If you’re thinking of becoming a pet owner for the first time, it’s important to know which type of pet you should get.
Whether you want a dog or cat is largely a matter of preference but there are lots of factors that need to be considered. Owning a pet (any pet) is a responsibility and a long term commitment. Pets rely on humans for food, comfort, shelter, and love. They need time and attention. They require (at the very least) basic health care like annual checkups and vaccinations. Dogs and cats should also be spayed/neutered after they reach maturity to prevent unwanted breeding and offspring. Like humans, they sometimes become ill and need proper treatment. And like humans they require quality nutrition and activity to be healthy and happy.
If you’re certain you can provide for a pet, it’s time to think about what type of pet will suit you and your lifestyle best. For example, if you want a relatively low maintenance and more independent pet, a cat is a better option than a dog. If you want your pet to accompany you regularly on walks, jogs, or hikes then a dog is a better option.
How much time do you have to spend with your pet?
Does your lifestyle/work allow you enough time to take care of a pet? How much time do you spend at home?
Cats and dogs can be left alone at home but it’s not advisable to leave them for more than 8 hours a day. Dogs in particular may need a pet sitter or to go to a doggy daycare if they’re regularly left alone for more than 6 hours a day. Cats tend to be more independent and can handle being on their own for longer. If you’re working from home then it’s largely a matter of how much time you can spend with your pet every day (e.g. do your pets stay outside the home office or do they take over like ours do 🤓).
How much space do you have?
What type of residence do you live in? Do you have a large villa or a cozy apartment?
Cats can adjust to smaller spaces as they don’t generally need a backyard to run and play in. Active dogs need more room but there are some dog breeds that can live happily in smaller spaces. Keep in mind however that all pets are different and some large dog breeds like greyhounds adjust well to apartment living because of their low activity levels and some active cats like bengals love being able to wander and play in the garden. Do your research on different breeds or get to know your pet a little before you bring them home to minimize surprises later.
If you live on your own a pet is a great idea for company but will probably require pet-sitting, day care, or boarding services once in a while (if you stay out of the house for long hours or travel). Pet services aren’t cheap, and when it comes to leaving your pet in someone else’s care you should always look for a reliable company. Unlicensed pet sitters cost less but you may be compromising the welfare and safety of your pet. Dogs in general cost more in pet care services so that is something to consider before making your choice.
How much time do you have to spend on keeping a pet healthy and happy and well looked after?
Are you going to take care of the pet by yourself, or will someone else like a family member or house keeper help with daily duties?
Cats in general require much less daily care than dogs. A dog has to be walked at least twice a day. A cat doesn’t but its litter needs to be scooped once a day. Dogs have to be fed at set times twice a day. You can be more flexible with cats and can either fix their meal timings or free-feed (make dry food available to them all day) as cats are able to regulate their food intake. Cats manage well when they eat smaller meals a day so if they have food available all day that’s one less thing for you to worry about.
Dogs need a lot more training than cats do. Kittens very quickly learn how to use their litter boxes. Puppies take a while (and quite a few accidents) to learn that they need to either use their training pads or go outside. However dogs can be taught to learn very specific commands and obey once trained properly. A cat understands when you say “come” or “no” but will only listen when it wants to.
Another thing to think about is how much time (and money) you’re willing to spend on maintaining a pet’s coat and fur so it remains free from skin conditions and related infections. In general long haired pets require more grooming than short haired pets and dogs require more grooming than cats. Dogs tend to go out more and pick up all sorts of smells. Cats (especially short haired ones) can manage on their own for longer but if you’re getting a long haired cat then you will need to brush it daily to prevent mats and tangles and take it to the groomer regularly to ensure its skin and fur stays healthy. Whether long or short haired and whether dog or cat, pets do shed so you can expect at least some fur on your furniture and clothes. There are many ways to take care of unwanted fur, and different breeds shed differently, but if you’re not willing to deal with the hair fall, then neither cat or dog is a good option.
What are the weather conditions like where you live?
Pets adjust quickly to their situations but the weather where you live can affect their overall well being. For example, if you live in a very warm place, it’s not a good idea to keep breeds that are suited to cold climates. Similarly if you live in a very cold place, it doesn’t make much sense to keep hairless dogs or cats. There are ways to keep pets warm and cool of course, but that will require more effort and monitoring on your part to ensure your pet is comfortable and happy in its surroundings.
If you feel like a dog or cat may not be a good fit for you, there are lots of other options to look into. Smaller pets like hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits and even ferrets can be good company. Birds and fish are also an option as they do develop bonds with their owners. Less popular but not that uncommon are reptiles like turtles, terrapins, or geckos (among others) which make good pets for some people.
In the end it all comes down to you and the amount of time, energy, and resources you are willing and able to spend to keep your pet healthy and happy. Whatever you decide, it’s important to remember that your pet is dependent on you for everything and it’s your responsibility to give it the best life possible!
Good to know ✅
There are lots of pet rescue groups working tirelessly to find homes for wonderful loving pets who have been abandoned or surrendered by their previous owners due to no fault of their own. These pets deserve a second chance so instead of buying please consider adopting a rescued dog or cat. If you’re looking for a specific age or breed checking out a few rescue organizations is still a good idea as they have all sorts of pets waiting for their forever homes. Adopt, don’t shop 🐶❤️🐱