Dog vs Cat. Which Pet is More Difficult to Care For?


There is an ongoing debate among pet owners over whether it is harder to keep a dog or a cat. Both dogs and cats can make wonderful pets, but they have very different needs in terms of care, space, exercise, and more. When deciding between getting a dog or cat, it is important to consider your lifestyle and ability to meet the unique requirements of each species. This article examines the key differences between dogs and cats across a variety of factors to help readers determine which may be a better fit for their home and family.


Initial costs to adopt a cat from a shelter typically range from $30-$300, while adopting a dog costs between $100-$700 (1). Annual costs for food, treats, and toys average around $400-600 per year for a cat and $650-1000 per year for a dog (2). Cats are generally cheaper than dogs when it comes to food costs. High-quality dry cat food costs approximately $200-$300 per year, whereas high-quality dry dog food costs around $400-$600 per year for a medium sized dog (3). Treats and toys will run about $100-$150 per year for a cat compared to $150-$250 per year for a dog.


Grooming requirements differ significantly between cats and dogs. Cats are generally much better at self-grooming than dogs. Cats instinctively groom themselves regularly by licking their coats, which helps remove loose hair and distribute natural oils. Dogs require more extensive grooming by their owners to keep their coats clean and prevent matting source.

Brushing a cat is usually quicker and easier than brushing a dog. Many cats only need occasional brushing to remove dead hair and prevent hairballs. Dogs with longer fur often require daily brushing to remove tangles and debris source.

Trimming a dog’s nails is typically easier than trimming a cat’s nails. Dogs are often more tolerant of having their feet handled. Cat nails are thinner and less visible, making them harder to clip without hitting the quick source.

Vet Care

Vet care costs are a significant part of owning any pet. Both cats and dogs require annual exams and vaccinations to keep them healthy. However, there are some differences in the typical veterinary costs for cats vs. dogs.

According to the Visions FCU, annual vet exams for cats cost about $235 on average, while for dogs it averages $212. Vaccines for cats cost around $160 per year, compared to $175 for dogs [1]. Emergency vet visits are estimated to be $800-1500 for dogs and $500-1000 for cats.

Overall, vet care for cats tends to cost less than for dogs on an annual basis. Cats usually need fewer immunizations and their smaller size means lower medication dosages. However, both cats and dogs require diligent preventative care and expenses for emergency issues.


Training a new puppy or kitten requires patience, consistency, positive reinforcement and setting reasonable expectations. Puppies generally take 4-6 months to be fully housebroken, while kittens can take 2-4 months 1. Basic commands like sit, stay and come can often be learned in days or weeks of daily 5-minute training sessions using treats as motivation. More complex skills require longer – up to 6 months for reliable off-leash obedience according to dog trainers2.

Cats can also learn commands with clicker training and treats, though they are less driven to please humans than dogs. With patience, cats can learn skills like high-five, sit, come and walking on a leash. Behavior issues in both species benefit from early socialization, along with reinforcing desired behaviors and redirecting unwanted ones. Consistency is key, as is setting realistic training goals for your individual pet based on breed traits and temperament.


Dogs typically need more exercise than cats. According to the American Humane Society (, adult dogs require 30-60 minutes of exercise per day in the form of walks and active playtime. On the other hand, cats only need around 15-20 minutes of playtime per day. Cats can get sufficient exercise from playing with toys inside the home.

Dogs need to be taken on daily walks outdoors to meet their exercise needs. Taking your dog for a 30-60 minute brisk walk once or twice per day will provide both physical and mental enrichment. Interactive playtime such as playing fetch, tug of war, or chasing toys is also important for providing dogs an outlet for their energy (

Cats are generally less active than dogs. They like to play in short bursts and then rest. Cat toys like furry mice, balls, and laser pointers provide mental stimulation and exercise for cats. Cats can entertain themselves indoors with toys while their owners are away.

In summary, dogs need significantly more daily exercise time and outdoor walks compared to cats who are content with short indoor play sessions.


When it comes to housing space, dogs generally require more room than cats, especially if the dog will be kept primarily indoors. According to this source, the minimum recommended space for a dog is 100 square feet, while a cat only needs about 30-40 square feet. Dogs tend to be more active and need room to move around and play, while cats are content lounging in a sunny window or cozy cat tree.

In terms of outdoor space, dogs benefit greatly from having access to a securely fenced yard to play, run, and go to the bathroom. Letting a dog out in a yard prevents accidents in the house and provides enrichment. Cats, on the other hand, don’t require yard access as long as they have indoor play spaces like cat trees, perches, and interactive toys. However, access to an enclosed “catio” or cat fencing system allows safe outdoor access for cats.


When it comes to traveling with pets, dogs tend to be more difficult than cats. Dogs often have separation anxiety when away from home and their owners, while cats are more independent and adaptable to new environments (Source).

For travel nursing in particular, cats make better pets as they are content being left alone for long hospital shifts. Dogs have greater need for company and exercise, making them less suited for a traveling lifestyle (Source).

If bringing pets along during travel, cats can easily be transported in carriers and kept in a hotel room. Dogs require more space, daily walks, and access to outdoor areas for relief. Pet-sitters are an easier option for cat owners, with less disruption to the cat’s routine.

While cats are lower maintenance to travel with, dogs can still be manageable with preparation. Arranging dog walkers or boarders in advance can allow dogs to travel too. But extra planning and costs make dogs overall harder to travel with than self-sufficient cats.


When it comes to cleanliness and mess, there are some key differences between dogs and cats. Dogs tend to require more cleanup from pooping, vomiting, and shedding fur.

For pooping, dogs need to be taken outside multiple times per day to relieve themselves. Puppies may have accidents inside while house training. Cats can use a litter box inside the home, avoiding the need to go outside in bad weather. However, the litter box must be scooped daily to keep the home clean 1.

Vomiting is another cleanup concern. Dogs tend to vomit more often than cats. Dogs may vomit if they eat something that disagrees with them or due to motion sickness in the car. Cats usually only vomit if unwell. In both cases, vomit must be cleaned up immediately to prevent stains or bacteria 2.

Shedding fur is constant with dogs and cats. However, dogs tend to shed more fur over a greater area of the home. Cat hair tends to accumulate on furniture and clothing touched by the cat. Dogs spread loose hair all over floors, furniture, and carpets. So dogs require more frequent vacuuming and lint rolling 3.

In summary, while both dogs and cats require cleanup, dogs tend to need more effort when it comes to poop, vomit, and shedding fur in the home.


In summary, there are pros and cons to both dogs and cats as pets. Dogs require more time, attention, training, exercise and cleanup, but can be very loving, loyal and eager to please. Cats are lower maintenance when it comes to grooming, vet visits, training and exercise, but require diligence with litter boxes and scratching appropriate objects. They tend to be more independent. Ultimately, dogs and cats each have their own unique demands, so which one is “harder” depends a lot on the owner’s lifestyle, expectations and commitment level. Both dogs and cats can make wonderful pets for the right owner.

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