Feline friend or canine companion? Which is right for you?

Sometimes, you have to choose a side: paper or plastic, Democrat or Republican, Coke or Pepsi. If you're trying to choose between a dog or a cat as an animal companion, here are some suggestions that will help you decide which of America's two most popular pets is right for you.

A dog's life. Dogs are social animals. They need affection, attention and daily exercise. Are you able to provide that? If not, you're doing the dog a disservice by bringing it into your home. Dogs also like to greet guests — sometimes with a baby-waking bark, sometimes with a paw on the pants and sometimes with an embarrassing sniff that makes everyone a little uncomfortable. If you're willing to put up with these occasional nuisances or pay for a good dog trainer, then you may be a "dog person."

A cat's life. Cats are OK with being isolated. That's not to say they don't appreciate a nice back scratch or belly rub from time to time, but chances are when guests arrive, they leave. This is nice, but sometimes you need the companionship of a furry friend after a long day at the office or a rough night out on the town, and cats aren't the most reliable animal for affection and cheering up. As far as training goes, good luck.

Home life. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reminds humans that pets, like people, get lonely if neglected. They also starve when not fed. The amount of time you spend at home, therefore, plays a critical role in determining which pet is best for you. Cats do better if left alone all day while you're at work. As long as it is trained to use the litter box or pet door, the cat should be fine. Dogs don't fare as well when left alone all day. People who travel a lot also find it much more difficult to find someone to take care of a dog. In addition to food and water, dogs require exercise and more care. Cats, on the other hand, need little motivation when it comes to exercise and are more independent. Just find someone who doesn't mind filling up the food and water dish and you're good to go.

A cat or a dog provides enormous amounts of love. Take into account their preferences and your ability to care for them when choosing between the two.