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Old 01-03-2011, 06:36 PM
Location: Mid-Atlantic east coast
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Given a healthy pet dog or cat, and after the initial costs of spaying, neutering, beginning shots and all, which do you think cost less over its lifetime (given good health) a cat or dog?

Was discussing this with a friend, she with cats, me with dog, and we couldn't decide.

Cats have kitty litter, dogs, beyond the tiny ones, eat more. For the sake of discussion, let's rule out dogs that need regular grooming visits, such as poodles).

What's been your experience?
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Old 01-03-2011, 07:22 PM
Location: Chicago
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I used to own a dog and now own 2 cats. in my opinion, I would say cats for a couple of reasons:

-cats really need a good diet, preferably a grain free one. unlike dogs, they're obligate carnivores and aren't meant to eat grains. a dog could, realistically, live on a vegetarian diet (I personally don't agree w/ them, but that's another topic). I mention this b/c cheap cat foods have a LOT of indigestible grains in them. not that you should feed a substandard food w/ tons of junk to a dog, but a dog can better withstand a mid-range kibble and also, a dog's diet could be easily supplemented w/ cheap produce and rice, unlike a cat. on top of that, many recommend that cats be fed wet food rather than dry food and that can drive up the costs

-cats live longer, so of course, there's the added costs of a few extra years

-I feel like I've spent more money on toys for my cats than my dog in the past. my dog was content with a stuff animal, a nylabone, and a tennis ball, so long as she got tons of walks outside. the cats need tons of enrichment since they're cooped up in the house. plus, cat toys can be pricey beyond the very basic wand/fishing rod toy.

for me, the most expensive thing about my dog, beyond vet stuff and food, was grooming (she was a shih tzu). other than that, she was a very low maintenance pet and I don't think I ever spent more than an average $5/month on miscellaneous items (and I'm sure some months, I didn't spend anything extra on her at all. she didn't destroy her toys like some dogs do!). on the other hand, I spend more than that on cat litter, and every few months I need to replace their cardboard scratchers
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Old 01-03-2011, 07:31 PM
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Hmmm... Here's my calculations, basic costs, no toys or extras. But I'm sure costs will vary a lot by brands, how often a person wants to replace a litter box, how often the law requires the animal get vaccs/lic, how long the animals lives, breed/size, ect...

Cat: 25 year lifespan $9,270.83
Food cost per month- $20 ($6,000)
Litter cost per month- $10 ($3,000)
Litter boxes- $30 replaced every... 4 years we'll say ($187.50)
Rabies every 3 years- $10 ($83.33)

Dog: 15 year lifespan $7,700
Food cost per month- $40 ($7,200)
Shampoo (for a basic backyard bath)- $20 yearly ($300)
Rabies every three years- $10 ($50)
City Licence every year- $10 ($150)
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Old 01-03-2011, 07:37 PM
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I think a lot of it has to do with luck and breeding. If one has a dog or cat that gets sick and they are willing to get it the best of care the vet bills can be seriously expensive, regarldess whether ones owns a cat or a dog. It really comes down to what kind of pet owner you are and what kind of care/attention you give to your pets, including investments in diet and vet. care, IMO.
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Old 01-03-2011, 07:44 PM
Location: Denver
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Cats are a lot less maintenance in my opinion.
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Old 01-03-2011, 07:55 PM
Location: Middle America
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I don't have cats, but my relatively low-maintenance dog has been lots more costly than anticipated. Nothing problematic, but we definitely did have to adjust the "dog" line item in the old budget quite a bit.
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Old 01-04-2011, 08:56 AM
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I have always spent a LOT less on my cats than my dogs.
Now I have bigger dogs so food costs are a lot more........

Now, yes, I have put down a senior cat (18) when her thryoid went out which is common in cats but I would do the same for an elderly dog with a chronic severe condition.

The estimates above very low to me because even a healthy dog gets sick and I do annual blood tests, urinalysis, then there is HW preventive, flea preventive, teeth cleanings, other immunizations ( I give routine every 3 years but ocassionally have to give Bordatella and do give Lepto to my working dog who must work in swampy pig infested areas sometimes) etc.
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Old 01-04-2011, 09:06 AM
Location: Marion, IN
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I have both cats and a dog. Cost per critter the cats are less expensive.

The biggest difference comes from the heartworm/flea control which is based on weight. I spend just over $220/year for the dog but under $90/year per cat.
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Old 01-04-2011, 10:36 AM
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I based my estimates on the cut & dry bare bones basics... but I didn't think to include HW & flea preventitives as an annual cost because I live in an area where those things are not a problem... those items would probably bring the dog's cost up quite a bit.

I left out vet care based on OP's hypothetical "given good health" statement (and here you do not have to go to the vet for a rabies shot). This year alone I've spent over $500 on vet care for illness, and my dog is young, strong, and in good general health. Over an animals lifetime, be it dog or cat, an owner is bound to spend quite a hefty ammount of cash (beyond basic care) for illness & injury issues that pop up.
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Old 01-04-2011, 10:49 AM
Location: Brambleton, VA
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I think that Cats are the more affordable option. You don't have to keep them on as many meds, they don't eat as much, sure they have litter but what cat has to have toys all the time? We used to buy toys for cats but they preferred the milk ties, bread ties, bottle caps, and crunched up receipts so much more. Whereas for my dogs, they need coats for when it is cold, beds, flea preventative, heartworm preventative, they go through more food, and need collars, leashes, crates, training classes, and they always need a pet sitter when we are away. Whereas the cats can take care of themselves for several days with the addition of another litterbox and a few extra bowls of food and water.

As far as medical problems, dogs get a lot more joint issues and injuries so getting LP surgery or torn ACL, etc. is pretty up there in cost. We have the foster with Stomatitis and although she isn't cheap, she is a lot more affordable than anything my dogs could come down with or injure.
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