I’ve always thought animal companions are very tuned into human emotions. In times of grief or disappointment, it seems a rambunctious puppy or an aloof housecat suddenly becomes cuddly and affectionate. Recent studies show that this is no coincidence. Humans, cats and dogs actually have very similar genetic, neurological, and even hormonal makeups. In fact, the heightened senses such as smell and sight in some animals can make them even more tuned into how the humans around them are feeling.
Because of the emotional similarities between us and our pets, we tend to express ourselves in very similar ways. Cats and dogs will hold their tails high in the air when they are content, will make “crying” noises when they are upset, and may look away or at the ground, and will behave submissively to express empathy. There is no doubt that for many people, a pet in the house is very therapeutic, but which animal is better to have around: cats or dogs?
It turns out the answer to this question is very individual. You probably know many people who think cats are too independent and anti social to be a great companion, or people who believe dogs are too obnoxious to really enjoy.
According to a survey from Associated Press, people tend to adopt pets based off of their own personalities. About 74 percent of those studied identified as dog people, and about 41 percent identified as cat people (obviously, there was some overlap). Those identifying as dog people tended to consider themselves more friendly and outgoing, like their animal companion, and those who identified as cat people considered themselves to be more introverted, like their cat.
Oddly, people did not seem to choose animals that tempered their personality, rather choosing animals they considered to have similar personalities to themselves. It’s possible that people want pets that have similar patterns to them, such as very social people needing attention-much like their dog, or less social people wanting a very low-maintenance pet.
Dog people, according to the same survey, were about 15 percent more extroverted and about 13 percent more agreeable, while cat people were about 11 percent more neurotic. The cat people were also more open to the arts, literature and other creative ventures.
Regardless of personality differences, all pet owners tend to display less depression, have lower blood pressure, and have higher levels of “feel good” neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine present in their bodies.
It seems that the overarching theme of these studies is that all animal companions are beneficial to their human friends, and it’s up to the individual to decide which pet is best for their personality.
“Dog People vs Cat People.” Modern Dog Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.
“Do Cats Know How You’re Feeling?” Pets. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.