It's an old question, and to some a first-date necessity: Are you a dog person or a cat person? In their respective roles as both work animals and pets (and sometimes even gods), dogs and cats have lived alongside humans for thousands of years. Meanwhile, the persistent dogs versus cats comparison has been running a parallel course.
A first cut at determining which is the better pet to own invariably focuses on the associated costs of dogs versus cats. We found that variables like the price of food, toys, and even pet insurance depend on the breed as much as the type of animal. Some small dogs eat less than a common house cat, for example, and some purebred cats may require more care than a mixed breed dog. An article we posted recently researched the expenses attached to owning dogs or cats and found that purebreds and specialty breeds (such as the goldendoodle) are the most expensive to acquire regardless. Some breeds of cats and dogs are also highly susceptible to developing illnesses and are vulnerable to particular genetic disorders. These factors raise the cost of pet medical insurance and the potential for pricey veterinary bills.
But letting raw dollars sway the choice between a dog or a cat seems crass. Owning and caring for a pet is, after all, an emotional experience. So we spoke with cat and dog owners and asked what makes one animal a better pet than the other.
Attention and Care.
A common theme voiced by the cat people in support of their preference is that dogs require much more time and attention. One woman who owns two cats acknowledges that caring for them is a lot of responsibility but ultimately less work intensive than a dog. She says she never feels guilty when leaving the house because cats are relatively independent, and they play with each other when in need of companionship. Leaving a dog at home, she continues, would not be quite so care-free.
Although some pet owners and wannabes regard cats' seeming indifference to their masters as a big negative, this feline lover frames their behavior differently. "It means that when my cats are affectionate I never take it for granted," she explains. What about skittish cats that hide when a stranger comes by? "Your friends may never realize how awesome your cat is," she continues, "but it makes you feel special to be the person they're bonded to."
Even some folks who are more inclined to label themselves dog people ultimately opt for a cat. "I'd enjoy the time I spend with a dog more than with a cat," declares another pet owner, "but a dog demands so much more attention and care."
Others remain undeterred. The owner of a small white Maltese concedes that the responsibilities that come with owning a dog are demanding at times but that high price is redeemed by the perks. "You'll likely meet neighbors you would never have known otherwise," she notes, "and in a big city dog runs are generally social places, so you get to know the regulars and make connections and friendships." This owner even suggests ways dogs can be used to help others: A well-trained dog can be certified as a therapy dog, for example, and you can volunteer with the pooch at a hospital. "It's a great way to give back," she says.
We eventually found someone to weigh in on dogs versus cats who had experienced an epiphany of sorts. "My entire life I felt I was a cat person," the woman explains, "but once my family adopted a dog I realized how wrong I'd been." For her, the interactive friendship, the sense of comfort that comes with frisky cuddling, and the treasured ritual of morning walks won her over. "Dogs go out of the way to make you happy," she concludes, "and while I love my kitty, she just doesn't participate as much in our friendship."