PET PAGE: Tough choice: a cat or a dog

Few acts are more selfless than adopting a pet. Particularly in these trying economic times, making the emotional and financial commitment to a pet is an admirable decision.

As admirable as that decision can be, it can also be difficult. Prospective adoptees, be it singles, young married couples or families, must decide which type of pet they want to adopt. For most, the decision boils down to cats or dogs. Both cats and dogs make wonderful pets, but those considering adoption should know what they’re getting into before deciding to adopt Morris or Fido.

The 411 on Felines

Before adopting a cat, it helps to know a thing or two about these often misunderstood yet lovable animals.

• Cats are social. Contrary to popular belief, many cats love attention and social interaction. The misconception about cats as loners likely stems from the comparison between cats and dogs. Though cats typically don’t need as much attention from their owners as dogs, cats do require some daily play time with and affection from their owners. A cat is not simply a pet an owner can feed, house and forget about. Cats need and want attention and companionship from their owners.

• Cats can live a long time. A cat’s life expectancy is longer than a dog’s. In his book, “Caring for Your Dog: The Complete Canine Home Reference,” Dr. Bruce Fogle says the median life expectancy for canines is 12.8 years. While a cat’s life expectancy varies depending on the breed, veterinarians routinely advise prospective cat owners that indoor cat owners will likely live 15 years and could very well live longer than that. Adoption candidates should recognize that adopting a cat is a 15-year commitment.

• Declawing is painful. Prospective cat owners might be unaware that declawing, which involves removing the first knuckle of each toe, is extremely painful to cats. Many products, including scratching posts, are effective at keeping cats from clawing away at the furniture.

• Families with very young children should avoid kittens. Parents of children three years of age or younger should adopt older cats and steer clear of kittens.

The 411 on Man’s Best Friend

Decided on a dog instead of a cat? Consider the following before visiting the local shelter.

• All dogs go to heaven, but all dogs are different, too. Dogs differ greatly depending on the breed. Before choosing a specific type of dog, read up on the various breeds, including their behavioral patterns, and choose one you’re most compatible with.

• Purebreds are available at the local shelter. Many people mistakenly assume the local shelter specializes only in mutts. However, according to the Humane Society of the United States, 25 percent of dogs in shelters are purebred. There are also nonprofit organizations that rescue particular breeds, be it English Bulldogs or Greyhounds, from unfortunate living situations and offer their rescues for adoption for a nominal fee.

• Dogs need attention and affection. While cats need attention and affection, dogs often need much more. A dog that does not receive enough attention and/or affection from its owner will suffer both physically and emotionally. Don’t adopt a dog if you don’t have the time or desire to spend time with the animal and cannot provide it a loving home.

• Not all dogs can adapt to their environments. An owner must not only be compatible with his dog, but that owner’s living situation also has to be compatible. Active dogs often struggle to live in confined spaces, such as apartments or small homes without a yard or nearby dog park to play in. Research breeds that are likely to thrive in your home, whether that home is a studio apartment or a mansion.

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