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Are Cats Cleaner Than Dogs? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

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By Misty Layne

scottish fold cat and yorkshire terrier dog on the bed

Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you’re considering adopting a pet for the first time, there is a lot to consider. You need to decide what type of animal to get, what you need to purchase to make them comfortable in your home, and think about future vet bills and pet insurance. It can be a lot (but it’s worth it!).

Another factor to consider when deciding what sort of pet you’d like is the cleanliness of the animal. Cats and dogs tend to be the most common pets; when it comes to cats and dogs, you’ve probably heard that cats are cleaner than dogs, but is that true? Are cats cleaner than dogs? The answer is yes! Felines do tend to be a bit cleaner than canines for a few reasons.

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Why Are Cats Cleaner Than Dogs?

Our feline friends are cleaner than our canine companions for a handful of reasons. The biggest reason, though, comes down to grooming.

Cats Are Excellent Groomers

Cats are well-known for their grooming habits; if they aren’t eating, sleeping, or playing, chances are they’re grooming themselves. Dogs also groom themselves, but not nearly to the extent that cats do, and they don’t groom as many areas of the body either. Felines will lick anywhere they can reach on their bodies, and if they can’t reach an area (like their ears or face), they’ll moisten their paws and swipe to clean that part. Dogs stick mostly to cleaning their feet and genital area. Cats also have barbed tongues that are great for removing loose fur and dead skin; canine tongues are smooth.

So, grooming is definitely an area where cats win the cleanliness award! That lack of grooming on a dog’s part also means that you’ll be responsible for keeping them clean by giving them baths and brushing out their coats. You might have to bathe a cat once in a while if they get into something they shouldn’t, but for the most part, you’ll only need to brush their coat out occasionally.

cat with eyes-closed grooming itself
Image Credit: ErikGlez, Shutterstock

Most Cats Are Less Adventurous

And speaking of baths—another reason felines tend to be cleaner than canines? Cats don’t go outside as often as dogs, and those that do, don’t tend to feel the need to swim in muddy puddles, wallow in swampy ponds, or roll around in fox poop. Dogs also have to go outside several times a day for the bathroom and for walks. The outside world is rather messy, so your pup will often track in dirt, grass, and more when they come back inside the house.

What About Bathroom Habits?

When it comes to the bathroom habits of cats and dogs, it’s difficult to decide who is cleaner. Felines use a litter box, which means you may sometimes experience odors in your home, but they also do everything they can to keep that litter box from smelling awful by covering up their waste. And if the litter box isn’t kept clean enough for them, they’ll let you know by going to the bathroom outside it! Canines will go outdoors to do their business, but you also have to pick up after them when they do so. So, on one hand, you have potential waste odors in your home; on the other, you have to pick up poop. Whether you find cats or dogs cleaner in this area depends on how you feel about these things.

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Cats also don’t really require toilet training. By the time you bring a kitten home, it usually already knows how to use a litter box; you just need to show them where it is! Dogs, on the other hand, can take quite a bit of time and effort to get them consistently going outside to do their business.

cat looking at the litter box at the corner of the room
Image Credit: Oleg Opryshko, Shutterstock

Saliva

Somewhat linked to the grooming aspect, cats tend to produce less saliva, so when they clean their coats, they don’t smell like cat breath. Doggy drool level varies between breeds and individuals, with some known for spreading globules of saliva on walls, floors, furniture and ceilings! Some cats do dribble when they’re happy and purring, and cats with dental disease or kidney issues can have very smelly saliva, but these are fairly isolated considerations.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

So, cats tend to be at least a little cleaner than their doggie counterparts. You might still have some questions about the cleanliness of these animals, though, so here are a few of the most often-asked questions people have about this topic.

Who sheds more: cats or dogs?

That’s hard to say since the amount of shedding an animal does really depends on their breed. Most cats and dogs do shed, though a few breeds do not.

woman grooming cat at home with tool for shedding hair
Image Credit: U__Photo, Shutterstock

Whose mouth is cleaner: dogs or cats?

You’ve probably heard that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s. Well, that is definitely a myth. Over 600 bacteria types are known to live in dog and human mouths, so your pup’s mouth isn’t any cleaner than your own. In fact, it’s probably less clean since your dog doesn’t brush and floss as often as you do, plus, we know where they like to wash themselves most! But how does a dog compare to a cat? It turns out both animals have about the same number of bacteria in their mouths!

How can I keep my pet clean?

Whether you have a dog or a cat, brushing them on a regular basis will help keep them clean of dirt, loose fur, and dander. If you have a dog, you’ll also need to bathe them regularly (but not too often, or their skin will dry out). One way to keep your pup smelling fresh without overdoing it in the bath, is to use a pet friendly spray for their coat. For cats, there will be far fewer baths. And for both animals, you’ll want to keep not only their teeth clean but their ears, too. Both cats and dogs will require a bit of effort on your part to help them stay clean.

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Final Thoughts

If your decision to adopt a pet has come down to a cat or dog, and the deciding factor is cleanliness, then you’re going to want to go with the feline! Cats are at least a bit cleaner than canines, mostly due to their fastidiousness in grooming, and their avoidance of smelly situations. They also tend to be cleaner since they don’t go outdoors nearly as often as dogs. However, if you really want a dog, you can help keep them clean by grooming them regularly (brushing, bathing, and brushing teeth).


Featured Image Credit: Irina Magrelo, Shutterstock

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