Dog People vs. Cat People: Who’s More Dominant?

There have been studies into what personality traits in people lead them to choose a particular kind of pet. 

For the record, I don’t think any of this relates to Malamute owners, because there is no such thing as dominating a Malamute. 
I know you’ve heard of them before. Extroverts prefer dogs while introverts prefer cats (Edelson and Lester 1983). Cats lovers are more autonomous while dog lovers are more social (Kidd and Kidd 1980).

So when Beatrice Alba and Nick Haslam set out to discover how cat and dog people differ in dominance-related traits, the team expected that dog people choose dogs because they are submissive animals, and would therefore be more competitive than cat people, who choose cats for their autonomy. They also expected dog people would be more narcissistic, have higher interpersonal dominance and score higher in Social Dominance Orientation (the preference for inequality among social groups).

Cat people were found to be no less assertive than dog people.
They studied two groups of approximately 500 participants each one year apart. The groups had slightly more women than men and ranged in age from 18 to 80.

So what were the team’s findings? 

Surprisingly, they found no significant differences between dog and cat people in their levels of assertiveness or narcissism. They did find that dog people scored higher in competitiveness than cat people, and that dog people scored higher in Social Dominance Orientation than cat people. 

Dog people scored higher in SDO, meaning they are more likely to believe that all people are not created equal. 
Based on those findings, Alba and Haslam infer that more conservative people are dog lovers, because of the association between SDO and political conservatives.

So what does this mean for me? It means I want a boss who has a cat!



The study is, “Dog people and cat people differ on dominance-related traits.” by Beatrice Alba and Nick Haslam. I accessed the study through



28 thoughts on “Dog People vs. Cat People: Who’s More Dominant?

      1. More likely I’m a dreamer and I don’t care about career or money…
        I love people but I prefer to stay with my cats and family or with intimate friends (I avoid crowd)…
        I feel comfortable talking as much as writing, but being a vegetarian’ dreamer and wishing for a better world, most of the time people are afraid of my talking… and writing as well.
        And yes, there are so many inequality among people… which is going to be a Goliardic work to change this…
        since very seldom “cats get well along dogs”!
        Wish you happiness :-)c

  1. Very interesting! Although as someone who utterly eschews “dominance” as a relevant concept in my life with dogs, I have to wonder how much this study’s initial questions were formulated using the assumptions of old-fashioned yet widespread notions of dominance.

    1. You can read the study and see. It appears the researchers were thorough even in accounting for gender. They do say they feel that because participants self-reported the true differences might be even higher.

      1. Okay, that was fascinating. And I love that they studied this! BUT I think they are relying on some notions about dogs and cats that would not necessarily hold up to scrutiny (they talk about dominance in canine social groups as if it a function of individuals rather than being fluid across situations, and refer to dogs as “deferential” and “submissive” when these are also qualities of individuals somewhat correlated to breed).

        Also, they fail (as far as I saw on my quick read) to take lifestyle factors into account, which is a major fact0r in whether one considers cats or dogs to be more appropriate as (potential) companions.

        Also, they treat gender as a binary rather than a spectrum, which means that some of their conclusions are iffy. For example, one conclusion is that there is a robust difference between cat and dog owners in terms of both SDO and competitiveness, while a few paragraphs previous to that, they clearly state that these differences are not necessarily as clear within genders. (They do say this could also be because of the small sample size, which is totally understandable.)

        It was interesting that they eliminated the “both / neither cat and dog people” from the study. I’m a “both,” so I can’t really speak to one side or the other. But I have a longstanding (and formerly professional) interest in canine behaviour, so I find that the assumptions about dominance, submission, and obedience always strike me.

        It’s interesting that they are positing “dominant human / submissive dog” as the other side of “less dominant (submissive?) human / independent cat.” I think some of the preliminary assumptions are not well-founded, that their understanding of gender means their discussion is not entirely credible, and that their initial hypotheses should have been more thoroughly examined / discussed.

        On the other hand, cat people, dog people, cat/dog people, and no-pet people all have stereotypical ideas about their own group and the other groups, so it was pretty cool to read this study and see how people are approaching the questions! Thanks for sharing it and letting me have my morning rant. 🙂

      2. I think what they were really looking at was the Social Dominance Orientation, which is a belief held by some that some people should be treated better than others by virtue of their social status. I don’t know about where you live, but where I live I see it quite often. “I’m better than you because…..” usually signals to me they have a dog.

      3. Oh, that’s so interesting that you see a correlation there! What I see more is if someone’s attitude is “I’m better than you because…..” AND they are a dog owner, they’re more likely to (own a stereotypically scary dog breed) (use prong collars and choke chains on the dog) (have named their dog something like Spike or Killer or Rocky) (etc.).

        Always so interesting to see geographical differences in “anecdata”! Although mine may be skewed because the friends I have who are dog owners also tend to be lefties or greenies or activists or ecofeminists or other generally non-hierarchical anti-oppression types, so my sample has a definite bias away from dominance in all areas, not just canine-human relations. 🙂

        I really appreciate you sharing this link in the first place, and the resulting conversation.

  2. No significant difference I guess just means people are people. But then the self-reporting skews the findings doesn’t it. I really wonder if preference makes us different or if we’ve all just shades of manifesting our humanness and what we like isn’t necessarily a reflection of who we are: nature vs nuture? Oh man, didn’t mean to go off on this but it’s interesting. Thanks for the post. Come visit and we’ll continue the blabbing/woofing. 😉

    1. I dunno. I do see differences in people, and when someone conducts a study and proves that info correct, it fascinates me. Doesn’t mean I hold it as gospel, but it does make me wonder if maybe my gut perceptions aren’t right after all.

  3. I prefer dogs because they’re much more intelligent and sociable. Cats aren’t stupid, but dogs seem to possess a greater degree of intellectual aptitude. I’m also allergic to cats. Either way, I prefer to be in the company of animals more than I do other people. The more I get to know my fellow humans, the more I love my dog. WOOF!

  4. Dogs are submissive!? Obviously the person who said that hasn’t met many Great Pyrenees!

    What about people who like cats and dogs? Why the need to put everyone in boxes, neatly filed away? Questions, questions…

    Have a great weekend!

  5. Very interesting! Hmmmm….but if you are both dog and cat people, what would it be? You would be neutral? ( I personally love dog and cat both!) 🙂

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