Dog or cat: Which is best for family?

Cats versus dogs: Which makes the best pet?

It’s a question battled over by canine lovers and hissed at by feline fanciers. The better question is, which is the right pet for you?

First, consider allergies. There are hypo-allergenic dogs that have hair (like us) instead of fur, i.e. poodles, Shih Tzus, Bichons and cocker spaniels. These non-shedding breeds require regular grooming, but are less problematic for those with allergies.

Among cats, only the Cornish Rex would qualify as nonallergenic, being hairless except for a very short down undercoat.

Second, consider how much time you have to devote to a pet.

If everyone in the household is away from home for long hours (over eight hours at a stretch), consider a feline companion. With proper setup, cats are content to be left alone, but happier if another cat is present.

You will need to keep a clean litter box and provide regular brushing (else you will be met with a regurgitated hairball or two in warmer months).

Cats love a window, spending hours nattering at birds. Some cats are very loving and cuddly. Others are more independent. All cats enjoy playtime — dragging a string or using a laser light for them to chase nowhere! Friendliness depends on socialization, so not handling your cat will result in it becoming more aloof.

Dogs are recommended for those who are gone less than eight hours a day, or have other members of the household coming in and out on a regular basis. Dogs should never be left outside while you are away from home. There are doggie day care centers everywhere if you do have to be away from home for a long period.

Whether dog or cat, make sure you allow enough time (days!) when new pets come home, so they can bond with you and you with them. The more time you spend with your pets, the more intelligent they will become.

Be ready to make your pet a part of your family — or to be your family, as the case may be.

Charlotte Bass Lilly is CEO of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. ARNO operates a volunteer-based, no-kill shelter in the Elmwood Industrial section of Jefferson Parish and depends upon the generosity of people from all over the country who have followed it since Katrina. Contact ARNO at arno.advocate@gmail.com, visit http://www.animalrescueneworleans.org or leave a message at (504) 571-1900.