Pets bring a lot of joy to our lives. Aside from the major cuteness factor, they’re also great for our mental and physical well-being. In fact, according to CNN having a pet correlates with higher survival rates, fewer heart attacks, better blood pressure, lower rates of depression, and better psychological well-being. Not to mention that in the midst of a worldwide pandemic (we’re looking at you, COVID-19!), a pet can be a great companion for isolation and staving off feelings of loneliness. In fact, it seems like many people had that exact idea because according to Wired, all over the country, pet adoption rates have been skyrocketing since the start of sheltering in place.
Talk about a worthwhile investment! But, before bringing a new furry (or scaly, slimy, etc.) friend home there’s a lot to consider to ensure you’re financially prepared for all the new pet costs. In fact, according to the ASPCA, the first-year costs for a small dog, cat, or even a rabbit can range from $800 to $1,500! From food to medical expenses, a lot more goes into owning a pet than meets the eye (but they’re just so cute!!).
Here are some of the typical costs of owning a new pet and some strategies to consider before you shop or adopt.
Purchasing your pet
The first item to consider when looking to expand your furry/slimy/scaly-family is the decision to either shop or adopt. Yes, there are places to adopt the slimy and scaly pets too! Unless you have a specific breed in mind, adopting can be a great way to cut costs when considering a pet. As an added bonus, many animals in shelters have already been vaccinated and neutered, saving you some medical costs up front. And the best part? You give a forever home to a special friend in need!
If you choose to shop instead, whether you’re looking for a specific breed or you’re open to any options, an easy way to save money is turning to a reputable breeder. In fact, according to the American Kennel Club, while “free puppies” might seem enticing (how can you resist, really?), not knowing the background of the pet can be more costly long term. When you purchase your new friend through a reputable breeder, you might pay a bit more initially but part of that cost covers breeding for good health, genetics, and even behavior traits. If you’re looking for reputable dog breeders, groomers, or even trainers, the American Kennel Club Marketplace is a great place to start. There are similar organizations and websites that will help you find cats, rabbits, lizards and even snakes.
Pet home preparation
Before you bring home a new pal, it’s important to remember that pets need more than just love to live a happy and healthy life. They’ll also require medical care, food, toys, treats, accessories, beds, gates, and even crates! What type of pet you decide to go with can greatly vary the price points, but in general, it’s important to prepare and budget ahead of time.
First-year expenses such as vaccinations and the initial shopping spree can cost up to $1,600 or more depending on your pet pick (that’s a lot of doggie bags!). Generally, you should also plan for around $500 per year of ongoing expenses. If you find yourself overspending, the time to start cutting back and planning ahead financially is now, pre-pet. Your shoe obsession, for example, can start to take a back seat – especially since the chances of them getting chewed up may soon greatly increase. Also, try to avoid the urge to buy bougie pet items like designer poop bags and bedazzled collars – we guarantee you, your pet won’t mind the budget version. Another tip is to buy items for your pet in bulk. Shopping around for the best deals, and stockpiling supplies are also great strategies to cut costs and make recurring bills more manageable.
Budgeting for the big stuff
You never know what life will throw your way when it comes to pet ownership. Accidents and emergencies are bound to happen. Just as you would budget to support your own needs in a crisis, you now have another responsibility – your pet! In our How to Build An Emergency Fund article, we shared some strategies for building a budget around any future financial stressors. When you purchase a pet, you should utilize similar techniques to start putting aside funds for your new friend’s needs. Depending on what pet you pick, you’re going to need to base your emergency budget around average costs for vet bills, food, supplies, and care. In an ideal world, you would be able to set aside a savings fund equal to at least a few months of these total costs for a worst-case scenario. You don’t want to go into pet debt, so planning ahead is a crucial part of the preparation process.
Another great way to get more bang for your buck in emergency situations is to opt into pet insurance. Generally covering four categories: wellness, accident-only, accident-illness, and accident-illness with wellness coverage, there are plans and pricing perfect for your pet’s potential needs. According to Business Insider, the average pet insurance policy premium in 2019 was just $48.78 per month for dogs and $29.16 per month for cats. Affordable, and a lifesaver in the case of accidents.
The Cost of Companionship
Aside from the obvious expenses such as purchasing a new pet and prepping your home, there are additional and less immediately apparent costs to consider as well. For example, before becoming a new pet parent, you need to factor in the real-life and in-cash costs to your time! When traveling, spending your days in the office, or even making plans on the weekends, someone will still need to care for your new friend. Purchasing a pet can have a major impact on your schedule because suddenly you have new needs to consider! If you work long hours or are often not home, it’s important to consider your pet’s needs and how they’ll be addressed in your absence. Dog walkers, pet-sitters, and even your next-door neighbor can make great alternative caregivers for fulfilling your pet’s basic needs – but often at a price! According to HomeGuide, the national average cost of a dog walker is $20 per 30-minute walk. If you have your dog walked every day while you’re at work, those costs can add up quick! Going on vacation or out of town can also get significantly more expensive once you own a pet. If you can’t bring your pet with you, according to HomeGuide the national average cost to board your pet is $25 per day and $40 per night! If you’re putting your pet up in swankier accommodations, those prices can skyrocket even (fur)ther (if only there was a Hotels.com for dogs!). While not meant to discourage you from your next pet purchase, your lifestyle and ability to accommodate another’s needs are important things to put thought towards before taking the plunge.
Whatever kind of pet you decide to add to the family, we hope the tips above have helped you feel a little more financially prepared in the process. Moneytree wishes you lots of luck in finding the perfect furry (or slimy or scaly, we don’t judge) friend for you!
Looking for more information? Check out our lifestyle & finances tips to face the finances of life!