Dogs vs cats: The best pet for your lifestyle

So you’ve decided to expand your family by adopting a pet! One of the first choices you’ll make is whether you would like a cat or a dog to join your whānau. You can indeed love both cats and dogs (we sure do!), but there's often something that speaks to you more – whether it's the loyal energy of a dog or the quiet companionship of cats.

Despite the differences between the two, all pets need love, care, and constant attention much like any other family member. 

Making this important decision requires you to consider a few factors. To ensure you choose the best pet for your lifestyle, Dr Rosalind Holland (BVSc, MVM, MANZCVS) shares some important considerations. 

Time commitment: Exercise and training

According to Dr Holland, “The most obvious difference between dogs and cats is the need for dogs to get outdoors for exercise daily. If you enjoy keeping active outside, then a dog can be a great companion.” 

Dogs rely on humans to meet their physical needs through daily walks, playtime, and mentally stimulating activities. Training to fit into our lifestyle is also essential to ensure a safe and happy relationship. Teaching dogs basic manners and house training involves a degree of commitment and knowledge from their owners, and should be a key consideration when deciding if a dog is the right pet for you. 

Dr Holland explains that cats don't need us to provide the same level of daily physical activity that dogs do, instead, they exercise by playing in small bursts by climbing and exploring. We recommend providing your cat with an enriched indoor environment with lots of places to climb, hide and scratch. To keep your cat safe, consider providing them with safe outdoor access using a catio or cat proof fencing. If this sounds more aligned to your lifestyle and capabilities, a cat may be a more suitable companion.

Benefits to humans

Dr Holland says a pooch can be great for owners who lead an active lifestyle or are looking to do so. A study has even found that dogs are scientifically proven to improve physical health. Since dogs rely on their humans for exercise (rain or shine), new dog owners often notice a natural increase in exercise, leading to extraordinary benefits such as lowered risk of cardio-vascular disease.      

The humble moggy or pupper can provide healing factors and health boosts too. A study of pet ownership in Aotearoa has found that many pet owners in New Zealand say that they value having a cat or a dog, and see them as being beneficial to the household, even though there is a cost involved. This supports earlier research as cited in the study that indicates that the presence of pet ownership has beneficial impacts on the owner’s quality of life. 

Costs & Legalities

So, what are (if any) legal implications of pet ownership? Owning either a cat or dog takes a large deal of commitment, but with dogs comes an extra degree of legal compliance. Dogs are required by the Dog Control Act to be registered annually, microchipped, and kept under control in public places (all part of responsible ownership). 

The cost of owning either pet can vary greatly based on factors such as breed, size, and health. Generally, dogs are more expensive on an annual basis. All up, the total cost of caring for a pet dog is approximately $1,686 a year while cat care will cost significantly less, coming in at around $670 a year.

Dogs often require more food, grooming costs, and registration fees. Another important consideration is pet insurance, to help protect your furry friends (and your pocket) from unexpected vet bills. This is where pet insurance, such as SPCA Pet Insurance, could help - you can enjoy the feeling of knowing that there is cover there to help in case your cat or dog stumbles into the wrong adventure.

The early years: puppies & kittens

While we strongly recommend looking into adopting an older pet, many young animals are also looking for homes. If you adopt a pet in the early years of their life, it’s important to consider their additional needs and challenges. 

When adopting kittens, adopting a pair is recommended. Kittens tend to learn from each other, grow well together, and provide emotional support to each other, especially if they're siblings. On the other hand, adopting two puppies can make training challenging, which can lead to behavioural issues and increased costs down the line. Something to be aware of!

Unique Personalities

Just like people, all pets come with their own unique personalities. While often generalised as sociable and active, some dogs may be nervous to interact with people or less excited for a long run. Generally called low maintenance and aloof, some cats may require extra care and socialisation than expected. 

Overall, Dr Holland stresses: "It is important to know what you are getting into before you adopt a pet and make sure they are a good fit for your lifestyle." Each pet deserves the very best care and love and before you know it you’ll consider the new arrival just like family (as do the majority of New Zealanders!).

To help ensure your furry friend gets the best care, consider quality pet insurance. SPCA Pet Insurance can help provide peace of mind by helping to cover eligible vet bills for your beloved dog or cat. Get a quote today and discover how pet insurance could help your cat or dog if accidental injury or illness occurs.