The Cost of Pet Ownership – Can You Afford to Own a Pet?

Pet ownership has soared throughout the US during the pandemic. A survey in December 2020 found that 10% of respondents had recently acquired a new pet. This was up from 7 percent during May 2020.

Dogs and cats are the most popular types of American pets, but these are both expensive choices in comparison to the cost of owning a fish, which comes in third place.

cost of pet ownership

If you’re considering buying or adopting a new furry friend, then consider the cost of pet ownership, particularly if your finances have been hit hard during the pandemic.

You might be surprised that being a responsible pet owner is pricier than you think! Learn more about the finances involved in raising a pet, including some top tips on how to keep your costs down.

Adopted animals can be free.

First up, you’ll need to decide where you’re getting your new pet from.

You might adopt a puppy or a kitten from an animal shelter, where the costs could be as little as zero so long as you’re able to provide a suitable home.

However, as you might not gain the full backstory of your adopted animal, including a medical history of its parents, getting your pet from a shelter can be a costly mistake in the long run.

Even though the cost of buying a pet from a responsible registered breeder can run into the $$$$s, you could save a fortune in vet’s bills over the years. 

This is a tricky decision though as breeders raised their puppy prices by as much as 36% following the start of the pandemic and these figures have yet to deflate.

Remember that some speciality breeds can cost thousands of dollars, but there are plenty of gorgeous mixed-breed dogs and cats who need homes too.

Why not see if one of these would make a loving companion for you?

Avoid backyard breeders  

One way to avoid expensive medical bills is to avoid buying your new pet from a ‘backyard breeder’.

If you’re paying money for a pet, then you should always have the opportunity to meet its mother at home.

Don’t be tempted to pay money to a breeder who wants to meet in a public place and always avoid any seller who has multiple breeds for sale.

This is a clear sign that they’re running a puppy mill or farm where conditions and animal welfare are incredibly poor.

Put aside enough money for the first year

The initial cost of pet ownership is at least $1,000 during the first year, which is arguably the most expensive period of your dog or cat’s life.

This will usually cover the cost of visiting a vet and set up costs such as bed and bedding, toys for stimulation, a leash, tags, neutering or spaying, and microchipping.

Make sure you have this money set aside before bringing your pet home, so you’re fully prepared for the year ahead.

Choose a reputable vet

Your pet will often have had at least their first round of vaccinations with their previous owner, but you’ll need to register with a vet as soon as you bring your new four-legged pal home.

You might need to spend up to $300 per appointment at each vet appointment and could need at least two until they’re 16 weeks old.

This will cover the cost of vaccines, medications such as deworming, and any extra treatments that may be specific to the health of your new pet.

Remember to shop around before choosing the right vet for your animal.

You’ll want to build a long-term relationship with a reputable vet who you can call upon whenever your dog or cat needs medical assistance.

Don’t be tempted to go for the cheapest as this could end up being more expensive.

Instead, read reviews until you find a professional vet surgery you feel comfortable with.

After your first year, you might visit the vet once or twice a year for a check-up which could cost upwards of $200 a time.

Dental hygiene is also integral to the health of your pet, and regular cleans can range between $300 to $800 a time.

Pet food

The cost of feeding your pet will depend on its size and breed, with dogs costing substantially more than cats.

You might expect to pay between $20 to $60 per month on quality pet food, which should always be approved by your vet.

Although you will certainly find cheaper alternatives in the market, this substandard ‘food’ may not meet the nutritional requirements of your pet.

If your pet has a health condition or requires specialty food, perhaps if they’re diabetic, then you might expect to spend upwards of $100 a month on their diet.

Pet subscription services can provide you with regular deliveries and can help you to save money.

Training your pet

You can begin to train a dog some basic commands such as ‘sit’ or ‘stay’ from as young as 6-8 weeks old.

More formal obedience training often starts at about 6 months of age and can cost a few hundred dollars depending on whether you attend a group course or prefer one-to-one tuition.

To reduce the costs associated with training, there are plenty of resources available in your local library and of course on YouTube.

Either way, training is critical to a happy long-term relationship with your pet and can even help to keep them safe when out in public.

So, your investment in training can save in medical bills down the line.

Grooming costs

Whether you’ve recently brought home a Persian cat or an Afghan hound, long-haired pets mean one thing and that’s grooming.

If you have a short-haired pet, then a simple pat down with a brush every now and then is probably all you’ll need.

But anything longer and you’ll need to either invest in some specialist kit or else visit a professional groomer which could cost up to $500 per year.

Pet sitting costs

If you plan to take a trip away, then you might need to set aside some money for pet sitting. If you go away once or twice a year then this could cost around $300.

Boarding your pet tends to be the cheaper option, although this provides less one-to-one attention for your furry pal.

If you’d prefer your dog or cat to remain in your home, then you can have a sitter move in whilst you’re away. 

Is pet insurance worth it?

Yes, definitely! Have you previously had a pet and received the heart-breaking news that your beloved friend needs surgery which will cost an eye-watering amount of money?

If so, then you’ll no doubt have kicked yourself for not taking out insurance to cover the cost.

The cost of insurance varies significantly depending on the breed, size, and age of your pet along with their medical history and whether you’ve claimed before.

Alongside emergency care, you can also take out a policy that offers preventative care including your annual wellness exams.

Check out providers such as Lemonade and Pumpkin.

Can you afford NOT to microchip?

Providing your dog or cat with a collar and tags is a must, but consider microchipping too.

One in three pets gets lost in their lifetime, and microchipping radically improves the chance of your pet returning home.

A JAVMA study found that the return-to-owner rate for microchipped dogs was more than 52%.

Costing just $45-50, this could mean the difference between being reunited from your lost pet or experiencing endless heartache.

What’s the true cost of pet ownership?

Owning a pet is an enormous financial responsibility, but as with many things in life, you get out of it what you put in!

Remember to budget at least $1,000 for your pet’s first year and then at least $500 for each subsequent year. Pet insurance will help dramatically in reducing the chance of unexpected costs cropping up. Remember to crunch the numbers before bringing home your new friend.  Learn more about household budgeting by checking out The Finances Hub collection of personal finance articles.

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