Cat or Dog. Which Pet Is Easier To Care For?

Cost of pet ownership

When comparing the costs of owning a cat versus a dog, it’s important to consider both the upfront and ongoing expenses. Dogs generally have higher upfront costs, with purchase prices or adoption fees ranging from $50-$2,500 depending on the breed and source (shelter, breeder, store) [1]. Cats are usually less expensive upfront, with adoption fees typically ranging from $25-$100 [2].

For ongoing costs, dogs are generally more expensive as well. Annual expenses like food, treats, toys, vet visits, grooming, boarding, etc. often total $1,500-$2,500 for dogs compared to $750-$1,200 for cats [3]. Larger dog breeds cost more to feed and care for than smaller cats. Overall, the average lifetime cost of owning a dog can range from $15,000-$30,000 compared to $10,000-$25,000 for owning a cat.

Time commitment

Both cats and dogs require an investment of time from their owners, but there are some differences in the type and amount of time needed. Dogs generally require more time devoted to exercise, training, and play.

On average, adult dogs need 30-90 minutes of physical activity per day, which can include walks, runs, playtime, and social interaction [1]. Puppies, high energy breeds, and working dogs may require even more. Dogs also benefit from 15-30 minutes per day of training and practicing commands. Additionally, most dogs crave human interaction and playtime with their owners.

Cats are often more independent and content entertaining themselves. Kittens and high energy breeds may need more playtime, but most adult cats only require 5-15 minutes per day of play and exercise. Cats generally do not require walks or structured training sessions.

When it comes to grooming, short-haired cats and dogs require 5-10 minutes per day of brushing. Long-haired pets need daily brushing sessions of 15-30 minutes. Dogs prone to matting require additional time for brushing and bathing.

Overall, dogs have greater time requirements for exercise, play, training, and in some cases grooming. Cats tend to be lower maintenance in terms of daily time commitments.

Space requirements

Cats can thrive in small spaces if their environment is properly enriched. According to Chris from Caredicat, “Cats can be perfectly happy in small spaces such as apartments.” Cats are very adaptable and do not require as much space as dogs. As long as they have vertical space to climb and enough room for a litter box, food/water, scratching posts, and some toys, cats can live happily in a small studio apartment (Source).

Cats that go outside do require a way to get in and out of the home safely, such as a cat door or balcony access. But cats that stay indoors full-time are quite content in apartments. Providing climbing spaces like cat trees and wall-mounted shelves allows cats to make full use of the vertical space. Window perches also provide mental stimulation. Rotate toys to keep cats engaged. Overall, creative use of the space available is more important than square footage when it comes to indoor cats (Source).

Shedding and cleanliness

When it comes to shedding fur and cleanliness, there are some key differences between cats and dogs. Cats tend to shed seasonally, especially in the spring and fall when they lose their winter and summer coats. Dogs shed hair all year round, though some breeds are lighter shedders than others. In general, dogs with double coats like huskies and German shepherds shed the most.

Cats tend to keep themselves clean by grooming regularly, so they may not need baths as frequently as dogs. With dogs, frequent brushing can help reduce shedding and keep fur off your furniture. Some breeds like poodles require professional grooming. In terms of fur on furniture, dog hair is often more visible due to the thicker strands compared to cat fur. Using furniture covers and vacuuming regularly can help with both cat and dog hair.

When it comes to allergy triggers, some studies have found cat allergens are more potent. Cat saliva sticks to fur as they groom, spreading allergens that can get trapped in fabric (Breeds of Cats and Dogs That Shed The Least/Most). However, dog allergens can also be problematic for sensitive individuals. Overall, frequent cleaning is recommended for households with either cats or dogs.

Social Needs

When it comes to social needs, dogs and cats differ quite significantly. Dogs are naturally pack animals that evolved from wolves, who live and work cooperatively in groups. This means dogs crave companionship and have a strong desire to be part of a family or pack. According to Why Do Dogs Show More Affection Than Cats, dogs show more affection than cats because they are more social creatures. Dogs often bond very closely with their human families and form strong emotional attachments.

In contrast, cats are more solitary creatures by nature. While cats do show some social behavior like rubbing, sleeping curled up together, and playing, they do not have the same pack mentality as dogs. Cats are content being on their own for long periods and do not have the same constant need for human interaction and companionship. As this Quora post discusses, cats are social in their own way, but not to the same degree as the highly social dog. Most cats can thrive with just a human or two to interact with daily.


Dogs are generally easier to train than cats due to their natural pack mentality which makes them more eager to follow a leader and obey commands (Source). Dogs have been bred over thousands of years specifically to respond to human direction and cues. With consistent positive reinforcement training, most dogs can master basic obedience commands like sit, stay, come, heel, etc. Cats tend to be more independent and less motivated to please their owners. While cats can certainly learn commands, they often choose not to obey them. Cats require more patience, creativity and incentive during training. Overall, dogs are more likely to readily follow instructions and be trainable.


When it comes to risks of property damage, dogs tend to cause more issues than cats. Dogs are more energetic, excitable, and prone to destructive chewing behaviors, especially as puppies. According to research, the average dog causes over $2000 in property damages over its lifetime, while cats average around $1500 (ApplyConnect, 2018). Dogs are more likely to have accidents inside the home, scratch flooring and doors, and chew on furniture, walls, doors, and more. Their larger size and strength makes it easier for them to cause significant damage quickly.

Cats still carry risks of damaging property, just on a smaller scale. Common problems include scratching furniture, knocking things off shelves and tables, vomiting on carpets and floors, and having litter box accidents. However, their smaller size limits the amount of damage they can do compared to a large, energetic dog (ClawGuard, 2023).

Many landlords are hesitant to rent to dog owners because dogs pose a much higher risk of damaging the property than cats do. While careful supervision and training can help mitigate risks for either pet, statistics show dogs are simply capable of doing more damage in a short time (Uloop, 2018).


In general, cats are easier to transport than dogs when traveling with your pet. Cats can comfortably fit in smaller carriers that are approved for air travel, while dogs often require larger kennels that take up more space (Source). However, cats tend to be more resistant to travel and changes in environment compared to dogs, who are often eager for new adventures. This can make the travel experience itself more stressful when bringing a cat along.

When it comes to boarding, cats are often content being left at home with a pet sitter stopping by to feed them and clean the litter box. Dogs usually require more attention and exercise, so boarding at a kennel or hiring a house sitter is preferred when leaving them behind (Source). Both cats and dogs should be crate trained and acclimated to car travel before venturing on longer trips. But overall, cats require less arrangements and preparation for travel compared to dogs.

Veterinary needs

Cats tend to have less health issues overall and visit the veterinarian much less frequently than dogs. One study found that over 90% of dog owners had visited a veterinarian in the past year, compared to only around 40% of cat owners ( As a result, total veterinary costs are generally lower for cats.

However, when cats do get sick, it often goes unnoticed by owners until the illness has progressed. This is partly because cats are more adept at masking symptoms. As a result, veterinary treatment for cats can become more involved and expensive if an illness is not caught early on. According to one source, the average annual veterinary expenditure for a cat is around $196, while for a dog it is $235 (

Some common health issues for cats include dental disease, urinary tract infections, hyperthyroidism, and kidney disease. For dogs, common issues include dental disease, ear infections, skin problems, diabetes, and arthritis. With proper preventative care and early treatment when needed, both cats and dogs can live long and healthy lives.


The average lifespan for a cat is 15-20 years, with mixed breed cats generally living longer than purebred cats. According to one source, “On average, a cat will live between fifteen and twenty years…” (Source). The lifespan of a cat can vary depending on whether it is a domestic, feral or purebred cat. Feral cats have a shorter lifespan of around 7-10 years.

For dogs, the average lifespan is around 10-13 years. According to veterinary sources, “The average lifespan for a spayed or neutered housecat is 15 years; this can also vary by breed. The average lifespan for dogs is much shorter than a cat, usually around ten years…” (Source). Like cats, mixed breed dogs tend to live slightly longer than purebred dogs.

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