Should I get a cat or a dog?

Yahoo UK has sought expert advice on which of Britain's most popular pets is ideal for you, from the health benefits to the cost considerations.

Golden Retriever dog and British Shorthair cat accompany their owner
Cats and dogs are the UK's most popular pets. But, deciding between the two isn't always easy. (Getty Images)

Today marks World Cat Day: a chance for pet owners globally to celebrate their feline friend.

According to UK Pet Food, there are currently approximately 11 million pet cats in the UK and over a quarter (26%) of all households has a cat.

If you think that's a lot, the amount of domestic dogs in this country is even higher: 12 million. A whopping 31% of households has a pooch.

So, canines are clearly the preferred choice but which is the best option for you? First of all, decide if a pet of any variety is the right call for you.

"The most important thing before deciding whether to get a cat or dog as a pet is time and resources," Bridie Williams, rehoming and welfare pet manager at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, tells Yahoo UK.

"Owning a pet comes with spending time to care for a domestic animal and the costs of feeding and looking after the health of a pet."

Williams advises that people seeking to own a pet should do as much research as possible before taking the plunge.

What does owning a cat entail?

A cat may seem like the lower maintenance choice of the two, but they need just as much attention as dogs.

"Just because a cat doesn't need to go for walks like a dog doesn't mean they don't want to play," explains Williams. While they don't need as much physical activity as dogs, they still need "engagement and enrichment", she adds.

However, this play can take place indoors unlike most dogs who generally require large, open (and often outdoor) spaces to exercise.

When it comes to costs, a cat tends to be cheaper explains Caroline Reay, Blue Cross' head of veterinary standards. "Plus, if you spend a lot of time travelling then it's easier to find a pet sitter for a cat than a dog," she says.

Teenage girl hugging little cat and listening to music
Hugging a cat can be mutually beneficial (Getty Image)

What are the health benefits of owning a cat?

A Pets for Better Wellbeing report found that four in 10 pet owners reported an overall improvement to their mental (38%) or physical (41%) wellbeing over the last three years, compared to 22% of non-pet owners.

One clear benefit is companionship that can help alleviate loneliness and isolation, says Williams.

"Even listening to the purring of a cat helps to relax and has a calming effect on people," she adds. "I find tucking my cat under my arm in bed helps me get to sleep and they are great early risers so I really don't need an alarm to get me up!"

They can also help pacify your emotions when you need to talk.

Reported in Hepper Pet Blog and verified by veterinary Dr Luqman Javed, petting a purring cat helps their owners keep their stress levels manageable.

Signs you’re more suited to owning a dog

It's important to have the time to look after a dog. "A dog can't be left at home for hours whereas a cat still needing attention can better cope for longer periods on its own," explains Reay.

A dog needs to be active every day, she adds, so if you like to spend time outdoors a dog is ideal. But, be prepared to organise care in your absence.

Vet and food costs tend to be higher for dogs than cats - both need to have flea treatment every month and worming every three months.

Cheerful young Asian woman playing with her pet dog, playing with a wooden stick in the park. Spending a moment and fun time with her dog. Living with a pet. Obedience and training
Playing with your pet dog can be fun and stimulate positive energy (Getty Image)

What are the health benefits of owning a dog?

Although cats and dogs share common health benefits there are still considerable differences, according to Reay.

Dogs need more physical activity, which has clear benefits for their owners too. "Walking a dog can help stimulate energy and positivity," she explains. "Dogs also help people to socialise as they are great conversation openers.

"Additionally, they provide routine - especially for people with mental health issues. Dogs provide a timetable for their owners in that they have to feed, take the dog out for a walk and care for its health."

Top 10 UK cat breeds

According to Pets4Homes, the 10 most popular cat breeds are:

  1. Bengal

  2. British Shorthair

  3. Persian

  4. Siamese

  5. Ragdoll

  6. Spynx

  7. Maine Coon

  8. Oriental cat

  9. Norwegian Forest

  10. Burmese

Top 10 UK dog breeds

According to Pets4Homes, the UK’s top 10 most popular dog breeds are:

  1. Labrador Retriever

  2. Cocker Spaniel

  3. Springer Spaniel (English)

  4. German Shepherd

  5. Staffordshire Bull Terrier

  6. Border Terrier

  7. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

  8. Golden Retriever

  9. Pug

  10. Boxer