The results are clear, and it’s not even by a whisker. For most lifestyles, dogs are higher-maintenance so they’re more expensive. Although cats and dogs tie in some arenas, there’s not a single category in which cats are pricier. Some dog owners might say there are some benefits to the extra spending. Dogs can be taken with you on vacation, they can play with you at the park or accompany you on long walks, and they’re vastly more social and playful than cats. A cynical pet owner could argue that they get more return for their dollar on that count, though of course, the self-reliance, low maintenance, and soothing presence of a cat are selling characteristics on their own. There are lots of variables, including where you live, the size of your pet and the amount of free time you can spend at home taking care of your it, and the health of your animal. But with all things being equal, cats have the edge. You can significantly cut down on surrogate-attention and poop-maintenance costs by having a house and yard of your own, but if you’re like the majority of Americans, you will have to factor in the price of cleaning up after your dog, and you have to allow for plenty of daily exercise, which may require some financial outlay.
Emphasis ours. Webvet agrees, although it points out that a small dog (the most affordable kind) is not that much costlier than a cat:
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