–Guest Blog by Jenny Hart
Since the dawn of time (or at least since these animals became domesticated), the lines have been clearly established. Most pet owners are either “cat people” or “dog people.” There’s almost a rivalry of sorts between the two camps!
If you haven’t yet decided which team you’re on, it can be helpful to understand the differences between raising each of these animals.
Dogs and Cats Have Different Needs
Cats and dogs are two of the most common household pets. You’d be hard pressed to find a home where either a cat or a dog (or, in many cases, both!) are considered part of the family. But how many differences are there really between raising cats and dogs?
From their grooming habits to how they interact with you and the world around them, it’s clear that cats and dogs have very different needs. Let’s take a look at the 5 biggest differentiating factors between cats and dogs.
1. Dogs are more high maintenance than cats, but cats need a lot of attention, too.
Being a pet parent requires a lot of time and energy–but some animals demand more of both than others. In general, cats are slightly more low-maintenance than their canine counterparts. For instance, cats can usually be left at home all day long, or even overnight, with no issues. While some cats do suffer from separation anxiety, in general, this is a less common problem than it is with dogs. Read more here by Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Steve Dale, for tips to help anxious pets suffering form generalized or separation anxiety.
Dogs, on the other hand, shouldn’t be left at home for more than the length of a work day. If they’re still in the puppy stage, that alone time should shrink to only a few hours. And when you’re away from the house, most dogs need to stay in a crate to keep them from tearing things up. Cats, on the other hand, are usually okay to roam the house as they wish.
However, don’t let these differences fool you. Cats–especially if they are indoor-only–still need a lot of affection, entertainment, and playtime with you. We call these acts of bonding “enrichment,” and they are crucial to keep your felines happy and healthy. Cats in dull environments can even develop painful psychosomatic conditions like Pandora Syndrome from lack of proper stimulation and the ability to express species-specific behaviors. AAPP’s Director of Content, Courtney Wennerstrom, explains how to spice up your cat’s life in this comprehensive EVERYTHING CAT resource guide to feline health, behavior, and nutrition.
If you’re someone who travels a lot or spends a large chunk of each day away from home, you should look into getting a cat. You’ll be able to go away for the entire day without worrying whether or not your pet is okay on their own. But be sure to make time to cuddle, play with, and love your cat once your long day is over. And give them investing things to do while you’re gone.
2. Cats are easier to potty train than dogs.
Potty training cats is easy! They’re practically born knowing to use the litter box when they need to go. Once you set up the litter box, your kitty’s accidents should be few and far between. (If potty accidents are happening frequently, talk to your vet, as that could be indicative of a medical issue.)
You will have to clean your cat’s litter box every day, or even multiple times a day if you have more than one cat. But other than that, cats can take care of themselves when it comes to going to the bathroom. If they develop litter box problems, that is often a sign that something is wrong and is worth investigating. See Courtney’s guide above for more information.
Dogs are a different story. They’re not born with the instinctive knowledge of how and when they should do their business. You’ll need to teach your puppy to go potty outdoors and not on your floors! There are several “puppy potty training” methods out there, with two of the most popular being paper training and crate training. Whichever you decide to go with, be prepared to devote a lot of time toward your house training efforts. And never ever take advice from anyone who suggests aversive training that cause pain, stress, or fear, such as rubbing your dog’s nose in their feces or urine. Stick to positive reinforcement for positive results!
3. Dogs require more social interaction than cats.
As a species, dogs are pack creatures. It’s in their nature to want to be part of a group, and for this reason, they’ll seek companionship everywhere they go. If you bring home a dog, be prepared to have a “shadow” everywhere you go: to the mailbox, to the refrigerator, and from room to room in your house. If given the opportunity, your dog will probably even try to jump in your car when you leave the house!
Conversely, cats evolved from a more solitary species. They don’t require the company of other cats or people in order to be happy. While they might welcome the occasional cuddles, most cats are just as content to observe others from a distance without actually interacting with them.
4. Dogs are easier to train than cats.
Dogs exhibit several behaviors that often require training on the owner’s part: how to walk on a leash; how to not bark every time someone comes to the door; and how to sit, stay, or roll over on command. Luckily, dogs are very trainable creatures!
It’s easiest to start training your dog while they’re a puppy, but contrary to the popular saying, you actually can teach an old dog new tricks. With some consistency and treats (dogs are very food-motivated creatures, after all), most dogs can be trained fairly easily.
Trying to train a cat, though? Good luck! It can be done but teaching your cat to follow basic commands won’t come nearly as easily as with dogs. Courtney’s guide above has several suggestions for teaching your cat cool tricks–but they will take dedication and commitment.
5. Cats don’t require as much grooming as dogs.
Part of your pet’s all-around health is keeping them clean and free from fleas, ticks, and mud. Like with other aspects of pet care, cats are very low-maintenance in this aspect. If you’ve ever been around a cat, you probably noticed that they frequently groom themselves by licking their fur. That’s because, in general, cats are sticklers about staying clean. Usually, a quick brushing every few days is all your cat needs from you.
Dogs, on the other hand, require much more effort in this regard. Dogs don’t seem to mind being dirty and most won’t hesitate before jumping right into a mud puddle or yucky pond. You probably will mind it, though—you don’t want them dragging that muck into your house!
It’s your responsibility to keep your dog clean by bathing them frequently. Bathtime doesn’t have to be a frequent thing. Unless they have a particularly messy play date, bathing your dog anywhere from twice a month to once every few months is usually sufficient. If you have a long-haired dog, they will also need to be brushed regularly to avoid matting.
How Are Dogs and Cats Alike?
Despite their differences in behavior and trainability, there are a few ways in which dogs and cats are similar.
- They both shed. The amount of hair your dog or cat loses will depend on a few factors, like their breed and how often you brush them. But in both cases, be prepared to clean plenty of pet hair from your floors and clothing.
- They both require consistent veterinarian care. Even if they seem to be in good health, dogs and cats should visit the vet at least once a year for a general checkup. Regular vet visits can help you avoid dental issues or intestinal parasites in dogs which infect over 90% of puppies.
- They both require love and attention. Bringing home a pet is like adding a new member to your family. Be prepared to devote the next decade (or more) of your life to caring for another living creature.
Still can’t decide which pet is right for you? We suggest bringing home one of each! As all-around animal lovers, we wouldn’t be able to decide either. And puppies and kittens go together like peanut butter and chocolate (even though our animals cannot eat chocolate 🙂 )