How Getting a Pet Affects Your Finances

Adding a furry friend to your household may be priceless for the companionship, love and exercise, but animals can be expensive to care for properly. In 2019, it is estimated that $75.38 billion will be spent on pets, according to American Pet Products Association. Their National Pet Owners Survey found that 67% of households own a pet, or 84.9 million homes. Many consider pets part of the family, so it should be no surprise that these animals require attention and expenses in order to properly care for them.

Here are some of the common costs of pet ownership, along with ways to keep these to a minimum.

  • The cost of owning a pet
  • Expenses for a new pet
  • Reduce your pet costs


The cost of owning a pet

Owning a dog in the first year of its life costs ranges from $1,471 to $2,008.31, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Cats cost slightly less in the first year at $1,174, but they usually live longer than dogs.

If you're getting a pet, the cost will vary according to its breed, age, size, whether they have health issues, and if you choose to take out pet insurance.

Pet insurance works like health insurance, helping to cover the costs of recommended treatments. Make sure you understand what the insurance covers and what it doesn’t, as most cover hereditary conditions, but do not cover pre-existing conditions. Pet insurance costs also vary by coverage, and some do not cover certain dog breeds.

Expenses for a new pet

Here are some of the expenses you might be paying when you get a new pet. Bear in mind this is only a guide, and you should do your own research on the actual costs for your pet.

Pet expenses checklist

Item Cost
Buying the cat or dog Ranges from $50 to $1,500, depending on whether or not you’re adopting from a shelter or buying from a breeder

(Sources: CostHelper)

Vet expenses (including microchipping, vaccination, spaying/neutering, check-ups, dental care and unexpected costs like accidents and health issues) Spaying or neutering can cost between $145-220, along with other initial medical costs. Recurring medical expenses range between $160-260

(Source: ASPCA)

Health expenses (flea, tick, worming) Between $180-200 each year; the cost of treating heartworms starts at $400

(Source: The Simple Dollar)

Pet food About $200-400 per year, with $40-75 going towards treats

(Source: ASPCA)

Accessories (e.g. collar, harness, leash, car restraint, bowls, kennels and beds, toys, toilet mats and kitty litter, scratching posts) Around $535 to initially to set up, not including replacement items

(Source: ASPCA)

Other services (e.g. obedience training, grooming, dog walking, boarding fees) About $162-222; Boarding your animal costs $25-45 a night
(Source: ASPCA and The Simple Dollar)
Pet insurance Between $175-225 per pet

(Source: ASPCA)

Renters fees If you live in an apartment, you will likely be charged an initial deposit, as well as a monthly fee for owning a pet


Weighing up the cost of pet insurance

Pet insurance can help cover the cost if your pet is sick or injured and needs veterinary care. The cost of pet insurance will depend on your pet's size, age and other factors.

Pet insurance is optional, and you'll need to work out if the cost of the premium is worth the coverage you'll get. Be sure to check the claim process, excess gap cost and the exclusions before you sign up. For example, ASPCA’s Complete Coverages includes accidents, dental disease, behavioral issues, illnesses and hereditary conditions, but doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, breeding costs, cosmetic procedures or preventive care.


Reduce your pet costs

The cost of owning a pet can really add up, but there are some simple things you can do to cut costs. Here are some ideas.

  • Buy your pet from a shelter. If you buy your pet from The Humane Society or a cat or dog shelter, not only will you be saving an animal that needs a home, it likely will have had a complete veterinary checkup, been spayed or neutered, updated on shots, insured, microchipped or more depending on the shelter.
  • Get your pet spayed or neutered. If you don't plan to breed your pet, the cost to spay or neuter your pet will be lower than the cost of bringing up a litter. There are state laws addressing spay and neuter of animals, but there are currently no state laws requiring all pet owners to sterilize. Make sure you know your state’s requirements.
  • Keep your pet healthy. Providing regular exercise, a good diet and dental care are important to maintaining your pet's overall health and avoiding complications later in their life. Keep an eye on their weight and provide regular bones or dental treats for your pet to keep their teeth and gums healthy.
  • Phone a friend. Rather than paying for a boarding kennel while you go away on vacation, ask an animal-loving friend to pet sit in your home. Do your research and compare costs for doggie daycares, pet sitters or dog walkers.
  • Pamper your pet yourself. Save money by trimming your own pet's nails and treating them to a bath, rather than paying someone else to do it. If your pet requires regular haircuts, invest in a pair of clippers and teach yourself to trim their coats through online instructional videos. They probably won't mind as much as humans would if you give them a bad haircut.
  • Invest time to train. Rather than pay for a professional to help with your pet's behavior problems, do some research and put the time in yourself first. There are plenty of online resources available, including videos to demonstrate what to do.
  • Go DIY. You can make your own toys, treats, play structures and even beds to save you money. There are heaps of online tutorials to help you, it could save you heaps and can also be quite rewarding.

Start a savings account. Set aside money that will specifically go toward caring for your pet. That way, if an unexpected accident or health problem occurs, you will be able to pay for the treatment.