Which is more expensive a pet to have, a dog or a cat, and by how much? Let’s play a game where we guess — no cheating! — and then we come back and actually look at the data. At that point we can also consider which is the better value.
To start with, I’m going to guess that cats are pretty significantly cheaper. They’re generally smaller; they must eat less; they require less equipment — no leashes, fewer toys — and don’t need walkers to come take them out during the day. In terms of health care, they are probably cheaper to insure, too. They’re more independent and less fun, so I assume that is reflected in what it costs to take care of them.
On the other hand, well do we remember Emily Gould’s horror story of being nearly bankrupted by her cat:
I don’t regret spending thousands of dollars on my cat Raffles, though he has been a pricey liability for years now. He has been threatening to die on a regular basis since the summer of my twenty-second year, when my parents brought him to New York because he’d been getting beaten up all over their neighborhood by cats, dogs, and maybe raccoons, coming home with infected wounds, which became abscesses, which required surgery. It was clear how he got into these situations: he approaches everyone and everything with an open-hearted friendliness, head-butting legs and outstretched palms and furniture in ecstasies of delirious affection. It’s easy to imagine this not going over well with raccoons.
Raffles contracted feline immunodeficiency virus from the fights, but that latent condition would turn out to be the least of his woes. In 2007 he became diabetic, requiring insulin shots at precise twelve-hour intervals and expensive, foul-smelling prescription cat food. He recovered from the diabetes, but soon developed a host of other expensive conditions: dental problems to rival Martin Amis’s, thyroid and gastric disorders, mysterious and terrible fits of projectile vomiting. He became so finicky that after trying all the healthy cat food brands with their cutesy flavor names (“Thanksgiving Dinner”) I gave up and started feeding him Fancy Feast, feeling the way I imagine parents feel when they give in to their toddlers’ desires to eat mac and cheese for every meal—guilty and slightly relieved, because at least it’s cheap.
What’s your take? Do hidden costs stalk all cat owners like they do Emily Gould, or do you agree with my original hypothesis and assume dogs are more expensive?
photo via Meme Binge