Some of us out there are pretty dedicated dog or cat people. We simply do not vibe with the other species. Maybe we have a lot more experience with one than the other. But a lot of us are a little more equal-opportunity. Forget dog person vs cat person- we’d have a brown bear and a duck-billed platypus if it weren’t illegal and highly irresponsible.
So if you’ve got room in your heart, home, and wallet for just one new pet, you have to ask yourself: do dogs or cats suit you better? We’ve got some experience in this area, so here are a few things to keep in mind.
Dogs need a daily routine/schedule.
This is a huge consideration. On one hand, that’s part of the great thing about being a pet owner. Having a dog who needs to be fed and let out can be a reason to literally get out of bed in the morning. It can provide structure to your day and strengthen your bond with your pet.
On the other hand, of course, it means having a dog is a big time commitment. If you work long hours or have a busy schedule, you may suddenly find that having a dog and taking their needs into account can get complicated. It’s certainly not impossible- services like ours (4-Legged Kids Pet Sitting and Dog Walking!) can be a big help, whether it’s a regular thing (like a daily lunchtime potty break) or a hand during an unusually busy time or during a crisis. Dog daycare can be a good option for some pups. You may even be able to rely on your own family or friends for backup in a pinch. But it is something to take into consideration before choosing a dog as a pet.
If you do have a very busy schedule, jam-packed social calendar, or already know that there may be major factors that can make your day-to-day unpredictable (such as a chronic condition that may require frequent hospital stays or a competitive extracurricular activity that takes top priority in your family life), a cat may be the better choice. While cats, of course, still require attention and love and time, their basic physical needs can usually be met with a fairly quick once-a-day visit. That shouldn’t be the daily norm, but if it’s an extra-busy week at work, having a cat means you don’t necessarily have to make special arrangements. As long as you take five minutes to scoop their litter box and fill their food and water bowls before you drop into bed, they’ll survive.
Both species can be loving and affectionate
… Or not. Cats and dogs show their love in different ways. With dogs, it’s usually more obvious and on-the-surface. They’re always ready to party. They have zero chill. Cats can be a little more inscrutable, especially with strangers, which can be off-putting to “dog people.” But, as any feline aficionado can tell you, when a cat loves you, they will absolutely let you know. They may not literally jump up and down when they see you, but they have other ways of showing it.
There are many snuggly, outgoing, adventurous cats out there, just as there are plenty of aloof or independent dogs. If it’s important to you that your pet be in your grill all the time, consider adopting an adult cat. That way, you know what their personality is really like and can choose a more “dog-like” kitty.
Dogs require outside time.
Even if you’re training them to use potty pads inside to relieve themselves, outdoor time is essential for a healthy and well-rounded canine. Dogs need exercise and the chance to see, hear, and smell new things.
On one hand, again, this is one of the great things about dogs. If you need some motivation to get outside, a dog may suit you better! They don’t care if you don’t feel like it or had a busy day. They’ll hold you to your commitment. It also means they (depending on the dog), can go places with you. Cats in general are not excellent co-pilots and not going to be up for attending Shakespeare in the Park or having playdates with your friends’ cats.
On the other hand, not needing to go outside is one of the great things that makes cats low-maintenance. Not everybody has the kind of life or home setup that makes daily outside time easily doable. What if you live in a high-rise? What if you’re elderly or disabled and not able to manage your dog on walks? What if you live in some really silly climate where the weather outside is dangerously hot or cold for months on end? Once again, of course, we can help make sure that your best pal gets a daily walk, but there are definitely some situations where it might make more sense to go for a best pal who doesn’t need one.
Cats are easier to train… sort of
My cat was born and lived his first three-ish years of life on the street. There were no litter boxes or laser pointers or fountains. And yet, on his first night indoors, he already knew how to use a litter box and has done so diligently ever since.
Most of what your average cat does on a daily basis, they don’t do because someone set out to deliberately teach them how. They definitely learn your routines and often get some idea of your preferences and may respect some of your rules. You may have done some work with them to teach them things like “hands are not toys” and “nail trims are not grounds for justifiable homicide,” but for the most part, cats do what they want.
Dogs, on the other hand, have to be carefully taught a lot of the basics. How to pee outside. How to walk on leash. What they can and can’t chew. What they can and can’t eat. All sorts of basic manners.
The flip side of this is that, along with having to learn the basics, dogs can more easily be taught all kinds of cool stuff! Sure, cats can sometimes learn tricks, but there’s a reason you don’t see cats in public leading the blind or assisting the police. If you want a pet who will do agility or dock diving or circus tricks, unless you’re a very skilled trainer, a dog is the way to go.
The other problem with cats doing most of the good stuff just by instinct is that, when they don’t, solving the problem can be complicated. If a cat, for example, stops using their litter box reliably, the solution isn’t as simple as “train him to use his litter box again” because you didn’t train him to do it in the first place. Instead, after taking him to the vet to rule out obvious health issues, you have to try to read his mind- is he stressed? Hurting? Is it a show of dominance? Is there something about the box itself that he doesn’t like? Too small? Litter too deep? Too close to something that smells weird or makes noise? Not cleaned frequently enough? And then, once you identify a likely culprit, there’s every chance that it’s a problem you can’t or are unwilling to solve (like that you rudely brought home a human baby and it’s noisy and it stinks and it takes up all your attention and seems to attract all kinds of strangers to the house and your cat would very much appreciate it if you would get rid of it immediately, thanks very much).
In the end, both cats and dogs make excellent companions and wonderful pets. Which pet to get is a huge decision and your individual (and family) needs, resources, personality, and lifestyle should be taken into account when making it. So what have you come up with? Do dogs or cats suit you better?
Hey, have we mentioned that you can rely on us for help with your pets- dogs or cats- when life gets hectic? Whether you need a little support on an everyday basis or just when you’re in a pinch, we’re here for you. Check out our services page for more information!
Janie founded 4-Legged Kids, Inc in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1997 and provides education through her PetBizHIVE podcast and her PetBizMBA membership and courses. She is a Certified Professional Animal Care Operator, Fear Free certified and a Certified Professional Pet Sitter. Learn more about the Founder, Janie Budnick.