Over the course of history, human kind has domesticated a wide variety of animals. Most of these have been for the purposes of farming, to provide something we can eat and/or wear. Some very few types of these animals have been invited to share our homes, thus earning the title of, ‘Pet’. And, of these few, two stand clear of all others: Cats and Dogs. So, which makes the best pets, cats or dogs?
For anyone who knows me, this is going to seem like an open and shut case. I often post, ‘Spot the Kitty’ photos. Never once have I posted a, ‘Spot the Wolf’ photo. I also habitually call any and all pet dogs, “Wolf”. But, you know, only because all dogs are descended from a species of wolf that was domesticated in some distant millennia passed. Essentially, your pet is a wolf in dog’s clothing…
So, obviously, in reply to the question, “which are better, cats or dogs?”, my answer is… dogs!
Dogs are better by a country mile, no questions asked.
- Act as an emotional support or therapy animals
- Hunt rodents
- Be used as a food source: I don’t really want to know the details
- Protect your family and property
- Protect your other domesticated animals
- Act as your eyes, when you are unable to see
- Be used for hunting: tracking, retrieving and the like
- Help the police: tracking people, finding drugs, attacking people
- Be used by the military: I don’t really want to know how
Cats, on the other hand can:
- Act as an emotional support or therapy animal
- Hunt rodents
- Be a food source?!
Yep, dogs are better domestic animals than cats. It isn’t even a competition. For further evidence of this, I invite you to watch the excellent Tier Zoo video on the subject.
But, that’s not the question…
What I’m asking is, which pets are best out of cats and dogs.
And that’s far more complicated!
Let’s start by looking at what makes an animal a pet:
A pet… is an animal kept primarily for a person’s company or entertainment rather than as a working animal.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pet
So, all those extra things that dogs can do, over cats, become irrelevant when considered from the perspective of pets. Pet cats, for example, are encouraged not to catch catch rodents… The very thing that led to their domestication. Pet dogs, likewise, are not allowed to attack visitors to the family home… One of their original primary functions.
As pets only really exist to provide company and/or entertainment, that’s all we can consider. Pets don’t provide anything tangible. All they do, in return for their company, is consume time, space and resources…
Which means the question boils down to, which, out of cats and dogs, offers the best return on the investment?
Let’s assume that both cats and dogs illicit the same level of emotional response from their owners. Owners love their pets. I mean, genuine love; such that the loss of a pet is met with real anguish and suffering.
After the death of the family pet Leo, back in 2012, I was determined that I would never own another pet, such was the level of grief I felt when he died. Upon reflection, though, that decision meant that my daughters would never know the joy of sharing their childhoods with kittens. And that wasn’t fair on the girls. So we got ourselves some more pet cats.
In terms of dogs, I’ve always maintained that it’s perfectly fine for the family to get a pet dog, providing they no longer want me in the house. Basically, it’s me or a dog!
I’ll come on to the reasons for this later on.
So, in terms of emotional investment, neither cats nor dogs are best. Owners love their pets, whatever the species, with equal intensity. This has resulted in the development of the term, ‘Fur Baby’ to describe the importance of pets to their owners.
I’m not a fan of the phrase Fur Baby. It makes me feel uneasy… I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I’m British, and I see the term as being too effusive. Or because I’m a middle-aged man who doesn’t see the need for newfangled phrases, when the existing ones work perfectly fine. Possibly it’s just because I’m a miserable git…
Or maybe, just maybe, I’m a dad who, while loving his pets, understands that there should be no conflation between animals and children…
Anyway, that got a bit serious for a minute, so here’s a Spot The Kitty, to lighten the mood:
So, then, the only real emotional consideration is that of the heartache involved in the death of your beloved pet. And, because most people eventually replace their lost pets, the frequency of doing so needs to be considered. To which end, we need to know the average lifespans of cats and dogs.
And this really is an ‘average’ figure, because there are a lot of variables involved. In terms of cats, whether they live indoors or outdoors – indoor cats live significantly longer. In terms of dogs, whether it’s a a large or a small breed – smaller breeds live significantly longer. And impacting on both are things like neutering, regular visits to the vet, and the like.
But, on average, cats live to be 15 and dogs live to be 12.
This means that if a person owns pets for 60 years, they will have to cope with the loss of five dogs, compared with four cats. It’s not necessarily nice to think about, but from this aspect cats, not dogs, are best.
Talking of vets, this is another area where it is best to have a cat over a dog. Because the average dog is bigger than the average cat, vet bills for dogs tend to be higher than those for cats. Likewise insurance; higher for dogs than cats, unless it’s a really small breed of dog.
In fact, from the point of view of cost, dogs are, overall, more expensive to own. The bigger the animal, the more expensive it is to feed.
But, before I get on to food costs, I quickly want to address the cost of buying your pet. And, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to consider this to be null and void. There are plenty of places where you can adopt cats and dogs for free, so purchase cost becomes irrelevant. Indeed, unless you’re after a particular breed, my feeling is that pets should be ‘bought’ from animal rescue centers.
In terms of specific breeds and pedigrees, there is no real end to the amount of money you can spend getting a particular cat or dog. As such, again, this consideration cancels itself out.
So, back to food costs… Dogs are typically bigger, therefore they generally cost more to feed. In addition to this, cats with access to the outside will regularly supplement their diet by catching their own food…
This does have a couple of drawbacks. Firstly, cats that eat wild birds and rodents are likely to need more trips to the vets:
- Some of these prey animals fight back and can injure the cats: vet!
- Occasionally the fur and/or bones of these small animals get caught in the cat’s digestive tract: vet!
- Rarely, people will put out poison for things like rats in their gardens, cats eat the poisoned rats: vet and death!
If you live in a residential area, never put poison down, you’ll almost certainly end up killing someone’s pet…
So, while cats may be best in terms of food costs, at least dogs aren’t responsible for the deaths of literally billions of rodents and birds each year. And, as much as I love cats, it’s a genuine drawback that they kill so many things (as I’m editing this, one of the cats is eating one of the latest crop of rabbits from the horde that seems intent on digging up the garden). In terms of environmental impact, dogs are best by such a long distance, you can’t even see the cats.
Okay, going back to the costs associated with the pet’s role to provide company and entertainment. I’ve covered the financial and emotional aspects. Now let’s deal with time and space…
Cats are best in terms of space requirements, as dogs need to run around more. It’s perfectly fine to have an indoor cat, a cat that never steps outside in its life. It’s not something that I would consider, but it works. Give a cat a window to look through and a litter tray and it’ll be content with that forever. This means that cats work well for people that live in high rise flats and apartments.
While it is possible to try and keep some of the smaller breeds of dogs as indoor pets, it is rarely advised. Dogs are pack animals and they like to run. They need exercise. This is achievable with a small enough dog in a big enough home. But it wouldn’t be right for a bigger dog in a small home. Dogs typically need more space. And if you don’t have a big enough house, they you’re going to have to take them outside.
And that means time…
Dogs take up more of your time than cats. You should take dogs for at least one decent walk a day. Some breeds, of course, need much more than this. One upshot of this is that dogs get dirty, especially if it’s wet and muddy outside. Which means that they’ll need washing. It’s also recommended that dogs be bathed at least once every three months. Washing can be done weekly, or as often as needed. All of this takes time.
Cats, however, make their own way in and out, through a cat flap and wash themselves. You don’t have to spend any time on a cat. This makes a cat much lower maintenance. Which, in turn, makes it much easier to leave a cat alone for a weekend. it also makes them much less of a burden for a relative, friend or neighbour to look after, should you go on holiday for a longer period.
This also makes cats the best option, in comparison to dogs, for the considerations of time and space.
Taking all of the above, it’s very obvious that cats are the best pets.
Dogs cost more in terms of:
- Emotional distress
(You also have to pick their crap off the streets, while cats bury it in the neighbours garden… Huge bonus!)
But, owning a pet isn’t really about what they cost you. It’s about what they give you…
And, the decisive factor here, is what you want from a pet.
Because cats and dogs, while both predatory mammals, are very different indeed.
Dogs are pack animals.
Cats are solitary animals.
A dog will become part of your ‘pack’, typically treating the adult members of the household as the pack leaders. As such, dogs will feel part of your family and offer protection and devotion to the other pack members. ‘Love’, if you like. Basically dogs will want to spend time in your company and will be excited to do so.
A cat, on the other hand, will make a territory in your home. Cats will show you affection, if you know what you’re looking for. They will also seek your company, when they want to sleep. Cats run hotter than people, but sitting on a human lap is always a good way for a cat to feel warm. And safe…
A cat will fall completely asleep on your lap, to the point it starts dreaming. You can tell when this happens, because your cat will twitch it’s ears, paws and tail. It might also make growls or other noises. For a cat to allow itself to become so vulnerable is astonishing.
Now, I know that dogs sleep and dream in front of their owners as well, but it’s not the same. It goes back to the pack mentality of dogs. A pack of canines will happily sleep in groups because they can be assured that one of the pack is relatively aware if the surroundings. Which is one of the benefits of group living – someone is always watching your collective back.
Cats, though, are solitary. When they’re dreaming, they’re utterly defenseless. Anyone who has woken a dreaming cat will have seen how freaked out they look. Typically a feline will hide itself as much as possible before going into a deep sleep, as that is it’s only defense. So, for a cat to fall asleep on your lap, is an absolute display of trust.
All that said, if it’s company you’re after, you need a dog. If it’s friendship you need from a pet, you need a dog…
Dog’s are known as, “Man’s best friend” for a reason.
If you drop dead in a house with a pet dog, the mythology is that the dog will lie down by your side and pine to death.
If, however, you drop dead in a house with a pet cat, the mythology is that the cat will start eating your face before you’re fully cold.
Needless to say, neither of these is fully true. Dogs, for example, have been known to eat their dead owners, as reported by National Geographic. And a cat might not eat you…
Regardless of which pet may or may not eat you after you die, dogs make better friends.
But cats make better housemates.
If you’re looking for a pet that you can spend time with, when you’re both in the mood, then you want a cat. A cat is there, a form of company, without imposing on your time and space too much.
That said, they can be annoying, meowing bastards, when they’re hungry…! Or want you to let them out, despite there being a perfectly good cat flap… Right! There!
But overall, cats are quieter than dogs. Cats, for example don’t bark when you have a visitor. They just stare and wander off.
And while that barking can be a useful deterrent if someone is trying to break in, the same can be achieved with a warning sign and a sound track. When I was a teenager, I used to deliver the local newspaper. When I put the paper through the mailbox of one of the houses on my round, barking always started. It made me jump the first couple of times. But, in time, I recognised a pattern to barking – it was a recording. Very effective, though…
Just no need for an actual dog, to achieve the effectiveness.
A related point of this reluctance of cats to interact with new people, is that they also don’t do well with new places. Consequently, cats struggle to cope when you move house. You need to tread very carefully with your cats for a good couple of weeks. Dogs, on the other hand, cope very well. They’re often excited to find themselves in a new environment and just take it in their stride.
Essentially, dogs are easier to train. This means that dogs can actually be useful in ways that cats… won’t. You can train a dog to retrieve the newspaper from the hallway. A cat would simply ignore you if you tried. And while it’s true that cats will still hunt any rodent in your house, most rodents that are in the house, were brought in by a cat and then released. Alternatively, bits of rodents can turn up in the most unexpected of places…! And you certainly can’t train this behaviour out of a cat.
This, of course results in the idea that people have to take some time to train their dogs to behave. Likewise, cats have to take some time to train their people to behave. Which leads to two conclusions:
- People keep dogs as pets
- Cats keep people as pets
And there’s more truth in this than you might think…
I’ll come back to that in a bit. First I want to consider the health benefits and concerns of owning cats and dogs.
While there are no direct health benefits to owning a dog, if you take the pooch on regular walks, you’re getting regular exercise. And regular exercise is always a good thing. Mind you, the same effect can achieved by taking up Pokemon Go. And, while there is less companionship, there is also less expense. Besides, you gotta catch ’em all…!
There is also no direct health benefit for owning a cat. There is some research to indicate that purring has a positive effect on some joint pain. But, even if this turns out to be true, CBD oil will do a better job for less money than owning a cat…
In terms of health concerns, while a cat might eat your face after you die, it’s unlikely to actively try and kill you. Every year, some owners are killed by their pet dogs. The numbers of deaths involved are pretty low, really. But the number of maulings is not insignificant. In the UK, in 2018, more than 3,000 people needed surgery after being attacked by a dog or dogs. Thousands more visited hospitals and emergency rooms.
I’ve no doubt that the response to this will be, “there’s no such thing as a bad dog, only a bad owner.” But that doesn’t help. There are always going to be bad owners. And there are always going to be owners who swear that their dogs were never mistreated and just attacked out of the blue. Why is this latter group of people never believed…?
And, for me, this is why I always refer to pet dogs as, “Wolf”. Because that’s where they came from. And a pack animal will defend its pack from what it perceives as a treat. I don’t think anyone can say with 100% accuracy what any given dog will, or will not, perceive as a threat in every given situation.
Which is why I would never have considered a pet dog while my daughters were growing up. A dog is faster than me. If it decided to go for one of the girls, I couldn’t have got in the way fast enough to prevent it. And one bite is enough to damage, disfigure or even kill.
Personally, I could never completely relax around a dog, because I couldn’t be sure if and when it was going to kick off. This is exactly the same with certain people. I couldn’t go out on the town with them because, after a couple of beers, who knows…?!
That is simply not something I want in my life.
Not that cats are danger free. There’s always the risk of Toxoplasmosis…
It has long been common knowledge that cats are a risk to pregnant women. Cat faeces carries toxoplasmosis, which increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Except, as it turns out, this might not be true. The risk to pregnant women from Toxoplasmosis appears to be very small. I’m not saying that I recommend that pregnant women empty cat litter trays without taking precautions. Using gloves and thoroughly washing hands afterwards, at least.
I am saying that I couldn’t find any statistics that attributed toxoplasmosis from cats to miscarriages or stillbirths.
Which is very good news.
But that’s not the end of the toxoplasmosis story…
You see it turns out that as many as half of the people of the world have been infected with Toxoplasma Gondii. This little beauty can infect all warm blooded animals. But it can only reproduce in one type of animal: felids. Which is to say: cats. Including pet cats…
And what is it that Toxoplasma Gondii does to those infected with it? Well, in essence, it makes infected individuals ‘like’ host individuals more.
In the case of rodents, it means that they don’t shy away from the smell of cats. It means that rats and mice aren’t scared when they smell cat urine and don’t bother taking cover. Ultimately making these infected rats and mice easy prey for cats.
In the case of humans, it makes us like cats more…
We’ve been doped!
All this time, cats have been drugging us with their parasites to make us like them more…
And it’s worked!
Which means, in answer to the question, which pets are best, out of cats and dogs; there is no answer. The respondents have been tampered with by some of the participants.
The fix is in!
Ultimately, though, if you respond to this news by grudgingly admiring cats and their underhanded ways, you’re probably a cat person. If, however, this just confirms to you that cats can’t ever be trusted, you’re probably a dog person.
This makes me a cat person.
Additionally, though, I’m actively not a dog person, because I just can’t trust dogs.
Additionally, I don’t want to give up my time looking after a dog. And this brings me allllll the way back to the comment I made at the top: it’s me or a dog. Basically, I know that if Julie or one of the girls, or any combination thereof, decide they want a dog, in a very short space of time, it’ll be me looking after it.
Thanks, but no thanks!