Well, what a question! At first glance, these two animals may seem worlds apart on the pet scale, but although they certainly have their differences, they also share a surprising number of qualities. Whether you’re a fan of fur or feathers, let’s see how they compare on the ‘best pet’ scale!
Cuteness and cuddle factor
Let’s start with an easy (and important!) one. For me, cats are a clear winner here: soft fur and purring warmth over scaly legs and feathers any day! I have met the odd affectionate chicken who will venture inside and settle on a human lap for petting; however, most are happiest outdoors and independent. Likewise, some cats shun human contact and will only tolerate the odd stroke. Whereas others will twine through your legs affectionately all day long and jump on your lap whenever you stop moving. There are individuals in all species, with different characters and differing needs for human interaction.
Both species definitely have the cuteness factor! Picture the fluffy chicks chirping excitedly and hopping along after proud mother hen, glossy feathers gleaming in sunlight as they run towards you for food. Or imagine cuddling up with a bundle of soft purring fluff in front of a roaring fire. Which wins for you?
My Winner: Cats!
What will they cost me?
It’s another big ask: how much money do you need to take them on? The initial outlay can vary a lot for both species. Pedigree cats from a reputable breeder can set you back hundreds of pounds. A kitten from an accidental litter may be given away to a good home free of charge, with thanks. Rescue centres may ask for a donation or charge a small fee. Chickens, too, can vary in initial cost. There are multiple varieties and breeds and there is a big difference between purchasing point-of-lay pullets (young hens) or opting to adopt some ex-battery layers.
New cat owners often go to town on purchasing toys, beds and other accessories. All that is really needed is food and water bowls and some litter trays (usually one more than the number of cats). In my experience, cats will ignore any expensive bed bought specifically for them. Instead commandeer your favourite armchair, or a cardboard box earmarked for the recycling! Chickens will need a bit more equipment to get started: think a predator-proof enclosed coop with nesting and laying areas. They will also need access to a safe outdoors space. Feeders and drinkers will be necessary, as will a stock of food.
Veterinary costs also need to be considered. Cats will require, at the very least: a microchip, regular vaccinations and parasite prevention and possibly a neutering operation. They also have the propensity to get themselves into trouble despite their many lives. Therefore either pet insurance or a significant sum of money set aside for veterinary bills is advisable. Chickens can be lower maintenance on the veterinary front but still may require treatment for various common ailments including parasitic infections and problems with laying.
My Winner: Chickens!
How much time do they take to look after?
Both are actually fairly independent.
Unlike their canine counterparts, cats don’t require daily walks, they’d be horrified at the thought of obedience classes and often don’t even deign to look at their expensive toys! It is possible to ‘train’ cats to do tricks and such, and kittens can be very interactive, but many adult cats are happy to be left to their own devices. They often sleep for large portions of the day (up to 22 hours out of 24!) and if they have access to a cat-flap will come and go as they please. They do need all the basics, of course: fresh food, clean water, clean litter trays if used, and regular checks to make sure they are healthy and happy.
Chickens are also happy left to their own devices with the same core basics: food, water, regular checks and a clean space to live in. Chickens can be very destructive, and so some ground maintenance may be necessary. Their living area also needs to be kept well maintained and clean to reduce the risk of parasitic infections. Be careful though, it can become addictive to sit and watch chickens happily pecking around in the sunshine!
Both species will need to be looked after if you go away on holiday. Cats and chickens can be left at home with a pet-sitter or neighbour looking in, but a boarding cattery is also a possibility for cats.
My Winner: Both!
Are they suitable as family pets?
Dogs are of course the classically known ‘best friend’ of humans, but many children enjoy having a furry (or feathery!) friend at home. Getting children involved in the care of pets can be a fantastic experience. Both younger and older children can have roles here. For example feeding and playing with cats or feeding and searching for eggs with chickens. However, both animals may avoid children if they are more nervous or don’t enjoy handling. Remember to maintain careful hygiene around children who may enjoy investigating with mouths as well as fingers! Of course, young children should never be left unsupervised with any animal, but owning a pet can be both rewarding and educational for all ages.
My Winner: Cats!
How long do they live for?
Chickens typically live for around 10-15 years, although if you decide to take on ex-battery hens, they may have shorter lifespans. Cats can live to around 12-15 years, and occasionally up to around 20, which is quite a commitment to take on! Older cats can also develop health problems in later life which require more veterinary visits.
My Winner: Cats!
Will my pets help out around the house?
Chickens score well here, as laying hens can produce around one egg daily, to the delight of home chefs and bakers everywhere! However, they do tend to wreak havoc upon the ground to do so. Cats are not well known for their utility: they may do wonders to soothe your stresses by allowing you to stroke them after a busy day, but they’re equally likely to drop a bird or mouse at your feet just as you’re trying to get ready for work.
My Winner: Chickens!
And the winner is….?
Overall, it’s clear to see that both species can offer a lot as a pet. For me though, it has to be cats. I’m a huge fan, despite their troublesome natures and odd little ways! I can see why you might be swayed over to the ‘feathers’ camp, though: after all, a cat might cuddle up to you, but they won’t lay your breakfast!
It’s always important when choosing which pet to acquire that you take into account all the factors, including cost, lifestyle and time commitment, and take some time to make the correct decision rather than make an impulse buy. Whether you choose fur or feathers, we’re sure they’ll bring you joy.