Cat's Meow

By Chelle Cordero

January 16, 2009 5 min read


A furry feline might be best for on-the-go people

Chelle Cordero

Creators News Service

In a 2007 American Veterinary Medical Association survey, it was found that cats rule. At the time, there were 81.7 million cats that lived in households in the United States, while it was estimated that there were about 72 million dogs. Many of those homes had multiple cats.

Jill A. Richardson, a veterinarian for, ascribes the popularity of cats to lifestyle choices. "Cats are a lot more convenient," she said. "They are ideal companions for a tiny apartment, busy people and long intervals alone."

She recommends that you consider the time you spend, or don't spend, at home when choosing a pet. You also should look at your living arrangements, "Some landlords are more lenient about allowing cats than dogs," Richardson said.

In today's economic environment, the cost of pet ownership is an important consideration. "The cost of owning a cat is lower than owning a dog, generally," said veterinarian Fiona Fisher of Ontario, Canada. "Food for a 10-pound cat costs less than food for a 100-pound rottweiler. Medical bills are often much lower for cats, as a two week supply of antibiotics for a cat costs only $25, whereas the same antibiotic but in larger quantity for the rottweiler could easily cost $150."

However, the personality differences between a cat and a dog are striking. "A cat is far more independent than a dog," Fisher said. "Often the cat will seem to be more attached to the surroundings than the person in them. For example, if you were to go away for a weekend, the dog would be miserable if left behind at home, whereas the cat would be miserable if taken from her home."

This is great for those who might enjoy traveling. "If you tend to travel or spontaneously change plans, a cat is going to be much more tolerant of this than a dog," she said. "The cat would be perfectly content to have a neighbor visit during your weekend trip. She can entertain herself, clean herself and take care of her own toilet needs. Cats rarely injure themselves or eat foods that are toxic as they are much more careful than dogs.

"When you get home, she might be quite pleased to see you, but she is not going to drool on herself to show it! Clearly, a cat is a better choice if the animal is going to be alone for hours at a time."

Debra M. Givin, a veterinarian for the Cat Doctor in Portland, Maine, said a person's relationship with cats is different than with dogs. "There is less of an ownership with cats," she said. "They tend to choose us."

Cats will negotiate their space and will share the home with the family instead of needing to deal with behavioral issues. "We don't train them, they adapt," she said.

Givin compared sharing a home with a cat to sharing a home with a spouse or roommate and joked that she tells single friends to look for a mate who can live with a cat. "They can share space and are used to a partnership," she said.

Tom Dock, the reporter relations manager for the Veterinary News Network ( and host of's Cattitude show, said "Siamese, Burmese and Tonkinese cats seem to be the most affectionate" of all cats.

Givin also believes different breeds have distinctive personalities. She favors random bred shorthaired tabby cats. "Mixed breeds are generally stockier, hardier cats," she said.

However, when picking a cat, know that you are picking a longtime companion. "The average cat life expectancy today is about 12 to 15 years, although many cats have been known to live into their 20s," Givin added.

She also pointed out that owners can earn the love and affection of a cat by offering the cat respect and predictability. Cats are playful creatures when they want to be and can get used to interaction with the humans of a household. In households where the humans are away a lot, many cats will enjoy the companionship of another cat.

"Cats are very independent creatures, but seem to warm the hearts of the hardest person," Joan Vokes, a veterinary technician from Greenacres, Fla., said. "Cats need attention when they crave it, unlike a dog who needs to go for walks at regular intervals and relies on their caregiver to supply grooming and total care. A cat can be loving and warm or aloof at times. Cat people are a special breed as are their pets."

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