If you’re considering starting 2017 with a new four-legged friend, recognize there are both pluses and minuses attached to such a decision—not to mention a few crucial decisions you need to make before you begin to visit animal shelters or pet stores. For example, do you want a dog or a cat? Adult or newborn? Male or female? Will he or she live indoors or out? Do you want one or more companion? Will you buy or adopt? And so on…
The first question—dog or cat?—may be easy to answer depending on whether you’re a dog person or a cat person. The typical dog person usually reflects some of the qualities found in most dogs: high energy, faithful, easy to get along with and extroverted.
Just to confuse matters, those qualities are often found in many cat people as well. Cat people generally prefer to spend time on their own, are usually ready to try new things, are curious, unconventional in thinking and actions, and more prone to worry than dog people.
So which are you–remembering that these are merely generalities?
It’s important to recognize at least some of these traits both in the animals and in yourself, and then select a pet that matches you at least in some respects. Dogs have rightfully earned their reputation as man’s best friend. No matter the size or breed, a dog provides a lifetime of love and loyalty. They are social animals that thrive on human companionship. If you do not have the time or inclination to provide that care and companionship, don’t even consider adopting a dog.
Beyond which, even the best dogs must be trained. They bark, jump up, dig, tug at the leash, or even growl and bite. To curb bad behavior, you need to teach your dog what’s allowed and what’s not. Some dogs are easy to train, while others take more time and practice. If you’re not ready for all that, you might consider adopting a cat or two.
Cats are famously independent and low-maintenance. They don’t need to be bathed or taken for walks. They can be left on their own for hours at a time—usually asleep. Even though cats like to do their own thing, they still need plenty of love and attention. You’ll have to devote some time each day to playing with your cat, grooming her, or just giving her some TLC.
Some cats love to socialize, but others prefer to stay hidden, especially when new people visit. In fact, your friends may not even realize you have a cat! Cats who weren’t around people enough as kittens may be skittish. Even the friendliest cat will jump off your lap and sashay off when he’s had enough of your attention.
If you’re looking for a playmate, it doesn’t get much better than a dog. Most breeds are playful and love to be outdoors. A dog can be a great companion for jogging, hiking, or a leisurely stroll in the park. If you’re trying to get in shape, Fido is a fantastic exercise companion. Exercise is as important for dogs as it is for people.
Note, too, that all dogs shed at least a little, even breeds thought to be better for people with allergies. The longer and thicker the coat, the more dog hair you’ll find on your clothes, rugs, and furniture. Dogs’ coats can also get dirty and matted, so expect to bathe and brush your dog or pay someone to do it for you.
When it comes to cuddling, cats take the prize. And most cat owners will tell you the sound of a purring cat is deeply soothing. In fact, when researchers looked closely they found stress levels and blood pressure dropped slightly in people who snuggled up to a purring kitty.
Then there’s the litter box. It’s essential if you have an indoor cat, and cleaning it every day is mandatory. If you get more than one cat, you’ll need more than one litter box.
On top of that, whichever species you choose, you will have to make visits to the vet, make feeding choices, think about neutering your furry friend, buy toys, treats and bedding, and get ready to change your life—mostly for the better.