What does owning a pet actually cost?

admin // November 21 // 0 Comments

When deciding whether a new pet fits into your life, it’s also crucial to consider whether you can provide for their material needs. There’s a financial burden associated with pet ownership that is easy to overlook when deciding whether to add an animal to your human family.

Beyond considering the initial costs of adopting or purchasing a pet, think carefully about the ongoing responsibilities, as well.

How to fit a new pet into your budget

If you struggle with a high debt load, are putting money away toward a goal like a down payment for a home, or if you must work hard just to pay your monthly bills on time, now may not be the best time to adopt a pet. Yes, pets reduce stress levels and enrich our day-to-day lives. They are also a huge financial responsibility. Even meeting their simplest needs could put a strain on your budget.

If your child or spouse is begging for a pet, but you believe you can’t afford one it’s crucial to be firm with your decision. If your lack of disposable income is the only reason you are saying no to the request, make a financial plan to set aside a certain amount of money from each paycheck for your “pet fund.”

Real costs of pet ownership

The first expenses associated with adding a new friend to your household are the adoption, licensing (if applicable), or purchase costs.1 You’ll also need to have your home set up for their arrival. Make a list of the things to do and things to buy before you bring home an animal and their associated costs. Here are some things to consider:

  • Check with your city or town to make sure there aren’t any breed-specific laws or licensing requirements that could affect your decision to adopt or purchase an animal.
  • Call a few local veterinarians to find out fees for a first exam. Choose a veterinary practice that has a lot of experience with the type of animal you’d like to purchase or adopt.
  • If you own your home, contact your insurance company to find out if they charge extra for homeowners who keep certain types of pets. If you fail to disclose that you’ve acquired a pet on their high-risk list you could lose your insurance coverage.
  • Consider your home environment and whether it will be safe for an animal. Think about where the animal will sleep and where they will spend time when you aren’t home. Make sure that area is warm enough in winter and cool enough in summer to keep them comfortable.
  • If you are away from home for long stretches during the day and want to adopt a dog, check out doggie daycare services or daily dog walking services in your area. If you can’t afford the additional expense, you may want to choose a pet that requires less interaction. Kenneling or confining a dog for 10+ hours each day without a short walk and a bathroom break isn’t physically or mentally healthy for the animal.
  • If you are adopting a pet with young children in the house and they’ve promised to be responsible for caring for the animal, realize that the real responsibility is yours. Young children and even teenagers can’t fathom the day-to-day care required by a pet. If you don’t want to take care of the animal, it’s best to say no.
  • Look into resources for animal training and education in your community. Learn everything you can about how your new pet may try to communicate with you. If you decide to adopt a dog, be sure to attend some puppy or adult dog training sessions to help you get acquainted and to establish a lasting relationship.
  • Find a pet sitter before you need one. Having someone you trust who can come to your home to take care of your animal makes family vacations, last-minute travel, and even illness easier for everyone. Ask friends and family for recommendations. If you are considering getting a dog and it is good with other dogs, you may want to consider a local boarding service, as well. Make sure you understand the costs of using these services.
  • If you decide to go ahead with adopting or purchasing an animal, have all the things they’ll need ready for their arrival at home. This may include litter boxes, cages, bedding, leashes, food, dishes, vitamins, and toys.

Adopt Don’t Shop; the pros and cons

You may prefer to “rescue” an animal from a shelter for stray, surrendered, and homeless animals. Especially for people who want to get a dog and are aware of the conditions in puppy mills, adopting an animal from a local shelter or rescue group may be the most humane option.

If you decide to buy from a breeder, check the list published by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) of the worst offenders in the puppy mill industry.2

“The information in this report is a compilation of records obtained from state inspection data in those states that inspect puppy mills, and/or from recent USDA records that The HSUS preserved before the USDA removed the reports from their website, as well as certain available court records, consumer complaints, investigator visits and media reports.”-HSUS website

Dogs that start life in less-than-healthy surroundings could be more likely to have health problems. Since veterinary bills can be a huge strain on the family budget, it’s important to understand where your puppy started life. Overbred animals tend to have physical problems that could end up costing their new owner thousands of dollars in vet bills. Puppy mills sell directly to customers, but they also sell dogs to pet stores and individuals through social media and via internet advertising.2

If you would like to adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue organization, you can find a comprehensive list of options at PetFinder.com. The list is easily customizable by geographical area, breed, gender, size, and temperament. You can also search through listings for cats, rabbits, reptiles, fish, birds, horses, and animals traditionally found on a farm.

To help understand potential costs associated with adopting a particular animal, research physical problems common to the breed. For example, some dog breeds are more prone to hip or skin problems, which could mean huge bills for medications and veterinary bills over the animal’s lifetime.

It’s also important to match the animal to your budget. Certain breeds are quite expensive. For example, English Bulldogs and Tibetan Mastiffs cost about $3,500 as puppies. A Samoyed costs between $4,000 and $11,000. The average adoption fee for a rescued dog or dog living at a shelter is $250. These animals often have been spayed or neutered and they have up-to-date shots, which saves the new owners an additional $250-$500 in veterinary costs.1

Pet budget for a medium-sized dog adopted from a shelter

  • Shelter fees $250.00
  • Kennel $100.00
  • Harness, collar, and leash $50
  • A one-month supply of food: $25
  • Chew-proof container for food: $40
  • First vet visit: $85
  • Toys and bedding: $40
  • Grooming supplies such as brushes, shampoo, nail trimmers, etc: $50
  • Household cleaning supplies for accidents: $20
  • Food: $25-$50 (plus $25-$50 per month average)
  • Pet insurance premium: $35/month (if the breed is prone to ongoing physical problems)
  • Grooming: $50/month
  • Daily dog walking service: $200/month
  • Household supplies like lint rollers to remove hair from clothing and furniture $10/month
  • Treats $10/month

In general, it’s less expensive to care for a cat than a dog. However, if you want a purebred or rare breed, your costs could be significantly higher.1 Before spending a lot of money on a special type of cat, make sure the breeder is able to furnish you with a guarantee that they are healthy and will not suffer from defects due to excessive inbreeding. The animal’s parents and grandparents should be free from inheritable diseases, as well. This will help you keep long-term costs of ownership down.

Pet budget for a cat adopted from a shelter

  • Shelter fees $200.00
  • A one-month supply of food $25
  • Chew-proof container for food $40
  • Cat carrier $50
  • First vet visit $85
  • Toys and bedding $40
  • Grooming supplies such as brushes, etc $50
  • Household cleaning supplies for accidents $20
  • Covered litterbox $10
  • Dust-free clumping kitty litter $10 (+ $10/month average)
  • Treats $10
  • Ongoing expenses:
  • Monthly
  • Food $25 (+ $25/month average)
  • Pet insurance premium $25 per month


Veterinary care including heartworm treatment, exam, dental care, and vaccines $250

Budgeting for veterinary costs

Medical care is a necessary part of having a pet. While it can be expensive to take an animal to the veterinarian, doing so regularly to keep up with vaccinations and routine healthcare is a smart way to prevent and avoid future (more expensive) problems.

The best way to handle medical expenses for your pet is to build it into your household budget the way you save for other unexpected expenses. Add to your emergency savings or set up a separate pet account. Alternatively, you could purchase a pet insurance policy to help cover the costs of veterinary care.

Pet insurance pros and cons

Like any type of insurance, pet insurance is an expense that you pay while hoping you never have to use it. For some, the $35-$100 per month premiums3 may seem like a ridiculous or frivolous expense. For others, pet insurance is a great way to protect the investment of time, energy, and money. If you plan to purchase an expensive dog or cat, pet insurance may make sense.

If you think pet insurance may be the right choice for you, ask your vet if they recommend a certain company.

Average cost of pet insurance

If you decide to purchase pet insurance, you’ll get a quote for your animal based on their breed, age, and health status. According to an analysis by Value Penguin, average monthly premiums for healthy puppies range from $25 to $73. If you adopt an adult dog or one with health problems, costs can be significantly higher.

Expect to pay between $10 and $40 per month for a kitten in good health. Rates go up as your deductible decreases. You’ll also pay more for an adult cat or for a breed that tends to have more health problems. For example, Nationwide has a $250 deductible but an unlimited yearly maximum with a premium of $17 per month for healthy kittens. Figo has a $10,000 annual maximum but their monthly premium is lower at $15. Trupanion offers a 90% reimbursement rate and no annual maximum with a $28 per month premium.3

For healthy puppies, the costs of pet insurance increases slightly. A Nationwide policy with a $250 deductible and an unlimited yearly maximum is $33 per month. Figo imposes a $10,000 annual maximum on dog policies and their monthly premium is $31. Trupanion, with no annual maximum and a 90% reimbursement rate is $58 per month.3

All of these prices are just estimates. Other factors, like your state of residence, the type of pet you adopt, its age, and whether it has pre-existing conditions may case your quotes to be higher than those listed here.

Several insurers offer pet insurance for exotic animals, including hedgehogs, birds, potbellied pigs, snakes, ferrets, chinchillas, chameleons, frogs, rats, tortoises, and turtles. These animals can be especially challenging and expensive to treat if they fall ill. You’ll need to have a relationship with a vet that has extensive experience treating exotic pets.

Average costs of common treatments for cats and dogs

Unless you (and your pet) are very lucky, at some point you’ll have to face veterinary bills due to your animal’s illness. Here are the five things vets treat most frequently in dogs and their average costs:3

  • Ear Infections $150
  • Skin Infections $175
  • Diarrhea $203
  • Allergies $234
  • Upset Stomach $385

Here are the five most common reasons for a visit to the vet for people who own a cat:3

  • Urinary Tract Condition $295
  • Upset Stomach $385
  • Renal Failure $485
  • Diarrhea $200
  • Allergies $235

When evaluating pet insurance, remember that the insurance company you choose has the right to increase the premiums over time. Read online reviews from current and past customers to look for red flags.

Adding a pet to your family is a great source of joy. Make sure the expenses associated with caring for your new animal fit into your budget to get the most out of the experience.


1. Top 10 Most Expensive Dog Breeds «. Petplan.com.au. https://www.petplan.com.au/blog/dog/top-10-most-expensive-dog-breeds/. Published 2019. Accessed January 28, 2019.

2. The Horrible Hundred 2017: Uncovering U.S. puppy mills. The Humane Society of the United States. https://www.humanesociety.org/news/horrible-hundred-2017-uncovering-us-puppy-mills?referrer=http%3A//people.com/pets/humane-society-announces-the-horrible-100-list-of-worst-puppy-mill-offenders-in-the-u-s/#IOWA. Published 2019. Accessed January 31, 2019.

3. Average Cost of Pet Insurance: 2019 Facts and Figures. ValuePenguin. https://www.valuepenguin.com/pet-insurance/average-cost-of-pet-insurance. Published 2019. Accessed January 31, 2019.

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