Pet Ownership Costs: Can You Afford a Cat or Dog?

Cats and dogs are companions, and in many instances, part of the family. After playing and cuddling up with a cat or dog, you may feel the urge to get one of your own. However, it’s important to evaluate all the pet ownership costs that come with a new furry friend. Let’s examine the initial costs of owning a cat or a dog and take a look at how much they could cost you over the years.

dog and cat lying the grass

Initial Pet Ownership Costs

If you’re looking into the cost of a cat or a dog, chances are that you’ve never had one before. It also probably means that you don’t have a lot of the essentials on hand for when your new pet arrives home with you for the first time. Here are the lists of items that’ll need to be paid for before or during your pet’s first weeks at home.

Initial Cat Costs

  • Pet Cost or Adoption Fee
  • First Medical Exam
  • Spaying or Neutering
  • Microchipping
  • Food and Water Bowls
  • Collar
  • Litter Box
  • Scratching Post
  • Cat Bed
  • Carrying Crate

Initial Dog Costs

  • Pet Cost or Adoption Fee
  • First Medical Exam
  • Spaying or Neutering
  • Microchipping
  • Food and Water Bowls
  • Collar & Leash
  • Dog Waste Bags
  • Dog Bed
  • Regular Crate

Should I Buy or Adopt My Pet?

Whether you purchase a cat or dog from a breeder or adopt through a facility, the actual cost of getting a pet can vary. If you’re looking for a specific breed, buying a pet from a breeder will provide you with more options, but it can be more expensive. Alternatively, adopting a pet through a shelter will lower the cost of your pet and provide an abandoned cat or dog a forever home.

How Important is Pet Spaying and Neutering?

If you’re weighing the pros and cons of spaying and neutering, it’s important to note that studies have shown astounding benefits. Spayed cats live 39% longer than unspayed cats and neutered cats live 62% longer than unneutered cats. Spayed dogs live 23% longer than unspayed dogs and neutered dogs live 18% longer than unneutered dogs.

Why Should I Microchip My Pet?

In addition, pet microchipping shouldn’t be overlooked. In the event that your cat or dog runs off without a collar on, you’ll have a better chance of finding and bringing them home again if they have a microchip. Anyone who finds your pet can take them to a shelter or veterinary clinic. Most shelters or vets have universal scanners that can be moved over a pet’s skin for chip detection. The scanner will read the chip and provide a way for your contact information to be found.

Ongoing Pet Ownership Costs

As you look into those kitten or puppy-dog eyes, the thought of how much they could cost you might slowly fade into the back of your mind. However, it’s important to think about monthly and yearly pet costs, as they may really affect your budget. Take a look at these ongoing pet costs to see what you’ll need to continue to pay for throughout the length of your pet’s life.

Note: Some monthly pet costs may be required when you first get a pet. In those instances, you should also take those costs into consideration when looking at initial pet costs.

Ongoing Cat Costs

Monthly

  • Cat Food
  • Cat Treats
  • Cat Litter
  • Cat Toys
  • Flea/Tick Treatments
  • Grooming

Yearly

  • Annual Medical Exam
  • Dental Cleaning
  • Cat License Renewal (Only Certain States)
  • Rental Apartment or Home Fees

Ongoing Dog Costs

Monthly

  • Dog Food
  • Dog Treats
  • Dog Toys
  • Flea/Tick Treatments
  • Grooming

Yearly

  • Annual Medical Exam
  • Dental Cleaning
  • Dog License Renewal
  • Rental Apartment or Home Fees

Do I Really Need to Get My Cat Groomed?

If you’re new to the pet world, you might think that only dogs need proper grooming, not cats. However, cats should be groomed as well! While cats generally do a great job at cleaning themselves, they can’t reach every part of their bodies. Their hair can also shed, forcing you to excessively vacuum and use a lint roller before you leave the house every day. It’s recommended that both cats and dogs be taken to get groomed as needed. Even if they don’t want to!

How Important Are Pet Dental Cleanings?

Dental cleanings are a big to-do. Dental disease affects 85% of cats and 91% of dogs over the age of 3. Most vets recommend cleaning pets’ teeth regularly at home and getting professional pet dental cleanings annually.

What Are Rental Apartment or Home Pet Fees?

A majority of rental communities require a pet deposit to cover any damage the pet may cause (ruined carpeting, chewed baseboards, etc.). In addition to the deposit, your landlord may also force you to pay a monthly fee for simply having your cat or dog stay with you in the apartment.

Optional Pet Ownership Costs

Depending on your preferences and lifestyle, there are certain optional pet costs to consider. Be sure to take a look at these lists just in case they apply to you.

Optional Cat Costs

  • Pet Insurance
  • Cat Declawing
  • Pet Sitting/Boarding

Optional Dog Costs

  • Pet Insurance
  • Yard Fencing
  • Behavior Training Courses
  • Dog Walking Service Fees
  • Pet Sitting/Boarding

Does My Pet Need Insurance?

Having pet insurance for your cat or dog can spare you from paying for out-of-pocket treatments. It also helps to cover expensive costs related to unforeseen circumstances in which pets become ill or hurt. If you have a breed of pet that’s prone to medical issues, pet insurance may be a good investment.

Should I Get My Cat Declawed?

When it comes to cats, many people have an opinion as to whether or not they should be declawed. It’s recommended that you not declaw your cat if they are allowed to go outside since their claws provide protection from predators. If your cat is an indoor cat, declawing may be preferred to protect your home’s interior from scratches, rips, and other damage.

Is Dog Behavior Training Necessary?

Depending on your dog’s temperament and habits, it may be wise to consider behavior training. If your dog has issues with barking, aggression, or constant whining, training classes will help curb bad habits and instill good ones. Overall, the benefits of behavior training can be tremendous! You can work on anything from forming a closer bond with your dog to ensuring a safer environment when your dog is around family and friends.

Unexpected Pet Ownership Costs

When it comes to your a pet’s wellbeing, most pet parents are willing to pay any amount to keep their furry family member alive and well. However, if you don’t plan ahead or have pet insurance, emergency medical care for your pet may be extremely costly.

Other unexpected costs may also empty your wallet. Be sure to take these costs into consideration. Consider opening a savings account so you aren’t put in a tough financial situation when expensive, unexpected events arise.

Emergency Medical Care

Within the length of a pet’s life, it’s not unthinkable that there will be at least one emergency. The unfortunate news is that uninsured pets can cost you an average of $3,480 per emergency vet visit. Planning ahead for emergencies can help ease the financial pain if faced with an emergency pet situation.

Damaged Item/Furniture Replacement

Kittens and puppies aren’t that much different from toddlers. They’re unaware that they aren’t supposed to do or play with certain things, and that may mean bad things for your personal belongings or furniture. It may also mean losing your security deposit on your rental apartment or home. While the cost of replacement items vary depending on what it is, just imagine having to pay for a new iPad because your dog decided it would make a great chew toy, or a new sofa because your cat loved the feeling of scratching the leather.

Pet Transportation

People and their pets move all the time, but have you ever considered what would happen if you had to move a long distance and driving wasn’t feasible? Most pet owners don’t think about the cost of shipping a pet to a location via an airplane. If you need to transport your pet to your new home, you could be looking at paying as much as $1,000 to $2,500 on top of the cost of moving yourself and your belongings.

Pet Cremation

It’s not fun to think about and most pet parents are never prepared for it. The reality is that along with grieving the loss of a pet, you may also have to worry about paying end-of-life care and cremation bills. You could be looking at an extra payment of $800 or more.

dog and cat lying next to each other on a sofa

Additional Pet Ownership Cost Considerations

Health Conditions

Like your own health, pet health is important to be aware of and monitor. Two cost considerations for owning a cat or a dog stem from pre-existing and breed-specific medical conditions.

Pre-Existing

If you plan on adopting a pet from a shelter or humane league, be sure to ask about any pre-existing health conditions. While pre-existing health conditions are common in senior shelter dogs and cats, young kittens and puppies can have genetic health conditions. Become aware of the health issues so you can ensure you’re financially equipped to pay any additional medical costs.

Breed-Specific

Some types of cats and dogs are more prone to health issues due to their genetic makeup and evolution over time.

The Animal Wellness Center lists out cat breeds with the most genetic disorders. The top three included:

  1. Rex — often have heart problems and are known to dislocate their kneecaps
  2. Abyssinian — prone to vision, hearing, and dental problems
  3. Manx — tend to have spinal defects and issues

The Pet Health Network covered some of the main dog breed-specific conditions that may require surgery. The top three included:

  1. Labradors — prone to tearing their ACLs (anterior cruciate ligaments)
  2. Golden Retrievers — known for developing multiple types of cancer
  3. Bulldogs — subject to narrow nasal passages and breathing issues

Pet Life Expectancy

While it may be heartbreaking to think about, it’s important to consider how long you’ll actually be paying for your cat or dog. While cat life expectancies primarily depend on their environment (living primarily indoors vs. outdoors), dog life expectancies generally vary by size. Here are some averages so you can more accurately gauge the life expectancy of the pet you’re looking for:

Cats

  • Indoor-Only Cat — 12 to 15 years
  • Indoor/Outdoor Cat — 8 years
  • Outdoor-Only Cat — 5 years

Dogs

  • Dogs <20 lbs. — 11 years
  • Dogs 20-50 lbs. — 11 years
  • Dogs >90 lbs. — 8 years

Dog life expectancies also tend to vary by breed. To find the life expectancy of the breed you’re interested in, you can simply search for it on PetCareRx.com.

Adding it All Up

With all of pet ownership cost factors in mind, you may be wondering if you can actually afford a cat or a dog. Take a look at our infographic below to see how much a cat or a dog would cost you each year!

pet ownership cost comparison between cats and dogs

Pet Ownership Tips for Decreasing Costs

Try some of these solutions for minimizing pet costs! Saving small amounts here and there can make a big difference in the total amount you pay over the course of your pet’s life.

Borrow Supplies

Cats and dogs are very common pets to have. Perhaps you have a neighbor, friend, or coworker who has a spare pet crate or bed they could give or lend you while your new pet gets familiar with your home. Depending on the size, type, and brand, pet crates and beds can be expensive, so borrowing one may drastically reduce your initial pet costs.

Buy in Bulk

Purchasing frequently-used pet items in bulk can help cut your costs. Items such as food and treats are great examples of this. Since pets will always need food, you know nothing will go to waste. Why not buy the bulk version and keep it stored until needed? You’ll even have the added benefit of not having to run out to the pet supply store every single month!

Shop Around for the Best Deals

Just like clothes, groceries, and other necessities, pet supply prices differ from store to store. To get the lowest price possible, we suggest doing some research prior to purchasing pet items. You can also look for store and manufacturer coupons to lower the price even more.

Create a Pet Emergency Fund

As stated before, it’s best to have an emergency fund specifically for your pet in case expensive, unexpected events occur. From replacing large pieces of furniture due to kitten scratches or dog chewing/teething to emergency medical care, having savings already accumulated is important and will keep you financially secure.

Add Pets to Your Budget

Before getting a pet, try working all of the initial, ongoing, optional, and unexpected pet costs into your budget. Once you have your budget set, you’ll know exactly how much you have each month to spend on your companion. If you have extra money left over each month, treat your pet to an extra toy or add it to the emergency fund!

Start Small

Now that we’ve covered how expensive pets can truly be, you might be a little intimidated. You don’t have to be, though! Having a pet can be extremely beneficial when it comes to happiness and health. If you’re a first-time pet owner, why not start out small? There are many other pets besides cats and dogs that need love and affection (and are generally inexpensive)! We recommend looking into low-cost pets such as a guinea pig or budgerigar (parakeet).

Did you know that we offer budget counseling as a service for our members? We’ll help you set up a budget that includes your pet costs. Contact us today for more information or to schedule an appointment!

Liz Oliver
Liz Oliver

Liz Oliver is the Member & Loan Services Officer at Lancaster Red Rose Credit Union. She’s been a member of the LRRCU team since 2007.

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