Comparison of the week: Cats vs dogs

Posted: 6 May 2019 2:58 pm
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COW Cat and Dog Image: Getty Images

The truth about cats and dogs. Which is the better pet for you?

We compare virtually everything at Finder and our Comparison of the week isn't afraid to tackle the big questions. This week we put cats and dogs to the test.

In Australia it's no secret we love our pets. When it comes to furry friends, cats and dogs top the list. According to moneysmart.gov.au, 3 in 5 Australian households now have a pet and cats and dogs make up 67% of those pets.

Now fans of each species are as notoriously combative as the actual species themselves and there are plenty of crazy cat people who diss on crazy dog owners and vice versa over the superiority of their chosen pet.

But whether you're team cat or team dog, or one of those highly evolved people who like both, we break down the hard facts on cats versus dogs.

The essentials

While cats and dogs have been stalwart companions and co-workers of Australians for centuries, recently there has been a real shift in how we see their presence in our lives. Australians have a strong emotional attachment to their pets, with people increasingly considering them members of the family rather than companions. As a result most pet owners want to provide their pets with the best possible life and are now spending more across an increasing range of pet services and products.

The Animal Medicines Australia (AMA) 2016 report on pet ownership shows the rise and rise of the "fur baby" with the number of dog and cat owners who consider their animal part of their family jumping to 65% in 2016 from 57–59% 3 years earlier.

As a result these extra family members of ours are costing big bucks. According to the BankWest Family Pooch Index, the cost of owning a dog over its lifetime can be up to $25,000 and according to moneysmart.gov.au cats cost slightly less but also live longer than dogs, so they set owners back around the same amount.

If you're thinking of bringing a canine or feline into your family you should do the maths. The cost will vary according to breed, age, size, whether they have health issues and if you choose to take out pet insurance. You also need to decide which of these very, VERY different creatures might suit you and your lifestyle best.

The comparison

There are a few key differences between cats and dogs.

Cat Dog
Price While "rescue" is definitely the cheapest breed, when it comes to purebred felines you'll be shelling out some serious cash. Purebreds have an average price of $401. Mixed breeds had price tags of around $202. But some super fancy breeds could see cat fanciers shelling out up to $2,000. Once again "rescue" is definitely the cheapest breed and when it comes to purebred or designer canines you'll be shelling out some serious cash. The average price for purebreds is estimated at $674, while for designer breeds it's $658 and mixed breeds $306. When it comes to super fashionable breeds like the French bulldog you could be looking at up to $5,000.
Food From fancy feast to fresh fish, your average cat food bill is going to be $576 a year (and that's not accounting for the super fussy ones). A bigger critter (generally) means more food and the average spend on food for fido is $622. And of course there are the shoes that might get eaten as well.
Vet bills When you bring your kitty to the vet for the first time your vet bills will be something along the lines of: vaccinations $170–$200, desexing $115–$300, flea and worm treatment $100 and microchipping $60. The average ongoing cost of visiting the vet each year for your cat at a minimum will be $273. When you first get your pooch when it comes to vet bills you'll generally be up for vaccinations at a cost of $170–$250, desexing $200–$500, flea and worming $120–$300 and microchipping $60–$80. After that it has been estimated vet bills at a minimum will be $397 a year.
Pet insurance Curious to know how much it will cost to insure your cat? We compared 96 breeds and the most interesting thing we found was that all cat breeds cost the same to insure, clocking in at under $50 a month (with the exception of unknown breeds). That's a lot cheaper than a dog! When it comes to insurance for dogs how much it's going to cost depends on the breed. We compared 560 dog breeds and found that a comprehensive insurance policy for a 1-year-old dog could range from $610 to $1,221 a year.
Accommodation Cats don't need a lot of space. In fact cats can be indoors only and be perfectly happy with a few toys, a scratching post and somewhere comfy to sleep (and of course your company and cuddles). Most dogs need space to play and roam around, they're also (usually) bigger than cats so they're going to take up more room in the first place. They'll need plenty of stimulation and plenty of exercise out of the house too. Otherwise you might find them getting their "exercise" tearing up your furniture and eating your shoes.
House training A kitten will use a litter tray from a very early age with little encouragement needed. Cats are notoriously fastidious about their toilet habits, digging a hole and covering it up afterwards. If they have to use a tray indoors, they'll use it consistently so you won't have to worry about free-range poo and wee indoors but be warned, you'll be the one cleaning out the tray on the daily. Puppies can be house-trained eventually with a lot of positive reinforcement but you'll need to be patient as it will take some time. When they finally do, if you like walking around the backyard or public places picking up warm poo in a plastic bag look no further than owning a dog. When it comes to the great outdoors dogs are free and easy about where they do the deed and you're left to quite literally deal with the fallout.
Smell Fishy breath after a meal notwithstanding, cats don't smell. They also are self-cleaning. While the idea of having to clean your body only using your tongue is something I personally don't want to think about for too long, it's pretty nifty in terms of being a low-maintenance pet in this regard. There's a reason for the saying "smells like a wet dog." Dogs can be pretty stinky, especially if they need a bath. Speaking of, dogs needs to be washed regularly and if you aren't doing it, they won't be taking care of business themselves.
Travel Ever seen a cat happily hanging out of a car window with their ears flapping in the wind? Me neither. Cats don't like change, let alone travel, so forget about taking them with you anywhere. And if you do head away it's unlikely you can move your cat happily to a friend's or family member's house either without them being traumatised. So you'll have to board them somewhere secure, have someone come around to feed them or move in to look after them, which means shelling out the dollars for a pet sitter. Road trip? Camping? Trip to the beach? Dogs love an adventure and are surprisingly adaptable. You can take your four-legged friend all over the place and they'll enjoy socialising, having adventures and hanging out with you. If you plan to travel without them, there's a good chance your dog will happily move to a friend's house while you're gone, which means you're less likely to have to arrange or pay for someone to mind your dog at home.
Behaviour While cats can be very affectionate and adore their people, they can also give the impression that if someone, like, better came along you might be dumped without a second glance. Cats can be known to pick themselves up and simply move to another house if their living arrangements don't suit them, which seems like a failure to really commit to the relationship, or is it impressive independence? Dogs would literally take a bullet for you. Even after death, tales abound of dogs lying despondent on their human's grave. Dogs will love you even if you're the worst person on earth, whether this is a good or bad thing is debatable.
Dignity You'll never catch a cat trying to eat your underwear or other unmentionables. While a cat will meow, purr and give you the occasional lovebite as a delighted greeting, you'll never ever catch it doing a wee on the floor cause it's so happy to see you. Not the canine's strong suit, while their enthusiasm is lovely maybe wind it back just a tad.

The lowdown

When it comes to price and space cats have it all over dogs. When it comes to being super loyal and flexible with travel it seems the dogs have it all over cats.

But then the arguments go on. Cats don't smell, dogs won't leave you for someone else, cats don't need to be walked, dogs won't leave you for someone else, cats don't need a bath, ummmm, dogs won't leave you for someone else?

I could go on and trust me, some of the more rabid members of team cat or team dog will want to do that. But when it boils down to it, it seems like cats are for relaxing and dogs are for having fun. And really rather than have a war about which is better, in the words of the little girl in the Old El Paso ad, "por qué no los dos?".

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