Cats spend about two-thirds of their time napping. They then spend 50% of their waking hours grooming, with playing and prowling taking up the other 50%. Based on this behavior alone, it’s logical to conclude that cats are cleaner than dogs. But are they?
Now, cleanliness is one of the primary considerations before adopting a pet. That’s especially true if you live a traveler’s lifestyle where you may not always be around to attend to your pet’s grooming needs.
So, if you’re looking for a pet to adopt but are torn between a cat and a dog, considering the animals’ individual hygienic requirements may help you make a better choice. This gets us back to our question, are cats really cleaner than dogs?
The answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ It’s common knowledge that cats are cleaner than dogs. And this doesn’t just apply to the domestic cat. All felines are generally clean, including wild cats like the lion, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, tiger, etc. While dogs only lick their paws and private parts, cats tend to lick nearly their entire body. And they do it a lot more frequently than dogs.
So, if cleanliness matters so much to you, you should probably consider getting a cat. Read on for a comprehensive side-by-side comparison between cats and dogs with regards to cleanliness.
Table of Contents
Why Are Cats So Much Cleaner Than Dogs?
1. Cats vs. Dogs: Self-grooming
As we’ve just pointed out, cats generally lick their entire bodies while dogs only tend to lick their paws and private parts. This has a lot to do with a cat’s flexibility.
A cat’s flexible spine allows the animal to twist himself easily and access areas in his body that dogs cannot access, including his back. This flexibility is actually the reason cats can jump from pretty high places but land comfortably on their feet.
Also, cats are more fastidious groomers than dogs. Although cats spend two-thirds of their time sleeping, the vast majority of their waking hours goes into grooming. The behavior is so ritualistic that many times, there’s usually nothing much to clean. On the contrary, dogs mostly lick their paws and private parts when these parts are visibly dirty or out of boredom.
Still on personal grooming, it’s worth noting that a cat’s tongue contains plenty of barbs, the same structures that are missing in a dog’s tongue. Barbs make it easier for a cat to clean various parts of his body.
The structures are remarkably effective at removing dead skin cells, hair, debris, and even parasites from a cat’s fur. Also, a cat’s saliva contains enzymes with natural antibiotic effects. This may aid in facilitating the healing of superficial wounds. In fact, the old phrase ‘licking one’s wounds’ applies more to cats than it does to humans.
Cat cats overgroom themselves?
Given that cats are more given to personal grooming than dogs (and all other common pets), you may begin to wonder, can cats be too clean?
Yes, cats and even dogs can overgroom themselves.
While self-grooming is generally encouraged, overdoing it has its own risks. Just as the popular adage goes ‘too much of anything is poisonous.’
A common risk of overgrooming is the opening up of healing wounds by allowing fresh blood to ooze from them. There may also be risks of self-inflicted bites which could lead to infections. Plus, overgrooming may lead to baldness.
Most pets will overgroom themselves due to stress, anxious, boredom, and understimulation.
As a caring pet parent, it’s important to consult your vet if you notice any signs of overgrooming. That will help you rule out the possibility of an underlying medical condition.
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2. Cats vs. Dogs: Shedding
Shedding is another crucial factor that determines a pet’s overall cleanliness. Most pet lovers intuitively prefer light shedders as these animals are easier to clean and groom than their heavy-shedding counterparts.
So, which animal sheds more – a cat or a dog?
Generally, dogs shed more than cats. Coupled with their relatively large body size, it’s safe to conclude that dogs are harder to clean than cats as far as shedding is concerned.
However, the scales don’t always tip in a cat’s favor when it comes to shedding.
As you shall find, shedding is more about breeds. Some cat breeds shed a lot more than others; even more than various dog breeds. Examples include Maine Coons, Norwegian Forest Cats, Ragamuffins, Ragdolls, and American Bobtails. When it comes to dogs, heavy shedders include German Shepherds, Saint Bernards, Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, and Golden Retrievers.
Another crucial fact worth noting is that a cat’s fur and dander are finer and lighter than those of a dog’s. This means that a cat’s fur and dander remain suspended in the air much longer than a dog’s. And the longer the fur or dander remains in the air, the more danger it poses.
Plus, the fact that a cat’s fur is lighter means that it can be dispersed further into your house, making cleaning even harder.
3. Cats vs. Dogs: Toilet Habits
It’s almost impossible to find a cat peeping or pooping in plain sight. Kittens and poorly potty-trained cats are an exception. In most cases, cats prefer doing their business in a quiet and private spot.
But that’s not all.
Once a cat is done peeping or pooping, he’ll attempt to cover his urine and droppings. This is an evolutionary trait that allowed cats to remain elusive in the wild and avoid being discovered by other scent-following predators. At home, the covering of urine and droppings minimizes the circulation of stench.
On the contrary, most dogs are just fine emptying their bladder or bowels in plain sight. And they hardly ever cover it.
Still on toilet habits, cats are generally easier to potty-train than dogs. Unlike dogs that prefer going in an open space or the backyard, a cat will be more inclined to go in a litter box.
In the same breath, note that most cats will avoid using a dirty or smelly litter box. This underscores the importance of keeping your kitto’s litter box clean all the time.
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4. Cats vs. Dogs: Eating Habits
Most pet parents claim that cats hardly ever eat rancid foods. According to anecdotal reports, cats prefer their food fresh unless spoiled food is the only available option.
There’s even a common perception that cats won’t eat poison-laced foods. That no matter the food’s aroma, the cat will simply give it a sniff and walk away.
Well, there are limited scientific studies corroborating these reports. However, the claims might offer us more insights into a cat’s cleanliness.
Cats’ general inclination towards fresh foods means that your kitto will not drag any dead mouse from the yard into your house. This can go a long way in keeping your house stench-free.
On the other hand, dogs are known to enjoy rotten foods. It’s not unusual to catch your pooch feeding enthusiastically on human poop.
The way cats drink also gives them an edge over dogs as far as cleanliness is concerned. Unlike dogs, cats won’t drink from standing puddles.
That’s because cats consider stagnant water to be contaminated. Instead, they prefer live, moving water.
5. Cats vs. Dogs: Playing Habits and Natural Odors
Dogs play by rolling in the mud, whereas cats don’t. And since dogs are unable to lick their entire bodies, they usually end up carrying this mud back to the house, soiling your furniture and carpet.
Dogs also drool more intensely than cats. In the process, they end up depositing much of the saliva in your house, exposing you to health risks.
Now, this may get you wondering, are cats’ mouths cleaner than dogs?
Yes, a cat’s mouth is generally cleaner than that of a dog’s. That’s because cats have fresher breath compared to dogs. However, cats’ relatively smaller mouths and sharper teeth make it harder to tend to their mouths. Plus, most cats are generally averse to the idea of their owner brushing their teeth. That’s especially true for skittish cats.
What about the tongues, are cats’ tongues cleaner than dogs?
We already mentioned that cats’ tongues contain barbs, the tiny structures that trap fur, dander, and debris. These barbs make grooming remarkably easier for cats than dogs.
In terms of natural odors, both cats and dogs have smelly urine and droppings. Also, they both molt and secrete natural oils. However, dogs tend to be the smellier pet, especially if they go for days without bathing. Most cats actually have a unique and attractive smell. The only time such cats would exude an unpleasant odor is if they were sick or otherwise unable to groom themselves.
The fact that dogs generally mark their territories using their urine and poop makes them even smellier. In most cases, dogs would need to roll in their urine and droppings before rubbing themselves on trees and outdoor posts as a way of scent-marking their territories. On the other hand, cats usually mark their territories by rubbing their pheromones on objects.
6. Cats vs. Dogs: Straying
Which animal is more likely to stray – a cat or a dog?
The answer to this question isn’t a cut-and-dried one. It mostly depends on the circumstances.
Dogs are known to enjoy a stronger bond with humans than cats. In fact, there’s a common joke that cats only rely on us for food. That if you were to go missing for a week, your cat would also disappear without a trace while your dog would wait patiently for you.
You might have heard of Ruswarp, the 14-year-old Border Collie who stood guard over his owner’s dead body for 11 weeks. Or Capitan, the German Shepherd that slept by his owner’s grave for a whopping twelve years. These accounts corroborate the popular assumption that dogs are more attracted to their human owners than cats. Therefore, they’re less likely to stray even if their owners were to spend several days away from home.
Stray animals are notorious for rummaging through garbage bins and carrying the stench all the way back home.
But does this make dogs cleaner than cats?
While a cat may leave home sooner than a dog in the event his owner goes missing, even stray cats never lose their grooming reputation. In fact, many stray cats consider hunting mice as opposed to scavenging for food in garbage bins.
Also, under normal circumstances, cats prefer prowling in the backyard closer to the house. Dogs, on the other hand, would stray further into the neighborhood if given half a chance.
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Dogs generally love the outdoors, which explains their willingness to join you in your early-morning runs. As a matter of fact, vets recommend allowing dogs to venture outdoors more often so they can socialize and engage in physically stimulating activities.
Otherwise, confining your pooch to the indoors might increase the risks of lifestyle diseases like canine arthritis and social anxiety disorder. But in the process of venturing outdoors, dogs also pick up dirt and parasites. Plus, they secrete more body fluids. All of these impact their overall cleanliness.
Can The Cleanliness Of A Cat Benefit You?
A clean pet is easier and cheaper to care for. By constantly grooming themselves, cats also keep parasites like fleas and mites out of your house. This reduces the risks of disease.
But the cleanliness of a cat probably benefits the cat more than it benefits you. Some of the benefits of self-grooming for cats include;
✔ Removing of hair, dander, and debris from their fur and coat,
✔ Removing parasites,
✔ Removing the odor of their meal from their coat as a way of keeping other cats away,
✔ Regulating their body temperature,
✔ Increasing their blood circulation,
✔ Escalating the healing of wounds,
✔ Redistribution of the natural oils around the body,
✔ Enhances social bonding among cats.
So, Are Cats Cleaner Pets Than Dogs?
Yes, cats are definitely cleaner than dogs. Cats are noted for their propensity for self-grooming, as well as for being more of indoor than outdoor pets. A cat’s eating, playing, and toilet habits also make him cleaner than dogs. Plus, cats generally don’t shed as much as dogs do.
So, if cleanliness is your primary consideration before getting a pet, then you should consider a cat.
However, the fact that cats are cleaner than dogs doesn’t mean your feline friend should go without regular grooming. As a responsible pet owner, always ensure that your cat’s claws and nails are well-trimmed.
Also, brush his teeth and mouth regularly to remove foul odors. And while most cats hate water, it’s still recommended to give them occasional full-body baths.
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