I have a silly confession to make to you all. You may start to think very differently about me after this because all my co-workers seem to.
At work I am known as the crazy cat lady.
Minus the fact that I am a male, I don’t get the moniker because frankly I love all animals! I have grown up with animals my entire life and really don’t understand people that don’t actively like them. My issue is not so much with the nickname itself, more so it’s accuracy. Because as far as I am concerned I really am more of a crazy dog person that is currently without a dog. I have owned 10+ canines, volunteered with numerous rescue shelters, and trained security dogs, but because I have 2 cats right now I am suddenly a weirdo!
I don’t mind the association. Being the weird guy at work certainly has its positive and negative connotations. But it did make me wonder about animals and the FIRE community. I personally couldn’t imagine my life without an animal around me often, but is it the most optimal choice? I’ve read some odd point of views of pets with this lifestyle and thought it worth exploring once and for all which pet fits best with FIRE!
I am a somewhat recent cat convert. Through college roommate mixups, I ended up acquiring a Philadelphia hoodrat kitten and then recently adopted another little one on death row at the shelter so that she had company. Turns out cats do not like new company that much, the fighting and body slamming each other at all hours of the night has made this an interesting year.
Estimated Yearly Costs
ASPCA estimates $600-$1000 a year
If you want a pet to bring you joy it should fit into your current lifestyle. During the wealth accumulation phase of life, long hours at work and little free time is the name of the game. Cats require very little attention from you, often I will pet my cat too much and they will walk away bothered. There is no need to take them outside for a walk and if you wave a string in their face or leave a few empty cardboard boxes around they will self entertain endlessly.
Watching any animal is a joy. Much better than staring endlessly at a computer or tv, cats will often just do extremely unusual and humorous things that you catch out of the corner of your eye. Often times they will provide much needed comic relief at opportune moments and they help serve as a reminder to stop and enjoy the simple things in life.
Cats show love just like dogs. It is very different to be sure but the effect is the same. Your blood pressure will be lower and you will feel better coming home after a long day to something that relies on you. Depending on how friendly they are, having a cat give you a head bump asking for a pet or purring extremely loudly at you in contentment is enough to turn even the worst day around.
Free mouse trap for life. Honestly. Living in a less grandiose apartment becomes slightly less sketchy because your feline friend will spend every waking hour patrolling your abode. If a mouse or bug scurries anywhere, they will proceed to have the time of their lives making sure it’s not your problem. I have watched my cats take down months twice the size of their face, I didn’t want them to it kinda just happens at times! For anyone that is not comfortable dealing with pests, getting a free cat from the shelter not only saves their lives, but stops future you from shrieking like a little girl indefinitely. What price can you put on such a thing?
Not entirely true but wow are my cats active at 3-4am. Attacking each other, attacking invisible enemies, attacking the drapes. Our REM time is their play time. I care less for my own sanity than my downstairs neighbors as my pets have a habit of galloping loudly on the hardwood hallway which I can imagine might get old. My solution has been to disorganized the hallway enough that its no longer a straight run just waiting for a sprint. Small problems in life.
Not Enough Love
Dogs provide more of the truly unconditional love that many people seek. There is no way around that, dogs look at you as their Lord and savior. A cat tends to look at you like it is doing you a favor by not walking away every time you breathe. This may be mildly disconcerting but over time you will begin to appreciate the intricacies of a cats love. Unlike a dog which wears its heart on its sleeve, a cats love is conditional, and it’s display will fluctuate drastically depending on the factors like the mood, setting, and context of the interaction. More like a human, it becomes rewarding to figure out how to receive the type of affection desired on a recurring basis as cat behavior is generally inscrutable.
Poop in a Box
Yeah. What can you do. I would rather have poop in a box then have to take them out for a walk a few times a day. If you make this a part of your daily habits you should never notice a smell and you will laugh at dog owners as they freeze to death miserable on their walks.
I consider being around dogs for my entire childhood to be an extremely important aspect of my early development. As a strange and quiet child with few friends, dogs allowed me the outlet for emotion that others often receive from their peers. I have owned numerous dogs myself, and regularly volunteered with shelters around the city to help re-home and adopt innumerable others. My family used to own a guard dog training facility, so growing up we had protective dogs present to socialize them. I fully expect to own dogs in the future when they fit my lifestyle better.
Estimated Yearly Costs
ASPCA estimates $600 – $1800 per year
The love a dog gives you is truly like no other. It saddens me that some people could go cradle to the grave without seeing pure adoration in the eyes of a canine. I have been in numerous relationships and have a very supporting family; yet nothing compares to the eyes my last dog used to give me every time I came home. These animals miss your presence when you are out of sight behind a door, their joy knows no bounds when you come home after a long day at work.
I am certainly not about to go on a 2 mile jog with my Tabby cat, dogs have this category down. Those that have an active outdoor lifestyle are well served by this type of companion. I used to love walking my dog deep into state parks, and equally loved yelling at her as I brushed ten thousand burrs out of her fur an hour later. Having a silent companion to enjoy and appreciate the wilderness makes you remember to appreciate everything. “Why do we need so much to be happy when my best friend is so happy biting a oversized tree limb he found on the ground?” Having a pup right alongside you as you accomplish your fitness and health goals makes things less lonely for sure.
I never knew much about this factor till I moved toward an urban area like NYC. Dog parks are plentiful and hotbeds of socialising. A generalisation at times as many do sit on their phones while their dogs gallant, many people will be happy to do some light idle chatter mainly oriented around dogs. For a mild weirdo like myself, having an instant topic of conversation makes the pain of small talk much less terrifying and possibly even enjoyable. Making friends because you dogs made friends is also a beautiful feeling, I have met many longtime friends this route.
Dogs are a much larger commitment than cats. The solitary nature of the cats allows a fair bit of freedom, they can be left alone for a day and a half without issue. This makes overnight trips feasible. Not so with a dog. You need to be available to walk them multiple times a day and provide them direct attention for bare minimum 30 minute to an hour. You can ignore your dog but the outcome will be an unruly and uncooperative animal. This is one of the major sticking points for me currently. I do not want to feel too tied down, and the time commitment of a dog is on par with having a child. With my cats I can leave for extended periods, and either give them extra food or leave them with family and not intrude too much. Going on vacation and leaving your dog with someone is a major responsibility to put into someone else and not something done regularly with ease.
Dogs require training and exercise. Even the smallest pipsqueak Yorkshire terrier needs to be potty trained and walked otherwise they become lethargic balls of flab. Cats know to poop in a box and generally don’t want to play with you all that much anyway. Mine certainly enjoy playing, but if I do not have time it does not cause a crisis for them. With a dog if you don’t put the effort in, you will end up with an animal that you don’t like and could potentially be a hazard.
For brevitys’ sake I kept this mainly to the age old cats and dogs debate. These are not the only animals that our species has domesticated, you may find that your FIRE lifestyle fits great with more exotic animals in it. The legalities of exotics vary from state to state so they can end up being a limiting factor when it comes to freedom. No Tigers in NYC but all day in TX apparently. The care of exotic animals also requires a more in depth process of training, they haven’t had millennia to become man’s best friend. Sugar Gliders for example, require intense bonding during their early imprinting and a lot of effort to avoid becoming a nuisance for life. Also the more exotic the animal the more costly the upkeep. Getting a Boa Constrictor and feeding it small animals will likely become quite the line item on your budget as it ages.
That said, there is no clear winner! I personally have chosen cats because they fit my lifestyle currently, your life may be different. I fully expect to eventually own a veritable menagerie, my greatest happiness would be taking pictures of cute animal friends and helping animals worldwide to have a better go of things than they have been. I’m not so much as working towards retirement as working till I can feel secure enough to jump full time into conservation work basically!
Do you make pet decisions based on financials? Or on lifestyle?