You can’t talk about pet owners without mentioning two of the biggest rivals in the pet ownership kingdom: cat people and dog people. In the United States, a whopping 39 percent of households own canines, while 33 percent own cats.

We tend to make judgements about people based on the type of pet they choose to live with. There is a cultural belief that the pet species, whether it's a dog, cat, or some other creature, says something about the owner's personality. For example, the term "cat lady" has become synonymous with a female who is a lonely, depressed hoarder, while a “dog lover” is expected to be a happy, amiable person.

Dr. Taylor Truitt, a veterinarian at the The Vet Set in New York, N.Y., believes the type of pet we choose could simply be what fits with our lifestyle. "There are certain breeds that I would never own that I love, that just aren't a good match for my lifestyle," Truitt told Medical Daily, about dogs.

But some science suggests otherwise. The preference for dogs, cats, or some other pet species may reflect some underlying human personality differences.

Dog Owners

Puppy love is real and healthy when it comes to dogs. Dog owners tend to be healthier, better equipped to deal with stress, and less likely to be diagnosed with depression. Another study also found dog owners were less depressed, especially if the owners were single or female. Researchers speculate that the presence of any pet, including a dog, decreases feelings of loneliness and promotes warmth.

In a 2010 study, researchers asked a group of volunteers whether they were dog people, cat people, neither, or both, and gave them a 44-item assessment to measure their place among the big five personality dimensions. The findings revealed that those who defined themselves as dog people were more extroverted, more agreeable, and more conscientious than self-described cat people.

Cat Owners

Cat people, compared to dog people, tend to be much more creative, adventurous beings — and more neurotic. In the same 2010 study, people who rated highly for anxious attachment and tended to need more reassurance from objects of their affection were younger people who chose a cat as their favorite pet.

However, this neuroticism comes with a plus side: intelligence. A study from Carroll University in Wisconsin found cat lovers were more introverted and non-conformist, and had a higher level of intelligence than dog owners.

Study author Denise Guastello theorizes that people may select pets based on their own personality. For example, cats are often depicted as independent animals that keep to themselves, and are cautious of others. "If you're like that, you appreciate that in an animal, it’s a better match for you," Guastello told Live Science.

Reptile Owners

Snake and reptile owners get second glances for choosing to house an unconventional pet like a lizard or iguana. A survey from the University of Hertfordshire in the UK found these owners were the most independent of all pet people. Reptile owners were less likely to describe themselves as fun-loving compared to dog owners. They tended to need other people less than other pet owners. Interestingly, reptile parents believe their pets to have no sense of humor.

Bird Owners

Bird owners are more likely to be socially outgoing and expressive than the rest of pet owners (yes, even dog owners). Their extroversion has made them most likely to be satisfied with their jobs, according to a 2010 survey by Harris Interactive for CareerBuilder. It found that bird owners held jobs in administration, advertising, construction, and sales. A 1983 study published in Psychological Reports found that female bird owners exhibited high levels of dominance, which can be advantageous in any job market.

Fish Owners

Fish owners are more likely to be engaging but introverted because they are more diverse in their lifestyle and value beliefs. A University of Oregon study found fish owners were less pessimistic, cynical, and hopeless. Moreover, they exhibited little interest in materialism or luxury, and were more free-spirited by being less authoritative. Fish owners are also more likely to be young and multicultural.

So what does this all mean for pet owners?

This compilation of studies suggests there may be an owner profile for particular types of pets. But it's hard to say whether a person's character pushes them to pick a species, or whether certain pets draw particular personality traits out of their owners. According to Truitt, owners tend to project qualities onto their pets that they see in themselves and form a biased view of their pets’ personalities.  

“I think it's one of the joys of pet ownership, and I think many people love seeing the parts of their personality they enjoy reflected favorably back to them in the form of their pet,” she said.

In the end, it’s best to choose a pet species that we can self identify with and works best with our lifestyle.