Dog or Cat for a One Pet House Hold- How Do You Choose?

Cat laying on Dog

Congratulations! You’ve decided to bring a new little four-legger into your family’s home. Now comes the big decision: should you get a dog or a cat? Here are a few things to consider as you make your decision.  

  1. How much time do you spend away from your home?

    Cats are much more independent than dogs. Most dogs need your companionship and will not do well left to their own devices over long periods of time. A lonely, bored dog will likely become destructive. You may come home to chewed furniture, woodwork, and even sheetrock! (Think about the scene in Turner and Hooch where Hooch decides the laundry room just isn’t his thing.)

    Dog and Cat Standing together
    Dogs need your companionship much more than cats.

    Cats, on the other hand, aren’t nearly so punitive when they miss you. Occasionally, a cat will mark his territory with urine, but this seems to happen whether you are home or away. Cats will do okay with just food and water to last throughout your time away. They may be lonely, but they don’t generally take it out on you, at least not destructively.

  3. Do you have a job for your pet?

    If you are a hunter or if you need a guard for your home, dogs hold the advantage. Dogs were made to serve us, sometimes on the hunting field, sometimes on the farm. Even though many, if not most, dogs today are used solely for companionship, they retain their ability and desire to perform work. So much so, in fact, that they are classified according to their original purpose: Hounds, Working Dogs, Herders, etc.

    Cats, not so much. Cats live to be served, for the most part. Although they give back their fair share of love and affection, they don’t necessarily have a useful purpose in helping us out with any work.

  5. What is your budget for pet care?

    Depending on size, a dog can be quite a bit more expensive than a cat. Large dogs eat more, and you will pay more for veterinary care for a large animal than for a small one. Of course, if your taste runs to small dogs, the costs may be comparable to a cat.

  6. How new are your carpets?

    This may seem like an odd question, until you consider that cats use their litter boxes pretty much out of instinct, and will do so with little-to-no training or prompting from you. Dogs, on the other hand, have a pretty steep learning curve when it comes to being house trained. You will clean up many, many, many messes on your floors before you can develop any level of confidence that your dog will ask to go outside when the need arises.

  7. Puppy and kitten sitting
    Playtime is important for both you and your pet.
  8. How much time do you have to spend playing with your pet?

    One of the joys of having a pet in the family is that you can spend time playing together. With a cat, you might pull a piece of string along the floor for the animal to chase or provide a small ball that jingles when the cat bats it around. Dogs come with a wide variety of interests.

    You might find yourself throwing a tennis ball ad nauseum or playing tug-of-war with a rope. Many dogs also like puzzles where they must work for their dinners. Cats enjoy play time, but some dog breeds actually require it. Dogs who were made for hunting, herding, or other active pursuits will not be happy laying around your house like a doorstop.

  10. Do you plan on entering competitions with your pet?

    Cats often participate in conformance shows, but beyond that, their competitive opportunities are extremely limited. A wide variety of activities have become popular for our canine friends. Conformance shows are a big draw for the purebred set, but even mutts have lots of choices for competitive pursuits. Agility, flyball, and dock-diving are just a few of your options.

  11. Man and Dog Paw Shake
    Puppies love to chew. You'll need to puppy proof your home.
  12. What’s your tolerance for shoe chewing?

    When puppies bring in new teeth, nothing is sacred. They chew on shoes, cords, furniture, and everything else they can find. Cats bring in their new teeth without a lot of hoopla. You must be continually vigilant at keeping everything out of the puppy’s reach if you hope to salvage your stuff.

  13. How long do you intend to keep your pet?

    Cats generally have a longer life-span than most dogs. In general, the larger the dog, the shorter the life-span. For example, giant breeds like Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds may live only 7 – 8 years, while terriers may live into their mid-teens. Cats usually survive into their teens. Of course, either species may have a shortened life due to disease or injury.

  14. How much grooming do you want to do?

    Most cats are fully capable of grooming themselves. Long-haired breeds may need some assistance with mat removal, but for the most part, keeping a cat looking good is generally much easier than caring for your dog’s hygiene. Most dogs require at least occasional bathing, brushing, ear cleaning, and nail clipping. Both dogs and cats may require your assistance with tooth brushing.

  15. What’s your gut say?

    Most people have a definite preference for cats or dogs. For whatever reason, people will describe themselves as “cat people” or “dog people.” The conflict arises when you marry a person of the opposite persuasion. If you can bring home one of each, that may solve the problem, but that may be outside the range of possibilities for your home.

    You might expect that on a dog-devotee site, we’d encourage everyone to bring home a dog. However, we believe that matching the pet to the family is of utmost importance in promoting healthy relationships. Just as we encourage people to learn a lot about the dog breed they think they want to bring home, we would equally note the importance of giving some consideration to the species, as well.

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