The Cost of Owning a Pet
Being a pet parent is a rewarding and life-changing experience. Our dogs and cats are not merely our pets, but they are our best friends, our confidants, our roommates, and our children. It has even been proven repeatedly just how many benefits can stem from having a pet in the house—pets can help reduce stress, provide companionship, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and help people be healthier overall.
However, sometimes people can focus too much on the positives of having a pet, and they fail to recognize one of the biggest issues—the cost. Whether you adopt an older dog or a tiny kitten, there will be a long list of pet-related expenses that you will need to be prepared for. In fact, 78% of people underestimate the large financial responsibility of owning a pet.O
While this all may sound a little overwhelming at first, there are many steps that pet parents can take to save money on regular pet expenses and be better prepared for unexpected costs.
When you plan for the initial expenses of adopting your pet, it’s important to allocate more money than just the adoption or purchase fee. For instance, if you are adopting a dog, you will additionally need to purchase:
- Leash, collar, and tags
- Food and water bowls
- Food and treats
- Bed and crate
- Brushes, combs, and nail trimmers
If you are adopting a cat, some of your initial expenses will include:
- Food and water bowls
- Food and treats
- Litter box and litter
- Bed and carrying crate
- Cat tower and/or scratching post.
Besides physical items, initial expenses will also encompass initial vet costs. New pets will often need a regular vet check-up, shots/vaccinations, and to be spayed/neutered. When all of these items are combined, a dog or cat’s average initial cost can be anywhere between a few hundred dollars up to a few thousand.
Have no fear, though! Before adopting your dog or cat, go ahead and set up a ‘pet savings account’ and start putting money aside now. Having this money already set aside for your future pet can mean less stress for the future and more time to focus on your new family member’s adorableness.
Dog owners should probably expect their initial expenses to be higher than that of a cat owner. However, when considering lifetime expense, those for both cats and dogs can be almost identical.
The Overall Cost
The question: How much do pets cost?
The answer: It just all depends.
No matter which way you look at it, being responsible for a pet also means being financially responsible. Many first-time dog parents think that the monthly cost for a dog only runs between $25-75 when in actuality, monthly expenses can total upwards of $100.*
Part of being financially responsible for a cat or dog is to understand and prepare for their monthly and yearly costs. It’s also important to consider if you have more than one pet or if you have a pet with various health issues—this will run your yearly costs even higher.
Please note, these numbers aren’t meant to intimidate you or scare you away from getting a pet. Instead, these numbers are provided to help you better understand the financial commitment of a pet—the more you understand your expenses, the better you can prepare for them.
Looking at the overall costs of being a pet owner, it’s essential to recognize that each animal is unique, and even two cats or two dogs of the same breed can have completely different expenses.
If you are already asking yourself, “How much does it cost to adopt a dog?” or “What is the cost of cat ownership?” Then you are already on the right road to being a financially responsible pet parent.
Here are some items to consider before deciding on and adopting a dog or cat,
- For both cats and dogs, the breed can make a major purchase price difference. For example, Golden Retrievers are less expensive than Tibetan Mastiffs, and Himalayan cats are at least half the price of Savannah cats. On average, mixed breed cats and dogs cost less than purebreds.+
- Many potential pet parents may wonder, “How much does it cost to adopt a pet?” From a humane society, animal shelter, or rescue group, the adoption fee could range anywhere from a few bucks up to a few hundred. Purchasing your pet from a breeder will automatically be more expensive and could cost from $500 to 3,000.^
- The size of your dog makes a big difference. While this isn’t the case for every single large dog, it is safe to assume that the larger the dog, the more food you will have to purchase and the more expensive their beds, crates, and collars will be.
- Cats are typically cheaper to own than dogs, however, cats typically have a longer lifespan than most canines. In the end, this may mean that the lifetime cost for cats and dogs could be a similar amount.
Like the old saying goes: “Expect the unexpected.” Part of being a responsible pet parent is to fully understand what expenses will come your way during your pet’s lifetime. On the other hand, responsible pet parents have also found many ways to save money and be savvy with budget compromises.
One-Time vs. Reoccurring Expenses
One-time expenses can be items such as the adoption fee, the cost for spaying/neutering, microchipping, and initial vaccinations. In other words, these are items or procedures that, once paid for, you should not have to worry about again.
Reoccurring expenses, on the other hand, are something you will need to plan for on a monthly and yearly basis. One way to look at them is that they are typically expected, which means you can plan for them and create a budget. For dogs, the list can include poop bags, food, treats, toys, license tags, flea and heartworm medications, and grooming fees. For cats, it often includes food, treats, toys, litter, flea medication, and scratching toys.
Reoccurring expenses could also be considered monthly pet care expenses. So, what is the monthly cost of pet ownership? The truth is, this number is extremely dependent upon the type of cat or dog you have—and how many. For instance, you can probably imagine that a Saint Bernard will be going through a pile more food per month than a Chihuahua would, so a Saint Bernard’s parent will have a higher monthly food cost.
Monthly expenses can also be affected by the items you choose to purchase and what you deem necessary. Buying gourmet cat food or paying for a dog walker every month can very quickly raise your annual pet costs.
This is a reoccurring cost that typically only affects renters. Although each apartment or townhouse complex has different rules and fees, it is standard for rental places to charge you a pet security deposit and pet rent, which is tacked onto your monthly rent. Some places may charge one or the other, while others will charge both. Before bringing a pet into your home, be sure to know how much your complex charges per pet and whether that price can fit within your budget.
It’s also essential to look into your complex’s specific rules concerning dog breeds, dog sizes, and whether they allow multiple animals. Many places do not allow any pets, while others only allow cats.
Care When You’re Away
It’s inevitable that at some point in your pet’s life, you will have to find someone to watch them while you are away—whether that is for a day or a few weeks. Boarding your cat or dog (depending on the length of time and the place) can quickly add up to a few hundred dollars, so don’t forget to factor this expense into your vacation budget.
A great, often cheaper, alternative to boarding your four-legged friend is finding a pet sitter. Whether it be your sibling, friend, neighbor, or coworker, it’s important to find a sitter that meets all of your expectations.
Costs You Could Forget About
When it comes to being a pet parent, there are bound to be expenses that you may not initially think about. In fact, you may not even consider these expenses until you are face-to-face with them.
Chances are you already purchase cleaning supplies for your home on the regular. However, after adopting a new pet (especially a puppy), you will most likely need to add to your cleaning supplies inventory.
It will be worth your time to get a stain remover for carpets or even a carpet cleaner. With any pet that sheds, a good vacuum for carpets and hardwood floors is a must. Other items to keep on hand include a duster, furniture polish, window cleaner, and air freshener.
Replacement of Destroyed Items
Try as you might, it can be difficult to prevent a dog from chewing on shoes and a cat from scratching up furniture—when animals are around, accidents are bound to happen at some point in time.
It’s safe to assume that over the course of your pet’s life, they will most likely damage or destroy some item in your house. Even though it’s practically impossible to guess what that item may be, pet parents like you can be proactive by “pet-proofing” the home. For instance, if you are getting a dog, try not to leave clothes or shoes lying out in the open, and if you are getting a cat, hideaway breakables that sit on low shelves.
For homeowners, replacing some of these small items may not seem like a big deal. But, if you are a renter and your pet destroys items such as the blinds, the carpets, or the doors, then you may have to say “bye-bye” to that pet security deposit.
Of course, pet accessories fall under the “want,” not “need” category, but that doesn’t mean that you and your pet don’t deserve the convenience of these items. Some great accessories that you may not initially factor into your pet budget include a collapsible water bowl for hiking, a cat backpack or leash for walks, and a car seat pet cover.
Although each of these items isn’t technically necessary, they can each definitely make a big difference for you and your feline or canine. To stay within budget when buying accessories, try to prioritize which items would be most helpful now and place the other items on your “future purchases” list.
Health and Veterinarian Expenses
When it comes to cats and dogs, the biggest expenses in their lifetime will most likely be a medical or medicine-related cost. This can be a scary thought, especially because a large portion of medical costs can be unexpected.
Besides the initial veterinary rundown that you go through after first adopting your pet, it’s recommended that your four-legged friend still has an annual check-up. These yearly visits allow your veterinarian to monitor your pet’s health better and catch any issues earlier on.
Whether it be emergency care or a newly prescribed medication for your best pal, when it comes time for treatment, medicine, or a procedure, it is essential to have open and honest communication with your veterinarian, specifically concerning finances.
To better deal with veterinary expenses, many pet parents have opted to sign up for pet insurance. Having insurance for your pet can help alleviate stress when it comes time to pay for your veterinary bill.
How To Save Money as a Pet Parent
Who doesn’t love learning how to save money? Although being a pet parent can be expensive at times, there are still many ways that you can cut costs. Check out these money-saving tips.
- Try to buy in bulk whenever possible. Purchasing your pet’s food or your kitty litter in larger amounts can equal out to a lower price overall.
- Compare prices and shop around. This can be useful for practically any pet product—even the veterinarian you use! As a general rule, expect to pay more if you visit a specialized veterinarian practice or purchase the pet equivalent of designer brands.
- Try making homemade treats and toys. You can do this for both cats and dogs, and you may be surprised just how easy it is.
- Join rewards programs. Whether you do your shopping at your local pet store or order all of your products online, ask about any rewards programs, customer perks, or coupons. You can even ask your dog’s groomers if they have a rewards system.
- Consider buying second-hand. While you will want to be selective about which pet products you bring into your home and around your pet, it’s possible to find great items that are only lightly used.
- Decide where you will compromise. 25% of people said they would be willing to give up takeout or food delivery, and 20% of people said they would be willing to give up coffee, all for their pets.* Making coffee at home just a few times a month could save you enough money to buy your best pal a new toy.
Even the smallest of lifestyle changes can make a significant difference and help you save money in the long run.
Being a pet parent comes with non-monetary costs as well.
Perhaps one of the largest costs is time commitment. The minutes you spend taking care of your pet add up. You may notice a change in your availability and free time. And because pets can have health issues like us, you might have to miss a workday now and again to attend to your pet or take them to a vet appointment.
Besides budgeting for the expenses that come with owning a pet, you should also budget for the time commitment. You want to be sure you’re able to give your pet the time they need and deserve.
O“The True Cost of Owning a Dog or Cat.” Credit.com.
*“The True Cost of Getting a Dog.” Rover.
^“How to Budget for Your Pet.” EveryDollar.
+“Pet Ownership Costs Guide for 2020.” The Simple Dollar.