So you’re thinking of getting a pet… but which should you get?
I was inspired to write this by a comment on my post about owning our French Bulldog for 1 year. Having spent my life growing up with multiple cats and only recently becoming a dog person, I thought I might be able to help answer this question…
The Pros of Cats
- They are cheaper
Okay, I’m talking in general here. There are people who spend £££s on their cats and there are people who probably go through life spending minimal amounts on their dogs. Generally though, cats are often cheaper to buy in the first place, their food, vets bills and insurance premiums are cheaper, and most people don’t spend much on toys/beds/activities for their cats.
- They are clean
Most cats wash themselves almost obsessively, and most of the time they are easier to house train than dogs. They’re also less interested in rolling around in mud and animal poo than dogs are.
- They do their own thing
I’d say cats are great for busy people, because you can basically just give them food and water and clean their litter tray, and leave them to do their own thing. They don’t rely on you to provide entertainment and exercise, and they’re happy just snoozing on their own for hours a day.
- They are calm and comforting
If you want to be quiet and alone, or if you want to lie in bed all day or have a sick/duvet day, cats are happy to accommodate that. They’ll just curl up with you and provide company and soft fluff for you to stroke (unless you have disinterested, unaffectionate cats, which trust me, does happen).
- They are (less) destructive
I say this with hesitation, because actually it’s harder to train cats not to do something (ie, if kitty scratches up your sofa/carpet and you shout at her, she’s just gonna keep doing it when you’re out). BUT they don’t quite have the capacity, jaw strength, or body mass to do any real damage, unlike dogs.
- They’re easier to leave
By this I mean you can generally go out and leave said cat while you’re at work and not worry about what mischief it’s getting up to, and it’s also easier to go on holiday because it’s easier to find someone willing to come in to your house once a day to top up food and water than it is to find someone who wants to full-time look after your dog.
The Cons of Cats
- You don’t always get what you put in
As I mentioned above, it is possible to get cats that are disinterested and unaffectionate. In fact, it’s quite common (especially with young cats). You can spend all the time and money in the world making a fuss of your cat, but if it doesn’t want to hang out with you and cuddle on the sofa, it just won’t. In my opinion, cats don’t ‘give back’ as much as dogs do, but that might be just what you want!
- You need to live somewhere safe
Unless you want to have an ‘indoor cat’ (I’m just gonna put out there that I don’t really agree with that btw), you generally need to be living in a house or a ground floor flat, ideally with a garden, but most importantly, in a location that isn’t near any fast roads. Estates are ideal. For most dogs (I know you get some escape-artists), this doesn’t matter because they can’t climb like cats over fences etc, and you can exercise them with walks instead.
- They can’t be your ‘full-time buddy’
You can’t take your cat with you to places, so they’re basically just your house friend. With dogs, you can take them on walks, into some shops, into some cafes/restaurants and even some hotels – so they are an all-round companion.
- They bring animals in for you to deal with
My least favourite thing about cats is their habit of catching (and not always necessarily killing) small animals and rodents and bringing them into your home. If you don’t want to find half-alive birds and squealing baby rats under the bed every week get an older cat!
The Pros of Dogs
- You do get what you put in(!!)
I put exclamation marks here because I think this is the main benefit of dogs. The time, effort and money you put in to caring for and training your dog is directly related to what you get out of it. A happy, healthy and well socialised/trained dog is a loving dog that will be your devoted companion forever!
- You’ll be encouraged to exercise more
This is a side-benefit really, but absolutely an important one! Cats kind of encourage you to sit and home and snuggle in front of Netflix, but dogs are like ‘C’MON LET’S GO OUTSIDE!!’ so you kind of have to get up and do it, like your own in-house personal trainer.
- You’ll get the best greeting ever each day
One of my favourite things ever is getting home and being greeted by excitable Pepper leaping up for hugs. How can you ever feel sad when you’ve got that?
- They give you a (bigger) sense of responsibility
Cats are like the stepping stone of responsibility. Yes, you have to feed/water/clean up after them, but you can still get on with your life (ie, go on day trips, long holidays, and go out partying all night). Meanwhile I feel like dogs are very much the step before a baby. You may wonder why I’ve put this as a positive, but I think having a dog can be helpful to understand where you are in life. You might experience having a dog and realise you’re not ready for kids, or you may realise you love being a ‘dog-parent’ so why not be a human-parent too?
- They provide a great excuse and/or ice-breaker
As an introvert who feel exhausted after an hour or two of social interaction, I love being able to play the ‘Sorry I have to get home to let the dog out’ card. It also provides me with a great conversation starter, because who doesn’t love puppies?
The Cons of Dogs
- They are more expensive
Categorically speaking, they really are. Not even considering the cost of food, insurance and annual vaccines, they’re still expensive. Why? Because: They eat things they shouldn’t and get up to mischief every other month, resulting in a vet bill here and another vet bill there. They go through chews and toys within 5 minutes, so expect to include a monthly toy budget too. They might be the kind of dog who wants to rip up dog beds/cushions, so there’s a replacement cost. They may need the occasional trip to the groomers, or a ‘doggy day care’ stay when you can’t find anyone to look after them. This all costs £££.
- They are more effort
My daily routine is based around my dog. This sounds extreme, but it’s fairly common! I get up an hour earlier than I would otherwise have to each day so I can walk Pepper, play with her and feed her before I start work so that she is tired. Then we stop work, play with her some more, then eat lunch, then do some training with treats. She needs constant stimulation or else she won’t sleep while we work in the afternoon. Then at 5pm we go on a long walk before coming home to give her food and feed ourselves. We try to squeeze cleaning and general life stuff around this routine, and it’s hard, but all that play and walking is completely necessary with a young dog. Can you fit that into your life?
- They’re not always clean
Most dogs like to get muddy and/or roll in stuff that they shouldn’t. Some dogs don’t (we are lucky), but I’d still say they’re not as hygienic as cats are.
- They can be destructive
Dogs, and particularly puppies, have an in-built, natural urge to chew things and explore with their mouths. Couple that with a tendency to get separation anxiety when you’re not there, and you’ll have some fun messes to sort out. One way to avoid this chaos is by crate training, which I would suggest everyone try!
- They’re not easy to leave
Because of the things mentioned above (destructive-ness, separation anxiety), it can be a worry when you go out and leave your dog unattended. Again, crate training removes this worry, BUT it does mean there is a limit to how long you can go out for (we don’t leave Pepper alone for more than 3 hours in the crate, absolute maximum 4). All this means it’s hard to go out for day trips, long weekends, or holidays – you have to think far ahead and possibly shell out more money to be able to do those things.
- You can get way too attached to them
I am the kind of dog-person that loves their dog like a baby. Not everyone is like that, most people recognise that their dog is an animal and a pet. But if you do happen to get obsessively attached to your dog (like I have), things can get tricky later in life. Touch wood I don’t have to deal with this any time soon (she’s only 1 year old!), but I already have moments of panic where I don’t know how I’m going to react when one day Pepper isn’t with us anymore.
PS. I’ve also written a post previously about 10 things you can’t do when you have a puppy.
Okay, so when you look at the above it looks like cats come out top, but honestly it totally depends on your priorities. Overall, if you have a relatively busy lifestyle and would like to continue going out in the evenings and going on holidays without worry, I’d say a cat is for you.
On the other hand, if you want to go to the next level of responsibility and have a full-time companion who needs you and loves you unconditionally, I’d suggest a dog!