Notice who is on the dog bed and who is on the ground? 🙂 There’s some truth to the saying, “cats rule and dogs drool!” Those cats are the boss around here. But that’s not the point of this post. I’m writing to share my observations from owning dogs and cats (two of each) and now having a baby. Historically, it seems to be quite common for kids to beg their parents for a puppy. Surprising to some, my recommendation is for more families to consider getting a cat instead of a dog. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “but doesn’t every child needs a dog?!” or “I’m not a cat person.” Here me out. If you consider the following, you may decide against that new puppy and lean towards a kitten instead.
- Financial: you need a lot more money to own a dog than you do to own a cat. Our indoor-only cats have been to the vet twice in the last 5 yrs. Our dogs go at least twice a year for various reasons (ex: our one dog ran away and ripped out his front dewclaw earlier this year). Vet visits + meds for dogs really add up. Dog food is more expensive and we need more of it than cat food. And boarding a dog at a kennel really gets expensive where as you can leave your cat for a few days with plenty of food/litter/water and they are fine.
- Freedom: Are you a family that likes to go away? A little or a lot? With a dog, you give up the ability to go away last-minute. You have to make arrangements for the dog. And kennels fill up fast for every holiday. When you own a dog, you chose to be tied down. To be a homebody. Sometimes you miss out on once in a lifetime events (ex: seeing a new baby) because of the dog(s). A cat does not tie you down in nearly the same way. Also, you have to live a very scheduled daily life with a dog (they need to go inside/outside several times a day). Want to pick the kids up from school and do an evening outing with them? You gotta plan in a trip home to let the dog out first.
- Work: do you have the time to train a puppy? You can’t expect the children to train the dog – that’s up to the adults. A puppy requires a whole lot of attention and training for the first 2 years of their life (formal training recommended). A puppy will require you letting it outside 1-3 times during the night at first. Your puppy WILL pee in the house (our kittens used the kitty litter from day one), chew inappropriate things, jump on the kids, etc. Do you have the time and patience to train the puppy? The latter being just as important as the first. While kittens are little balls of energy for the first couple of years as well, they are nothing compared to the energy and work of a puppy. Believe me on this one.
If you are an experienced dog owner (meaning: having owned a dog as an adult and not just as a child), have done your research, and are willing to make all the sacrifices to be a dog family then by all means: get that dog or puppy. But if you aren’t sure if you are up to the challenge of having a dog or a puppy, I’d consider contacting a local dog rescue and sign up to foster a puppy or a dog. This will give you a test drive without having made the lifelong commitment of owning a dog. Dogs aren’t for everyone. Through owning dogs, we’ve come to realize just how time-consuming, costly, and inconvenient owning dogs are. We’ve realized that we are dog people when it’s someone else’s dog! That’s why our current dogs will be our last.
When you consider the pros and cons of owning a dog or a cat, I think that more families with young children should consider getting a kitten or cat (that’s had experience with children) rather than assuming that they have to be a dog family. Be a dog family if you are up for all the work, if money isn’t an issue for your family (and you don’t mind spend a butt load of money on a pet!), and it doesn’t bother you to be tied down by a dog. If you want to save money, time, and still retain some sense of freedom, consider a cat. And if you think you aren’t a cat person: not all cats are the same. You may not have met the right cat yet. One of our cats greets us at the door, growls if it thinks someone is breaking in, and loves when we have company over (loves to be pet!). Whatever you decide, remember that it will be YOU (as the adult) that will end up doing the majority of the work taking care of the family pet. Don’t assume that you must be a dog family, there are many benefits to NOT owning a dog and having a cat instead. You may not be cut out to be a dog family and that’s okay. You may instead be surprised to discover that you’re much happier as a cat family. All the best as you decide what pet will work best for you and the kids!