how do i know if i should get a cat or dog

Should I Get a Cat or a Dog? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

by Amy Smith - 6/19/19

Are you a cat person or a dog person? For those who have made up their minds, there’s no question which pet is best, and those folks will tout their favorite as the final word in fur buddies. But if you’re interested in acquiring a pet and haven’t yet decided whether to get a dog or a cat, you can use these questions to help you decide which type of pet will be the best fit for you.

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1. How Much Time Can I Dedicate to Exercising and Playing With a Pet?

In general, dogs require more time and attention than cats. Since dogs are pack animals by nature, they need companionship and interaction daily, as well as an owner who shows he’s boss by teaching the dog to follow commands. Most dogs want to play often and need to be walked or exercised for at least half an hour every day. Some more active breeds require far more exercise than that. Most cats enjoy attention, too, and will appreciate petting and scratching. However, a cat doesn’t need to be walked and can get along just fine with no attention for a day or two if you must be gone (provided you leave him plenty of food and fresh water).

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2. How Much Room Do We Have?

A cat is adaptable to nearly any space, from wide open rural areas to small city apartments. Cats are happy to roam and wander as much as they can, but they’re also content to live mostly indoors. Dogs, on the other hand, require more space. If you have a breed that needs lots of exercise, a big fenced yard is ideal for letting your dog run at times when you can’t walk him. Parks, woods or at least quiet streets are a must for walking your dog every day. If you live in a small apartment, a large, active dog may not be the right choice.

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3. Would I Rather Scoop a Litter Box or Pick Up in the Yard? How About Vacuuming?

Another important consideration is the amount of cleanup your pet will require. Cats are easily litter-box-trained, but the litter will need to be scooped every day for cat feces and completely changed each week. By contrast, dogs must be trained to save their eliminations for outdoors. You can expect to take your dog for “bathroom breaks” three to five times a day once he’s housetrained, and of course you’ll need to pick up any droppings and dispose of them. Another aspect of pet cleanup is the fur your dog or cat will shed. Dogs tend to leave more fur around, but a long-haired cat can also produce a significant amount of fur. Ask yourself how much vacuuming you can handle before making your big decision.

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4. How Much Money Can We Spend on a Pet?

Besides the upfront cost of buying or adopting a pet, you’ll need to pay for spaying/neutering procedures, routine vaccinations and checkups, food, litter, crate or bed, leash and collar, toys and treats. According to one source, the cost of owning a dog is slightly higher the first year ($1,270 for dogs versus $1,070 for cats). However, the costs appear to even out after that, with the care for both dogs and cats averaging out to approximately $700 per year.

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5. Do I Want Snuggles or Just a Casual Wave?

Dogs have earned the reputation of being “man’s best friend” because of the well-known bond that often develops between humans and their dogs. Most people agree that dogs tend to show more affection and loyalty to their owners. Perhaps because they are not naturally socialized in groups, cats seem more independent and even aloof, rarely looking to their owners for constant companionship and praise. So if you want a super-snuggly fur baby who sleeps on your bed, keeps your feet warm in the evenings, romps with you or learns tricks, a dog may be a better choice. If you don’t mind having a more distant relationship and letting your cat do his own thing when he’s just not feeling the love, you may be cut out to be a cat’s companion.

Amy Smith is a writer, specializing in family and parenting topics. She teaches English, Latin, and music at a private school and lives with her husband and five children on a small homestead in rural Pennsylvania.