We're a nation of pet lovers, and rightly so! Cats and dogs offer unconditional love, affection and friendship, as well as a host of therapeutic benefits, such as improved general health and wellbeing - after all, who doesn't like a cuddle from a furry friend at the end of a long day?
Choosing between getting a cat or dog can be a tough decision, but generally speaking, dogs require more attention while cats are more independent. But if you like to have a cuddle with your furry friend - and not just when it suits your cat, then perhaps a dog is the right choice for you.
Pet owners have lower levels of cholesterol, lower blood pressure and are less likely to suffer from stress, depression and anxiety. A study by the US Department of Health has even shown that owning a pet significantly improves the chances of surviving a heart attack, while a UK study found that people who own a pet deal with stress and loss better than those that don't. So owning a pet is good for more than just cuddles!
The most popular mammalian pets in the UK are cats and dogs, and we're evenly split when it comes to favourites: an estimated 20% of UK households own cats and 21% own dogs.
Cats and dogs have different needs and characteristics, so this decision is influenced as much by the type of lifestyle you have as it is your personal favourite. It's less about 'dog vs cat' and more about which animal would best suit your lifestyle, taking into account your activity levels, the space you have at home, whether you have children or not, and how much time you can give to a pet.
Of course, this decision can be made even harder by the sheer variety of breeds available. Owning a Chihuahua, for example, is very different to owning a Great Dane! Not sure which breed would suit you? Browse through our Dog Breed Library or Cat Breed Library for more information on the different breeds of cats and dogs, or perhaps consider adopting a crossbreed or mixed breed of dog, or a moggy (crossbred) cat from a rescue shelter.
Cats and dogs have different needs and characteristics, so this decision is influenced as much by the type of lifestyle you have as it is a personal favourite.
Tell-tale signs that dogs are for you
If you're an energetic "outdoorsy" type who loves keeping active, a dog may be the right choice for you. Dogs need lots of stimulation, fresh air and regular walks, so they're best suited to people who have a garden, live in rural areas or have easy access to parks and open spaces.
Well-trained dogs can be taken on trips and enjoy days out and travelling. Unlike cats, they're not naturally solitary animals, so they shouldn't be left alone all day - if you work long hours or have a very demanding job, think about whether you can give them the full attention they deserve. You'll also need to set aside time to train them and groom them.
There are lots of different types of dog breeds available, ranging in size, shape, temperament and hairiness, so you should take these individual differences into account as well if you're thinking about getting a dog. Ultimately, if you have the space and time, you'll be rewarded with a pet who is an empathetic, playful, protective and faithful life-long companion.
Tell-tale signs that cats are for you
If you have limited indoor space, a busy lifestyle or simply want a more independent pet, you might be better suited to a cat rather than a dog. Cats are relatively quiet and are happy to be left alone to sleep and entertain themselves for most of the day - especially if they're allowed outdoors. They don't need walking, so cats are often well-suited to less active people. They do enjoy social interaction, though, and love being played with. Regular grooming is important too, especially if you have a long-haired cat.
Cats don't really need as much indoor space as dogs, especially if they have safe access to a garden. Even without outside access, cats can be content as long as they are fed an appropriate diet and have access to a litterbox, toys and scratching posts to keep their minds and bodies busy. It's also essential that you interact with them frequently, so if you're going away you will need to find somebody to look after them, which may mean asking a neighbour to check in on them regularly or putting them in a cattery where they'll be looked after while you're gone.
Although they don't tend to show the boundless energy that dogs do, cats often prove to be more self-sufficient and make loving, affectionate, relaxing and entertaining pets.
Still can't decide?
A lot of people love cats and dogs equally, and under the right conditions the two can get along quite happily in the same household if you give them time to get to know each other.
For more advice on introducing new pets to the fold, see our guides on introducing your dog to other pets or introducing your cat to other pets. If you really can't choose between a cat or dog and are able to offer a good home to both, a puppy and kitten raised together will usually learn to live with each other right away, and may even become the very best of friends!