different charcters, and it includes Roxanne, the benign Rottweiler and two cats, Percival and Everly.

Paula Gail Benson said...

I grew up with dogs, but just spent a weekend with the most delightful kitten. He won my heart. And, he's a bookstore cat!

Kait said...

Fun post. I'm definitely a cat person - I have eight - not a typo. But I have also owned dogs and love them - just don't have room for one right now, but a black and tan German Shepherd is on my to do list - from a rescue - he, yes, he, has to get along well with cats though. I love it when animals are in the story. My Catherine Swope mystery series features a cat, Paddy Whack, and a dog, Bullet. Bullet is central to a lot of the story, especially in the first book. My Hayden Kent series features a cat, Tiger Cat. My critters are a big part of my life. I couldn't imagine a protagonist that doesn't share that view.

Mary said...

Warren, I had turtles and goldfish in my third grade classroom until I found out children can get salmonella poisoning from some turtles. It was easier having them in the classroom than feathered or furry critters.

Judy, I live alone, too, and although I have two cats, my dog is the companion I talk to mostly and spend the most time with especially since I have cat allergies.

Kath, years ago we found an abandoned young collie. She had tumors on several legs and although we placed an ad in the paper, no one claimed her so we had the tumors removed and had her spayed and Eliza Doolittle became one of the best dogs I've ever had.

Pat, cats are much easier because they are more independent, but like you their dander bothers me if I pet them and don't wash my hands before touching my face. Yes, dogs need to be walked, but I enjoy it.
Gloria still anonymous in CA

Mary said...

Jim, Jan sure enjoyed my cats, especially Brat Cat when you were there. I think Brat really missed her when you both left.

KM, you certainly have a lot of pets. One dog takes up a lot of time and space, so for me one dog is enough.

Paula, people who think they don't like cats probably have never spent any time around kittens. They can be so funny.

Kait, eight cats is a lot especially if they're house cats needing litter boxes that need cleaned. The daughter I'm with this week has two beautiful cats and wants to get a dog now that she has a home with a very large tree filled back yard, but it has to get along with cats.


LD Masterson said...

I'm a dog person and my main characters always have a dog. In fact, mine and my character's are always "rescued". Perhaps it's my way of promoting adoptions.

Kara Cerise said...

I've had both dogs and cats as well as birds and fish. Right now we just have fish but hope to adopt a rescue dog sometime soon.

Last week I rode in an elevator with a woman and her dog. When I exited, the dog gave me a lick on my ankle. It made my day.

I love your photos, Gloria.