Cat vs. Dog: Which Pet is Best for Me?

BY SAVANNAH ADMIRE

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Adopting a pet can bring joy, friendship, and unconditional love into your life, and even improve your mental health and well-being. But if you’ve never had a pet before, it can be challenging to choose between a dog or a cat. Both can offer playtime, snuggles, and companionship, but each pet may be better suited to specific homes and lifestyles. Learn all about cats vs. dogs as pets and which one is best for you.

What do cats and dogs have in common?

Let’s start with the similarities between these two pets. Both cats and dogs:

  • Provide affection and companionship to their pet parents
  • Boost their pet parent’s mental and even physical health
  • Can add color and joy to your life
  • Motivate you to take care of yourself as well

10 Differences between cats and dogs as pets

There are some big differences between cats and dogs too. Taking care of a dog, especially a puppy, is more comparable to having a young child than a cat. Dogs require much more attention, training, and time, from house training (which takes a lot of patience) to learning basic commands like sit and stay.

On the flip side of the cats vs. dogs debate, cats instinctively know how to use a litter box and often only need to learn where the box is to consistently use it (most of the time). And unlike dogs, cats don’t need your constant presence or attention, although they often like having you around. Here is a breakdown of 10 differences between cats vs. dogs.

1. Lifespan

A dog’s lifespan varies based on breed, size, and health issues, but smaller dogs usually have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years, while larger dogs live to 10 to 12 years of age. Cats tend to live significantly longer, averaging 15 to 20 years.

2. Personality

When comparing dog vs. cat personalities, it’s important to understand the biggest difference is that dogs are pack animals, which means that dogs tend to be very social and enjoy being around people, especially their families. Dogs like to please and are eager to learn new tricks and commands and do them well in order to make their human parents happy. If you want a pet who will snuggle up to you on the couch, a dog is often a good choice since they enjoy attention and closeness.

Cats are more solitary animals in the wild, and this trait is apparent in their more independent nature. To many people, cats seem more aloof than dogs because they’re often around the house doing their own thing and only seek out attention when they crave it. Cats like having their own space, and while a dog may cozy up to you at night, a cat is more likely to roam the house and use the late hours as playtime.

3. Training

Dogs are usually easier to train than cats — which is good because dogs often need much more training since they more frequently interact with people and need to do so safely. Because of their pack mentality, dogs look for a leader and are more obedient. Positive reinforcement works well for training dogs, especially if they’re food-motivated. Keep in mind, however, that every dog has their own personality, and some may do better with training than others. And if you’re a new pup parent, know that house training takes a lot of time and patience on your part.

While cats may be more independent (not to mention flexible), they still require some training. Fortunately, you don’t have to train your cat to use a litter box as they will quickly pick it up on their own. But you likely will have to train a cat to use scratching posts rather than your furniture and may have to train away unwanted behaviors, like jumping on counters. Some cats even enjoy learning tricks, just like dogs.

4. Grooming

Comparing cats vs. dogs’ grooming needs, cats are much more low-maintenance because they clean themselves and only need a bath if they get messy in some way. However, you should still brush your cat at least once a week to help reduce shedding and avoid matted fur.

Depending on the breed and type of coat, a dog may require regular grooming and even regular trims to keep them healthy and clean. At the bare minimum, your dog should have a bath every six to eight weeks, as well as regular brushing. For more extensive grooming, you may want to hire the services of a professional dog groomer.

5. Living space

Dogs do well with plenty of space to run and play, so if you have a fenced backyard, this pet may be a good fit for you. But because dogs are so adaptable, many dogs can still be happy in a small apartment or home. So, if you have limited space be prepared to find outlets for their energy whether that means a walk around the neighborhood or joining you for a hike or jog.

Cats need far less space than dogs, making them perfect companions for those who live in smaller homes. A cat can get all their exercise by playing indoors, which is also a great bonding opportunity for you and your pet.

6. Exercise

Dogs require a lot of mental and physical stimulation, which means regular playtime and walks. Because of their need for fresh air and movement, dogs are often best for people with fenced backyards and plenty of space and time for daily exercise. As a bonus, having a dog can encourage you to exercise as well — another way that pets can be good for your health.

Cats get plenty of exercise through indoor playtime and can even entertain themselves. Unlike dogs, cats don’t require regular walks, making them better companions for people with busy or less active lifestyles.

7. Noise

Dogs can sometimes be loud, depending on their temperament. Some dogs are more prone to barking and howling, which can be disruptive to both you and your neighbors, especially if you live in an apartment or condo.

Cats tend to be quieter pets, and even at their loudest, they often aren’t as vocal as their canine counterparts.

8. Poop

No one wants to deal with poop, but it’s part of pet parenthood. Adopting a dog means cleaning up after them on walks — and likely in your home during house training. But at least dogs use the restroom outside. Cats go indoors in a litter box, which can be a no-go for some potential pet parents, especially because you’ll be responsible for keeping the litter box clean. If you don’t, the pungent odor of cat urine and poop will quickly take over your house.

9. Behaviors

Cats and dogs also have significant behavioral differences. Dogs are often known for being mischievous, especially when left alone, from digging holes in the backyard to jumping on guests. Fortunately, with patience and positive reinforcement, these undesirable behaviors can be trained away. Cats have their own brand of shenanigans, such as scratching up furniture, and felines allowed outdoors can be dangerous to local wildlife like birds, which is a good reason to keep your cat inside.

10. Costs

Dogs tend to be more expensive to care for, partly because they’re more prone to health issues and injuries caused by physical activity. If you travel, dogs will also need to be boarded in a kennel or you will have to hire a pet sitter, and some dog parents also choose to send their pups to daycare while they’re at work for the day. Add on food, toys, training classes, and multiple other needs, and the cost of taking care of a dog can add up.

Because cats are a bit more independent, they really only rely on their human parents for food and a clean litter box which means they tend to cost less. Cat toys also tend to be cheaper than dog toys, and while cats still need annual vet visits, they’re less likely to become injured and require additional medical care.

Man petting cat while dog sits by and watching

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Cats vs. dogs: What pet is best for me?

Cats and dogs aren’t the only ones with different personalities — you can easily compare the differences between “dog people” vs. “cat people” too. “Dog people” tend to be more extroverted and social, eager to make friends and be around other people. Cat parents, on the other hand, may be more introverted but also tend to be more open: a trait that includes appreciation for art, adventure, imagination, and curiosity.

According to one study, while both cat people and dog people share a love for their pets, people with dogs are more likely to be involved in active pursuits such as sports, dancing, and travel when contrasted with cat people, whose hobbies are more likely to be reading, gardening, and writing.

Signs I should get a dog

Dog parenthood is not for everyone, but here are a few signs that adopting a dog is right for you:

  • You have an active lifestyle and love to be outside.
  • Your job allows you the extra time to care for and train a pet.
  • You want a pet to snuggle with and cuddle.
  • You don’t travel frequently (or you’re prepared to take your pup with you).

Signs I should get a cat

Cat parenthood is often for the more independent animal lovers. A cat may be a good pet for you if:

  • You work long hours or have a demanding job.
  • You travel often.
  • You live in a small space.
  • You have a lower budget for pet care.

Consider adopting a cat or dog

Every pet requires attention, time, money, play, love, and regular veterinary care. Each animal has their own personality and characteristics, so before you adopt a dog or cat, it’s important to spend time with a potential pet and determine if they’re a good fit for you and your lifestyle. If you’re ready for the commitment explore available dogs and cats on Adopt a Pet.

FAQ (People Also Ask)

Are cats easier to care for than dogs?

Cats are easier to care for than dogs because they require less time and attention, and their independent nature makes it a little easier to meet their needs.

Are dogs more active than cats?

Dogs are much more active than cats and they require more exercise and time outdoors to run off energy, while cats can get plenty of playtime and exercise inside.

Are dogs cleaner than cats?

Cats tend to be a bit neater than dogs, partly because they groom themselves frequently. Dogs spend more time outside, so they’re more likely to track in dirt or mud.

Who is more loyal, a cat or a dog?

Dogs are considered more loyal than cats — remember that pack mentality? — they have evolved over thousands of years to form deep bonds with people. But, cats can be incredibly loyal when shown love and care.

Resources

Pet-Human Relationships: Dogs versus Cats

Research Shows Personality Differences Between Cat and Dog People

New research shows why cats are more independent than dogs


Savannah Admire is a writer, editor, and pet parent to two dogs and a cat. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing Animal Crossing, or being an obnoxious nerd about her favorite movies and TV shows. She lives in Maryland, where she constantly debates whether or not to get a third dog.

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