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The cost of owning a pet

The truth about cats and dogs (and birds and fish)

Welcoming a pet into the family is a big responsibility. Often when we think about adding a cat or dog to the family, we focus on the upfront cost. We may be in shock at the cost of a purebred, but the real cost is not in the selection of a puppy or a kitten. It’s the long-term cost of bringing a new pet into our household.

The well-being of our animals not only means giving them plenty of our time, but money and energy to make sure they live well. And, if we are living well, don’t our pets deserve the same? So before heading to a breeder or the local shelter, put some dollars and sense into those long-term costs and find out, “Can you afford a pet?” If the cost is too high, we can offer some low-cost (time and money) alternatives below.

Pug dog and orange cat

The most common types of pets in America are dogs and cats

  •  2 in every 5 people have a dog
  • 1 in every 3 people have a cat

So, there are slightly more dog owners in America than cat owners. Before you can begin your search for your new furry friend, you have to consider which pet will be the best for you and your family. 

Here are some things to think about according to the ASPCA

Comparison chart for the costs of a cat versus a dog

According to this report, the total first-year cost of owning a dog is $1455 and for a cat it’s $1105 (This is just an estimate.). The important thing is to keep track of how much you are spending on your pet so you can make a future budget.

Decide what you want to spend on your new pet

When purchasing items for your new pet family member, keep in mind needs versus wants! While they may need toys to help keep their minds and bodies active, they probably don’t need a whole basket full of high-priced items. But it’s not all about the money. Dogs and cats are also going to need your time and care. How much time do you have to give? Animals need daily attention. Especially for kittens and puppies, who are high energy and are going to demand lots of playtime. As animals get older, taking time to ensure their well-being continues. How much time do you spend away from home for afterschool activities, lessons, or on the go? All of these are important things to consider.

Maybe a cat or dog is not for you. Here are some other ideas:

Low Maintenance Pets

With these pets, your time commitment is much lower and will probably only be about 15 minutes a day for feeding and about an hour a week to clean tanks or cages. Since these animals aren't cuddly or affectionate, don’t count on snuggles!

  • Fish
  • Snakes
  • Lizards
  • Turtles

For example the average costs of a fish would be:

  • Food: $15
  • Accessories: $20

Cost per year: $50

Medium Maintenance Pets

These pets require about 15 to 30 minutes a day for feeding and then weekly cage or litter box cleaning. Every animal (especially cats) have different personalities. This could mean that play time will last long after their “kitten stage” or that they may prefer to be more independent.

  • Cats
  • Small birds, like parakeets and canaries
  • Rabbits
  • Rodents, such as guinea pigs, gerbils, hamsters, mice, and rats

Average bird costs*

  • Food: $55
  • Accessories: $22 Cost per year: $115

High Maintenance Pets

Dogs require daily attention, exercise, and food. Expect to spend an hour or two every day taking care of your new fur baby.

Planning for the unexpected

Don’t forget to plan for unexpected expenses like operations or other accidents. As your pet gets older, trips to the vet can become more common. Putting savings aside for your animal is important to make sure they receive the care they need. Something you can plan on? Chores. Use the Pet Chore Chart to talk about responsibilities before your new addition joins the family. Bottom line - our pets’ needs are pretty important and they rely on us for their well-being. Finding the time, money, and resources to care for our new dog or cat is a big responsibility and should definitely be discussed beforehand. Once you are done with your research and budgeting, think about beginning your search for your pet in a local shelter. There’s always a happy tail or nose ready to greet you.

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