He wants a dog; she desires a cat. In his mind’s eye, he longs for a doting canine to play with in the park or to accompany him on jogs. She sees herself curled up on the couch, reading a book, with a kitty snoozing in her lap.
Choosing between a dog and a cat can be difficult. In a nutshell, dogs require more time, attention and money, but as pack animals are often much more social than cats. On the other hand, cats, being more independent, are easier to care for, much neater and usually cost less.
All pets require love, attention, play time, some grooming and regular veterinary visits. How much differs between a dog and a cat. The choice comes down to what you want out of a pet and how much energy you are prepared to devote.
Where you live also plays a big role in the decision – or even makes the decision for you. Some apartments or condos have restrictions on the size or type of pet you can have. If your building doesn’t permit dogs, don’t break the rules and get one. The worst thing to do is to adopt a loving puppy, and then return him to the shelter.
Downsides and Upsides to Dogs
Dogs want to be involved in all aspects of your life, more so than cats. They also require more care. If you’re late home from work, someone will need to walk the dog. If it’s raining or snowing, the dog still needs to be walked.
Walks should be something to look forward to. If it sounds like a chore, because you work unholy hours and generally neglect your home life, then maybe a dog isn’t for you.
A dog needs to spend quality time with you as well. After all, he’s waited for you to come home all day. Playing with a dog can be exhausting, especially if he’s an exuberant puppy. Again, this is something you should be looking forward to all day – not a task that you want done and over with.
Vacations or business trips add to the complexity. You will need to find someone to dog sit because he will get very lonely without you. If you can’t find someone to housesit, then you may have to find a good kennel. Finding the right kennel can also be time-consuming, not to mention expensive.
On the whole, dogs tend to cost more than cats. The bigger the dog, the more food he needs – and the bigger the droppings to be picked up. He also requires periodic grooming and bathing. You can do this yourself or bring him to a professional groomer, but it needs to be done because, unlike a cat, he won’t do it himself.
These may sound like a lot of downsides, but dogs want to be totally involved in your life. They love every moment you spend with them. If you like taking car trips, you’ve got a faithful buddy who is happy to go. If you like to exercise, you’ll find no other partner as committed. Their eagerness to please makes them more amenable to obeying your commands.
Dogs also perform many roles, such as watchdogs. Although they should be chosen as companions first, dogs make many people feel safer. Indeed, dogs are considered the best “house alarms” one can own.
Downsides and Upsides to Cats
Cats don’t make good burglar alarms and are not likely to scare off intruders. And few cats will take to a leash unless training is begun at an early age. Cats are not pack animals, so they don’t have an innate need to please you. If a cat learns a trick, it’s because she wants to.
Cats require some grooming, such as nail trims, as well as periodic brushing. Although she doesn’t have to go outside to go to the bathroom, her litter box needs to be scooped every day, and the litter needs to be changed weekly or, at least, once every two weeks.
And the cat’s famous independence is also a consideration. Because she doesn’t feel the need to please, a cat will approach you for affection when she wants to be petted and stroked. Can your ego stand catering to your pet’s whims?
But because a cat is more independent, they can be left alone for longer periods of time. Although a cat will miss you, she doesn’t depend on you to be home right at 5 p.m. for a walk. If you are gone for longer periods, your cat will do well with a house sitter, but she can also get by with someone feeding and checking up on her twice a day.
When you do get home, you can lie on the couch and vegetate; she’ll probably be happy to curl up with you for a nap. Cats do need play time, but the effort is less taxing on you because she’ll do the running and jumping.
And finally, cats may hate cars, but they are more easily moved than a dog. As mentioned earlier in this piece, rentals are more likely to accept a cat than a dog. For the person who moves around a lot, this is ideal.
Here are some questions to ask when deciding between a dog and a cat.
- Are you the active, outdoorsy type? If you want to play with your pet outside, a dog may be the right choice. This isn’t to say that cats cannot be taken outside under your close supervision or walked on a leash, but a dog is much more likely to enjoy the experience.
- Do you mind daily walks? Remember, this is necessary for a dog in rain, sleet or snow, unless you have a specific place for your dog to go in the house.
- What does your family want? Choosing a dog or cat should be a family decision.
- Do you have children under 7 years old? Experts say children should be between 7 and 9 years old before getting a dog. Dogs may not tolerate the antics of children, or they may even hurt children accidentally during play. Although you should always keep an eye on the kids and the pets together, it is even more important with a dog.
- How neat are you? Living with a pet usually means cleaning up hair. Some dogs and cats shed less than others, but all do shed to an extent. Dogs generally require more clean up, even if they are housebroken. Some breeds drool a lot, which will give you something more to clean up.
- Do you want to feel needed? Dogs and cats may both get excited and greet you when you come home, but a dog will stay excited. A cat will seek affection on her terms, not yours.
- Do you need to be “Number 1”? A properly trained dog (one that doesn’t see himself as the alpha wolf) will look to you for leadership and strive to please you. Your relationship with your cat will not be that one-sided. Her independence may bring your relationship to that of equal (or even higher than you).