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Cats or Dogs: Who Makes a Better Companion?

By Rachel Segal
 unsplash / krista-mangulsone
*Updated 2024
The world is divided into cat people and dog people. Having a certain preference has been known to strain or even break up relationships. As 66% of American households (almost 86.9 million homes!) own a pet (with an estimated 65 million of these homes with a dog and more than 46.5 million with a cat), the debate between cats and dogs is one that will likely continue until the end of time. The companionship of these furry friends (whether canine or feline) can be of great joy and comfort, especially when life gets stressful.
Here are three arguments why dogs make better companions and three arguments why felines as pets are the “cat’s pajamas.”


Why Dogs Make Better Companions than Cats


Dogs love to play (and work)

While you can play with some cats, nothing measures up to the sheer, infectious joy your dog shows for playtime. Inside or outside, dogs are always eager to join any game and will happily play with kids and adults for hours on end. And, unlike cats, dogs can play interactively; they’ll catch a ball and bring it back to you. Not only can dogs be easily trained to play and do tricks, but they can also be trained to do actual jobs that make a real difference in society. It helps that dogs are scientifically proven to be as smart as 2-year-old kids. In fact, research suggests that even puppies with little exposure to humans can already understand pointing gestures and are born with levels of social cognition – ready to work and play.


Dogs are more adaptable than cats

While both dogs and cats prefer routine and don’t like uncertainty, dogs are much more adaptable than cats. This is because dogs usually bond with their owner rather than with a specific place. Recent research shows that dogs’ brains process speech the same way that humans do, understanding tones first and then meaning. It’s no wonder, then, that humans and dogs form such strong bonds given that they can communicate and understand each other. So, unlike cats, dogs are more likely to be happy wherever their owner is and will therefore better handle being relocated to new places – with their owners. You can even take your dog on vacation and know that he’ll enjoy it rather than be stressed.


Dogs will protect you

No matter the dog breed, all dogs feel protective and defensive of their owners. Whereas cats will typically run off and hide at the first sense of danger, dogs will stay around out of duty and loyalty, protecting and defending you against any threats to your safety. Moreover, a dog’s sense of smell can also save lives. Other ways that dogs are good for their owners’ health are that they can sniff and identify chemical odors that people emit when stressed and motivate their owners to exercise more. New research shows that dog walkers (i.e., most dog owners) are more physically active than people who don’t own dogs.


Why Cats Make Better Companions than Dogs:


Cats are independent.

The independent spirit of cats is a virtue, especially when you’re busy or expecting company. Dogs work themselves into a frenzy, barking, jumping, and drooling on you and your visitors. In their excited bid for attention, dogs’ nails scratch clothes and their drool soils them (which is just as unwelcome for owners as it is for guests.) Meanwhile, cats make themselves scarce when the doorbell rings. Maybe, they’ll discreetly check out your guests by rubbing up against their leg, but there won’t be any overbearing leaping or leg humping. Plus, cats’ independence means you (and your guests) won’t need to give them constant attention. (That being said, cats’ independence should not be mistaken for cold aloofness. Research shows that cats, like dogs, can actually shape their behavior to human emotions and may be as socially intelligent as dogs.)


Cats are low-maintenance.

You can leave your cat inside when you’re not home and be mostly assured that everything will still be in one piece when you get back. More importantly, cats aren’t dependent on their owners to go to the bathroom. Sure, kitty litter can smell if it isn’t changed regularly, but you can store and change it at your convenience. Not to mention, some cats can be trained to actually use the toilet. In contrast, dogs don’t care if there’s rain, snow or extreme heat outside. When they need a walk, there’s no avoiding it. And even if you have a yard, you’ll still need to do constant poop control outside. Plus, cats groom themselves and don’t emit bad smells. Not even the most ardent dog lover can deny that their furry companion has a distinctly strong odor, which often remains on clothes, furniture and in cars after they’ve gone.


Cats are quiet.

Unlike dogs that will always vocalize their moods with loud barks or endless whining, most cats will (mostly) keep their moods to themselves. Even when cats do protest, their meows or hisses are usually not as loud as barks and can’t be heard from the neighbor’s house. There’s also an added benefit of your cat’s low-decibel purring is that it’s been shown to reduce stress levels and blood pressure, among other things.


The Bottom Line: Both cats and dogs make wonderful pets for different reasons. While cats are low-key and low-maintenance, dogs are active and adoring. Which type of furry companion do you prefer to live with?

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