First time owners: dogs or cats?

First time owners: dogs or cats?

The choice between owning a dog or a cat can be an easy decision to make for some first time owners. 

However, to many new potential owners, this decision could also prove to be a very difficult one. Taking care of a pet is a long term commitment, and prospective pet owners should be 100% ready to take responsibility throughout every day of their pet’s life.

Some people buy/adopt their pets on impulse, and end up regretting it. For example, I know a friend who gave away his dog after just 7 months because the dog was too hyperactive and loud for him. This was after he spent a lot of money building a dog house for it, as well as wasted money on food and healthcare costs.

I am aware that this is not the only case of this happening. It is honestly a shame that there are still many people out there who make the very same mistake and end up wasting money, time and their dog’s trust in them as an owner.

So, if you are a prospective owner who cannot decide between buying a dog or cat, you have come to the right place. There are many differences between taking care of a dog and a cat, and I will be stating those differences down here for your reference. 

Oh and before I start, ever consider 'borrowing' a pet to get a taste of taking care of one? If you want to try, you can click here for some details regarding how you can get involved in the action. 

Living conditions

(Image taken from: iStock)

After some personal experience with both animals, I have concluded that dogs can stay both indoors and outdoors while cats should only stay indoors as a safety precaution.

Dogs are a lot more hyperactive and need more space compared to cats. Due to their hyperactiveness, some dogs may have difficulty staying indoors. However, it is still possible and honestly better for a dog’s mental health to stay indoors (dogs require companionship). It’s just that you will have to be more careful with dogs indoors than you should be with cats.

As for cats, they are honestly best suited for indoor living. There are many things that can go wrong if you let your cat stay outdoors, including but not limited to harsh weather conditions and interactions with other stray cats. Besides that, I have read on WebMD that cats who live indoors can live up to 17 years while cats who live outdoors are only expected to live an average of 5 years.

Training and housebreaking

(Image taken from: Pantheria Blog)

When it comes to training, dogs are clearly easier to train than cats. Dogs have always been a social species who looks to its pack leader for instructions, and thus will have an easier time following instructions. Cats on the other hand are derived from a solitary species who does not look to anyone to tell it what to do. In other words, training a cat will require the use of different techniques from training a dog. One such method is called clicker training, where owners incorporate good habits into their cats with the sound of a click and a treat to follow up. More information on clicker training can be found here.

I do have to note though, it is much easier to housebreak cats than it is to housebreak dogs. If you show the cat a litter box, they are naturally drawn to it as they are programmed to bury their waste in sand. Meanwhile, dogs will require time and patience to housebreak as they do not have the same mechanisms as cats.

Food and eating habits

(Image taken from: Shutterstock)

There is a big difference when it comes to the eating habits of dogs and cats. Dogs will eat bigger sized meals in one go, but does not eat many times a day. Cats on the other hand eat less per meal time, but has a lot of meals per day.

Another thing to note is that both dogs and cats are carnivores. However, a dog can still survive on meal or two of vegetables (survival is not the same as wellbeing) while a cat's diet requires every single meal to contain some sort of meat.  

Social upkeep and time

(Image taken from: sheknows website)

As I have said before, dogs are a social species who look up to their pack leader. Everyday, dogs would look forward to being with their owners and bonding with them. Cats on the other hand are independent creatures who are more concerned about themselves over anyone else.

If you are getting a dog, be prepared to sacrifice your schedule. Dogs need constant exercise and cannot stay in one place for too long. Even if you are busy working on overtime, you are going to have to ask/hire someone to walk your dog. Also, dogs will be extremely excited to see you everytime you come home from work/school, and will require you to play with it. Ultimately, a dog is a big bundle of joy, but is very exhausting to upkeep if you have a consistently busy schedule. 

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Around other people, you will have to be careful of your dog. Dogs are known to be aggressive towards unfamiliar faces and it is your responsibility as a dog owner to prevent any accidents from happening. This advice is particularly important when it comes to children, please watch over them when they are interacting with your dog.

Cats also require attention, but they are not as active as dogs and will definitely not require as much excercise and attention. Cats are very independent and will often times prefer to entertain itself over seeking you out. 

Cats are not as aggressive as dogs when it comes to dealing with people, but always be on your guard for any signs of aggressive behavior such as hissing. Also, cats do not tend to get along well with other cats and may often get into catfights.

In short, go for dogs if you are aiming for a sociable, active, fun but energy-draining pet. Go for cats if you are aiming for a quiet, easy going and stress free pet.


(Image taken from: Shutterstock)

If what you want is security, this choice should be a no-contest.

A dog is the perfect candidate to keep your house safe from any potential intruders. A dog’s sense of smell is beyond comprehension, and can detect any weird fellows from afar. Besides their sense of detection, they have a bark that is loud enough to alert you of any suspicious beings, and they are also some of the fiercest warriors I know. After all, dogs aren't used by the police and military for no reason. 

On the other hand, cats are nowhere near as brave or strong as dogs when it comes to protecting you. They will be the first one to run if danger ever approaches, and they can’t alert the owner either as their meows are usually not loud enough.


(Image taken from: @cashcats, an Instagram user)

There has been a certain study conducted by the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty towards Animals) that touched on the average first year costs of certain animals including cats and dogs.

This study shows the average costs of maintaining (medical,food,grooming etc) dogs (small,medium,big sizes) and cats. Surprisingly, cats are the cheapest out of the 4 mentioned, with the cat’s total first year costs only averaging around $1174 while the small dog category averaging around $1471 and the medium and large categories costing even more.

Of course, these are just average costs, and costs could vary based on factors such as additional/higher quality food, emergency vet visits, and other similar factors.

So… a dog or a cat? 

I believe that this decision is best made by considering a few important factors- your health, your lifestyle, your needs, your budget, and your surroundings. As discussed in all my points above, consider what you are looking for very well before actually going to adopt/buy a pet. 

Once you have figured out your situation and know what you want- this decision should be easy to make. There are no right or wrong answers as I do not believe that a dog is better than a cat, or vice versa. Honestly, the debate between which of the species make better pets all comes down to personal perception. 

But, what if I am still uncertain?

To those who are still uncertain, I have one last piece of advice for you- try the best of both worlds!

No, you do not have to buy both a dog and a cat to make up your mind. Instead, you can gain experience the smart way by 'borrowing' them. In other words, you can try to take care of a person's dog or cat yourself before you jump into a decision. We call this pet-sitting.

Seriously, it is almost as simple as babysitting. Go to a pet owner's house and try your hand at taking care of a pet for a few hours/days. While you are doing that, start noting down what you like and do not like about taking care of that certain animal, and base your decision on those notes.  I highly recommend that potential dog/cat owners do this multiple times before reaching a conclusion. Try taking care of as many breeds as you can too. Each different pet breed will have their own pros , cons and factors behind taking care of them. 

For additional resources to read on, our blog is constantly being updated with tips on pet care as well! To get started, check out this article regarding great home cooked foods to feed your dog with! You can also check out this article on how to easily getting your dog to listen to you.  

For a more comprehensive guide on what it means to own a dog, check out this guide.

If you are interested, passionate, and want to try pet sitting out with an open mind- we may have a solution for you. 

Whether you are experienced or inexperienced, Petbacker is looking for pet lovers from all over the world to perform their trade with us. Whether you are a groomer, a sitter, a dog walker or even just passionate/interested about the subject, We invite you to join our fast growing community of pet-people! 

Personally, I was actually a pet-sitter partnered with Petbacker before I was hired as a writer. I had prior experience as an independent pet sitter (5 years), but joining the Petbacker community was the best move I had made in my pursuit of knowledge regarding pets. Joining Petbacker has made my life so much more interesting, giving me opportunities to meet up with many different types of dog breeds- some that I did not know even existed! My first time taking care of the Lowchen, Schipperke and Foxhound breeds came from..... you guessed it, Petbacker clients.

Sounds interesting? Like I said, it doesn't matter if you are a complete newbie or an experienced veteran- you will learn and experience a lot. 

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