I grew up with cats and dogs, so deciding on the pets to welcome into my furry family was always a no-brainer. If you’re in the early stages of your own pet-finding mission, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself.
Do you need instant gratification or constant positive reinforcement from a companion?
While it is true that both dogs and cats provide their owners with unconditional love and companionship, cats tend to do so a bit less enthusiastically. Most dogs will be waiting by the door with a wagging tail and a favorite toy in their mouth. A cat is just as likely to gaze at you from that sunny spot by the window, recognize that you have returned, then go back to sleeping and sun bathing. You may get a contented yawn or meow, but most cats do not stand at the door eagerly awaiting the sound of your key in the lock. This doesn’t mean your cat loves you any less, it just means that from a social perspective, cats and dogs are completely different animals. So if you are the type of person who needs to see and know that you are loved with grand gestures, a cat may not be the right pet for you.
Are you a neat freak or can you handle a little mess around the house?
In theory you might think dogs would be messier than cats; to some degree they are. With a dog, there is much more potential for drool, scratched-up hardwood floors, tumbleweed-like hair clumps in every corner, or chewed-up shoes. But consider that the majority of cats will require a litter box that needs to be scooped daily. Most dogs are on the outside potty plan, but having an indoor pet bathroom (also known as a litter box) may be too gross for some owners. You should also consider that your cat probably will be able to reach almost every horizontal surface in your house. Though cats are fastidiously clean animals, there is likely to be cat hair in places you would never find dog hair (counters, dressers, closet shelves, stovetops). Finally, let’s not forget about hairballs. While dogs do occasionally have bouts of tummy troubles, it is much more common for cats to leave little reminders of just how much they like to groom themselves.
Are you an outdoorsy active person, or do you prefer relaxing indoors during your down time?
Your average dog simply loves the outdoors. Walks, hikes, climbs, runs, swims. Don’t these all sound like really fun ways to spend your time if you are a dog? Your average cat, on the other hand, would usually prefer to be curled up beside you on the couch while you binge-watch Game of Thrones or read a book. Grab a laser pointer or a feather toy for a few minutes and your cat will be content to just relax for the rest of the day. Of course, cats need exercise as much as dogs, but the caveat? The required energy expenditure from the owner is much less with cats.
Do you have a green thumb and lots of houseplants?
Many houseplants and flowers are toxic and can cause stomach upset in dogs and cats. But some plants, like peace lilies, are potentially deadly to cats. In general, cats are more likely than dogs to find your plants and flowers interesting to eat. Cats are also much more likely to be able to reach counters and shelves where you may have carefully placed those plants. Some cats have no interest in such things, but the vast majority do, and even more so when they are young. For these reasons, you should consider if you would be willing to give up having plants or flowers in the house.
Do you prefer things quiet, or do you like a little noise in your life?
One area where there is not much comparison between dogs and cats is the noise factor. Dogs bark. Some dogs bark a lot. Dogs also whine, yip, yowl, howl, cry, and pant. Cats do meow, sometimes loudly, but in general they are among the quietest of companions.
Finally, would you be offended if someone called you a cat person?
People who own one or two dogs are generally just considered people who have dogs. Agree with it or not, people who own two or more cats are usually labeled cat people. This is not necessarily a bad thing. If you own cats, you like cats, if you own dogs you like dogs, and if you own both you like both. But there are some negative connotations to that cat person label, especially if you are a single woman with more than one cat. For this reason, you may need to have a slightly thicker skin if you choose to have a cat or cats.
At the end of the day, any pet is a huge commitment in exchange for a lifetime of love, laughter, and companionship. The decision to get a new pet should be one that considers your lifestyle, as well as the financial requirements of food, supplies, and proper veterinary care. But most any cat owner will tell you, nothing compares to purrs, head butts, and a gentle paw on your leg at the end of a long, hard day.