Perhaps you are considering taking the step into pet ownership. Most pet owners will tell you that having a four legged furry friend (or three legged one like Edward Antrobus)is one of the greatest joys in life. Pets have a tremendous capacity for love, fun and forgiveness. You can take a broken, beaten, damaged animal, show it kindness and patience, and have a friend for life. Before you make the decision, you should take a serious look at your finances to detemine if you can truly afford it. The following costs are for dogs and cats, but please do your research even if you want a lizard, bird, snake, pot bellied pig, llama or any other domestic pet (please don’t pull a Mike Tyson and think a tiger might be fun.)
The minimum basics any pet requires are food, water, and shelter. According to the ASPCA, medium dogs will need $250 worth of food per year, cats $120. That cost is for basic food alone and doesn’t count toward treats, rawhide chews, or vitamins (some pets have skin conditions!). You might need stainless steel bowls if your pet chews up plastic. If you are going to leave Spot outdoors for a portion of the day, he will need a dog or cat house, which can easily cost over a hundred dollars. If your chosen dog that wanders, you might have to get an outdoor run or build a fence. Of course, you could keep your pet indoors. In that case, cats will have to have a litter box and litter. If you already have a plastic tub, litter cost is around $150 per year. If you have a dog indoors, it’s a good idea to have a crate. Otherwise, Fido migh decide to redecorate your place. A new wire dog crate for a medium dog would cost around $50. You’ll also want to provide a pillow or dog bed unless you want to share, another $10-$20. You can see how the costs add up.
Puppies and kittes are just about the cutest things on the planet. Maybe you were at the grocery store where someone had a box of little cuties for giveaway. Bloggers love free, so why not? Remember, puppies and kittens need several vaccines in their first year of life. After that, depending on your local laws, you will need booster vaccines every one to three years. Average yearly cost of vaccines is $150. If you don’t want more puppies and kitties, you’ll need to get your pet spayed or neutered, add another $100. Also depending on your area, you may need heartworm treatment or flea and tick repellent. Since there is really no such thing as a free pet, you should check with your local animal shelter or rescue group. For an adoption fee, the pet comes home already spayed or neutered with their first round of shots, and you get the joy of knowing you saved a homeless pet.
Just like people, the older your pet, the more expensive the doctor bill. Older pets will need routine dental care every two to three years, cost is around $300. If your pet develops any chronic health conditions like diabetes or thyroid problems, medicine costs can easily run hundreds of dollars per year. You also have to consider emergencies. Over my 14 years as a pet owner, I’ve had to pay for endoscopy to retrieve an eaten hair scrunchie, surgery for two blown out knees, numerous ripped off toenails, kennel cough (we didn’t even go to the kennel!), slipped discs, an autoimmune disorder, an abcessed tooth, allergies, and a broken toe. I have never spent this much for my personal health care over that same period of time. It really is best to have an emergency fund for your pet, just as you would for a human family member.
You Might Not Think About These Costs
Depending on your pet, you also should figure in costs for licenses, tags, collars, leashes, toys, catnip, obedience training, and grooming. If you like or need to travel, you may have to pay for boarding or a pet sitter. Beware you may also find yourself crossing over into insanity when you feel the need for pet photos with Santa, electronic water purifiers, rhinestone sweaters,or monogrammed carriers that look like designer purses. You know people buy these things. Have you been to a pet store lately? Novelty items are big business, and I bet most pet owners have made a frivilous impulse purchase at some point. (Yes, one year I bought 4th of July t-shirts for my dogs.)
Ways to Save Money
There are a few ways to save on pet expenses. Just like with regular grocery shopping, you can buy in bulk when food or litter is on sale. Some online retailers offer discounts if you sign up for regular delivery. While I wouldn’t recommend the WalMart brand, you don’t have to buy premium organic food for your pet. A good mid-range food will do just fine.
Most areas offer low cost vaccine or spay/neuter clinics at certain times of the year. However, there is something to be said for having a good relatonship with your veterinarian. I can and have called mine at all hours. I can drop one of my dogs off on the way to work if there is a problem, and the office will keep them until I get off without any extra charge. They might not be so accomodating if I never went in for regular care.
You can find used pet supplies if you are patient and don’t need things immediately. Many cities have thrift stores that benefit animal charities, and these are great places to find used pet goods.
Not spaying or neutering is a really dumb way to save money. Can you afford a litter of puppies or kittens? How about an emergency C-section? What if the pet dies giving birth? Are you ready to bottle or dropper feed a litter of needy newborns plus the emotional toll of losing their mom? Spay and neuter your pets!
However you go about it, you will be spending some money to have a pet. The ASPCA estimates the annual costs for medium dogs is $1150 and $640 for cats. You might come in under that number some years, but if you have a dog or cat throughout it’s lifespan, you will have some emergency bills. I’ve never seen anyone who didn’t.
While serving as a board member of local Humane Society for nine years, I’ve seen every animal situation, good and bad, that you can imagine. Dog and cats, puppies and kittens all deserve to be in a home where they aren’t a burden. When you bring a furry friend home, it should become member of your family, so put it in the budget, and make sure you account for the cost of pet ownership.
How much are your annual pet expenses? Do you prefer dogs or cats or other?