According to the Humane Society, 39% of American households contain at least one dog and 33% contain at least one cat. As the owner of four small dogs (yes, four!), I definitely understand the benefits of having animals in my life. Studies even show that owning a pet can improve your health. However, pet ownership isn’t something one should enter into lightly. Time and energy commitments aside, any type of animal comes with costs that don’t disappear when you leave the pet store.
When you get a new pet, you need to provide basics like food, water, and shelter. This could be as simple as a bag of food and an old blanket for a dog, or as complicated as an aquarium and live crickets for an iguana. Generally, meeting an animal’s basic needs is one of the cheapest expenses associated with owning a pet. I spend about $20 a month on food for my dogs. They stay inside, so they don’t need doghouses or any separate kind of shelter.
Think your pet won’t need accessories? Think again! From treats to toys to collars and leashes, very few pet owners can avoid buying at least a few extras. I spend at least $10 a month on treats for my dogs, as well as a few dollars here and there for toys. (One of my dogs, Apollo, won’t rest until he’s torn the squeaker out of every toy in the house. So we need new ones quite often.) I also spent a ridiculous amount on collars, leashes, dog beds (useless since they all sleep in bed with me), dog toothbrushes, brushes, and other random things that my dogs couldn’t live without.
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but each of my dogs owns at least 2 sweaters. When their hair is cut short, they shiver constantly, so I decided to buy them some cute clothing. Necessary? Not at all! But you’d be amazed what you’ll justify for your precious fur babies.
All animals need to see a veterinarian regularly for vaccinations and checkups. Also, if you aren’t planning to breed them, dogs and cats (and other furry critters) need to be spayed or neutered to prolong their lives. Combine that with potential illnesses, injuries, age-related complications, etc., and it’s easy to see why the Humane Society estimates an average of $230 a year for vet visits. If your pet develops a serious illness or needs surgery, you could owe thousands.
The concept of pet insurance really angers me. Years ago, after one of my dogs hurt her leg (costing me about $300), I told my vet I wished there was health insurance for animals. Both of us had a good laugh. Fast forward about 6 years, and I see commercials for pet insurance all the time. People pay anywhere from $20-$40 a month to guard against potential medical catastrophes like the ones I mentioned above.
If you own a pet with fur, chances are you’ll pay for periodic grooming. (Unless you’re skilled with clippers, in which case I may need to hire you.) I have my dogs groomed every 3 months at $180 for all four of them combined. That’s over $700 a year!
The Bottom Line
As you can see, a pet (or multiple pets) can cost hundreds of dollars a year. Depending on the lifespan of the animal you choose, you could be looking at a decade or more and thousands of dollars in expenses.
Is it worth it? Only you and your family can make that decision. For me, my dogs are worth every dime I spend on them. However, if your financial situation is precarious, bringing home another mouth to feed (however small) may not be the best idea.
If you’re considering a pet, take time to research the costs associated with that particular species and breed. Make sure you’re willing and able to care for an animal - not just financially, but emotionally and physically as well. Owning a pet can be one of the best decisions of your life, as long as you enter into it with your eyes open.