Cats Versus Dogs

| August 22, 2018
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At Flagstone Financial Management, we’re passionate about many things. We love helping our clients meet their financial and non-financial goals. We take pride in the level of service we provide. We strive to help our clients discover their own passions. And, we’re passionate about…our pets.

Collectively, we’re the caretakers of four cats and three dogs, which begs the question. Which is better? What follows is a super-scientific study of whether cats or dogs make a better pet. I surveyed five people in our office, including myself, so the results will be positively, unarguably and vaguely conclusive, like any research should be. I’m confident that by the time you’re done reading this, you’ll have a questionable understanding of which animal is right for you.

Dogs

They’re called “man’s best friend”. Few can argue that the companionship of a dog isn’t a rewarding experience. However, it’s hard to generalize the traits of a dog. A Chihuahua is so different from a Golden Retriever, which is also very different than a Doberman. But this is a blog article, so let’s start generalizing.

Pros

Michael Johnson, our founder, is the proud owner of Rocky, a 7-year-old Labrador Retriever. He wrote that Rocky is a “great family dog, who gets us outside to walk, puts our kids to bed, and is always there with a smile when he greets us.” Indeed, dogs can form special connections with kids. My family owned a Doberman named Major when I was a baby. Major put up with my older sister who would lay on him, climb up on him and ride him like a horse.

Bev Williams, Director of First Impressions, loved the company of her late Westie Poodle mix, Fluffy. “Our favorite part about owning pets was the companionship, especially the dog. She was always happy when anyone came home and always anxious to ride in the car.” Dogs can be a part of family gatherings, whether they’re inside, outside, or away from the home. “It’s a great experience having pets when you have a family at home”, she wrote.

Brenda Merritt, Operations Specialist, has a 6-year-old Maltese-Shih Tzu mix named Sophie, and a 4-year-old Great Dane named Harlee. She loves “their seemingly endless supply of love and excitement.”

As Michael mentioned, dogs can be great exercise partners. Runners, cyclists, and walkers alike can take the dog along with them. Training a dog can be a great way for the owner to learn the rewards of hard work and discipline (a trait that has benefits far beyond pet ownership), and it can also create a special bond between the trainer and the dog. Bev wrote that owning a pet “teaches kids responsibility and the cycle of life”.

Cons

Owning a dog doesn’t come without drawbacks. Brenda could do without their need to bark at every person, squirrel, bird or leaf that goes past their front window. Michael deals with yellow dog hair everywhere.

Then there’s the whole pet waste topic. Whether it’s at 5:00 a.m. or 1:00 p.m., dogs often need someone to let them outside to do their business. In addition to the inconvenience that creates, in some cases it can also take a toll on your lawn. It can also damage your neighbors’ lawns if you’re on a walk with your dog. In cities like Lincoln, you’re required to clean up after your dog when on walks, so you have to be prepared to clean up when it happens.

Cats

Like dogs, cats are hard to generalize. Some are quiet, others are vocal. Some are furry, others are hairless. Some are independent, others are social. They do have one thing in common, though. Genetically speaking, they’re very close to their wild counterparts. Regardless of what they’re bred for, cats have an innate desire to hunt, catch, kill, eat, groom, and sleep – usually in that order. Let’s think about the pros and cons of these not-so-domesticated pets.

Pros

Stephanie Tredway, Operations Manager, owns 9-month old Prix and 4-month old Whisky, her “rescued chicken lovers”.

Some of her favorite things about Prix and Whisky include their purring. “It’s one of the best sounds in the world,” she wrote. She also enjoys their personalities. Prix is always very vocal like she’s trying to tell you something, and Whisky is very spunky and enjoys sneak attacks.

My wife and I have two one-year-old Balinese cats: Neville and Luna, brother and sister littermates. Luna is a blue point, and Neville is a seal point. Like Stephanie, my favorite thing about our cats is their personalities. Neville greets us in the morning with his purrs to remind us it’s time to get up. They both greet us at the door when we get home from work. They love being in the same room we’re in, cramming themselves in any Amazon box sitting in the entryway, ploughing through pillow forts, bounding up their 7-foot climbing pole so fast it seems like their paws don’t even touch the pole, playing tag with Kate and me (seriously), and even going on walks. They’re both trained to be on a harness. Luna likes walking on the sidewalk, while Neville mostly runs through lawns and smells the flowers.

Cats can also be very practical pets because of their hunting skills. They’re known to be excellent mousers. Luna and Neville are both great house-fly hunters; we haven’t used a fly swatter in a year.

Finally, cats can be relatively low maintenance. Responsible cat owners do need to play with their cats so they can have an outlet to hunt, but cats can relieve themselves on their own time, and they can stay at home on their own during short vacations (assuming someone can come and check on them).

Cons

Again, now is a time to address pet waste. Cleaning a litter box is one of the less enjoyable parts of my life. Stephanie agrees, and added; “Whisky doesn’t always exit the litter box completely clean”.

The struggle with cat hair is real, although our recent purchase of a Roomba helps us manage. I’ve also been known to use a lint roller quite often when I’m in the office, because that hair doesn’t stay at home.

Allergies can prohibit many people from ever enjoying cats. Bev mentioned that too many of her close friends and some family members were allergic to cats. And while Kate and I own two cats, we’re actually both allergic. We purchased Balinese cats because they are supposedly hypoallergenic. We take allergy pills and have basically no allergic reactions to our cats.

Cost

Flagstone is a fee-only financial planning and wealth management firm, so it would be remiss of me to neglect the topic of cost. Both dogs and pets can be quite expensive. The fee of adopting a pet can be low, but that’s only a fraction of the cost of ownership. My wife and I didn’t have the option of adopting because we needed a specific breed due our allergies, so we paid a lot more than just an adoption fee.

The amount of money that Flagstone employees spend on food, toys, annual visits to the vet, and basic supplies ranged from $65 to $100 per month. The higher amounts were for the dog owners, and the smaller amounts were for the cat owners, perceivably because of the amount of food large dogs eat compared to small cats.

Vet bills can be the biggest variable, and it has less to do with dog versus cat, and more to do with the specific breed. Some breeds are prone to health problems. For example, Brenda wrote that “Great Danes tend to blow their ACL. The cost to fix one is $2,000 - $3,000, and they have four legs!” She also had a Boston Terrier that had seizures, two Boxers that lost the use of their back legs, a Golden Retriever/Chow mix that was hit by a car, and an alley cat with a kidney disease. Vet bills can add up. If you own or are thinking about owning a breed that tends to have medical problems, consider pet insurance. Consumer Reports did a good analysis of whether pet insurance is worth the cost. Often times it’s not, so don’t make an impulse purchase, but there are scenarios where it might make sense to you.

The last cost you might not think of off the bat is the cost of ruined belongings. Even well-trained cats and dogs can ruin furniture, clothes, carpet, and more. Consider these costs when making a decision.

So, which is better?

Did you really think I could answer that question for you? In the same way I can’t give you a definitive answer to many of your financial questions without getting to know you, I can’t really say with certainty whether a cat or dog would be better for you. What I do know is that cats are better for me, because I value the convenience and their specific personality traits. The same is true for Stephanie. That’s not the case with everyone, though. Brenda, Bev, and Michael all prefer dogs.

If you’re looking to adopt or purchase a pet, Michael, Brenda, and Stephanie all offered the same advice: be ready for a long-term commitment, from 10-20 years, depending on the breed. Don’t take the decision lightly.

Whether you prefer cats or dogs, one thing is certain. Pet ownership can bring so much fun, warmth, laughs, and joy to your life. It’s not without its challenges, but it can be a satisfying experience that is well worth the investment.

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