Dear Barb – Cats vs. Dogs

Dear Barb,

my husband and I are considering adding a pet to our family, but we are not sure whether we should get a dog or cat. Our three-year-old son loves the neighbour’s dog and he thinks we should get one. While I was growing up we always had dogs, so I know they require a fair amount of care. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, so most of the care for the dogs was left to her. My husband has never had a pet, so he is pretty flexible as to either a dog or cat. We were wondering if you could advise us on what type of pet would best fit into our busy lifestyle. My husband and I both work full-time and our son is in day care all day. Another factor to consider is that we live in a different city from our families and often spend weekends visiting them. Thanks for your help.

Christina in Athabasca

Hi Christina, you obviously realize adopting a pet is a serious undertaking. I will start out by giving you a little information on the different characteristics of dogs and cats.

Both dogs and cats are hunters by nature. Before becoming domesticated, their basic purpose in life was to hunt for food. The dog has been domesticated for at least 14,000 years, while earliest evidence indicates the cat has only been domesticated for about 4,000 years. This history helps to understand why the cat remains a more independent animal than the dog.

The dog is a highly intelligent animal and has the ability to learn a lot more than basic commands. Dogs have been trained to be eyes for the blind and ears for the deaf. However, for most of us, a dog is a companion considered simply another family member. Because dogs are social animals they require more care and companionship than cats. I know a lot of people who work full-time and have dogs that they keep in a crate 8 to 10 hours a day while they are at work. They claim their dogs are happy and content, but I wonder if this is the best treatment for such a social creature. Moreover, I question how healthy is it for a dog to be forced to hold its bladder for such a long time.

Cats on the other hand are more self-sufficient animals that are just as happy to be on their own. When you are home, cats hang around wanting some attention, but when you are gone, they sleep or find other ways to amuse themselves. Cats are easy to litter train; usually putting the cat in its litter box a couple of times will suffice. Dogs (puppies) on the other hand can take many months to be completely housebroken. Dogs need exercise daily, whereas cats will find their own level of exercise within the house. Cats can live happily indoors for their entire lives. A pinch of catnip will stimulate cats enough to get the exercise they need. Both dogs and cats need regular checkups from a veterinarian and routine grooming.

I think you already know what my advice will be. Considering the fact that you both work full-time, I think a cat would make the best addition to your family. I know your son wants a dog, but I’m sure he will be happy with a cat, providing you are careful and choose a cat that will suit your household.

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