Family pets bring so much joy into our lives, whether it be a wagging tail greeting you at the end of a long day, a loud purr after some good scratches, or a hamster squeaking as it runs on its wheel. However, with all that cuteness, it can be easy to look past the less fun—but fundamental—financial costs associated with owning a pet.
How much does a pet cost? Generally, the first year of pet ownership is the most expensive. For example, for a new dog, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,330 to $4,290 in the first year of ownership. The following years can cost anywhere from $600 to $4,400+ a year. Cats are less expensive, with an upfront cost of between $870 and $2,600, with annual expenses ranging from $495 to $1,570, and smaller pets like birds, fish, and reptiles costing even less.
Before entering pet parenthood, consider these four pet-related expenses ahead of time so you can focus on bringing home your new pet and not new debt!
The cost of the pet
The amount you pay for your pet will vary depending on the pet you plan to bring home and where you get them. For example, if you plan to adopt a cat or dog, you might consider going through an animal shelter or breeder. Both options have their own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to consider which option and which individual animal is right for you.
Whatever animal you plan to get, it’s essential to do your research to get a better understanding of the costs that might be associated with caring for it. Also, always confirm the pet’s total cost (including any deposit and potential medical expenses) and transportation costs if the pet comes from another province or country.
The cost of preparing your home
Before you bring your new pet home, you must prepare a safe and comfortable living space for them. The specific shopping list will depend on your type of pet. Still, you might need to purchase a bed, crate/carrier, litter box, aquarium, cages, toys, food, collar, licenses, litter, or other specialty items. These costs can add up quickly. Pet stores sometimes offer coupons for new pet owners or rewards memberships to help offset costs. You can also purchase some of these items second-hand if they’re clean and in good condition.
If you rent, you might be required to pay a pet deposit to your landlord. It’s also important to consider the long-term cost a pet might bring to your household. For example, if you have an aquarium, how much will your water and electric bill increase? Or, if you’re getting an especially furry friend, it might be worthwhile to buy a vacuum cleaner built for pet hair. All these costs can make a new pet parent’s first year more expensive than expected.
Just like humans, pets need access to healthcare for both routine and emergency services. Call your local veterinary office and ask what services they recommend for your pet and how much they cost. Depending on your pet’s breed and age, some routine services, such as vaccines and spay/neuter, can range from $75 to over $600.
You should also plan out how you will deal with emergencies. Accidents happen to even the best pets and pet parents; if something happens, you’ll want to get your pet the help they need. Owners can prepare for emergencies in various ways, but the most common methods are with a savings account or pet insurance.
If you decide to purchase pet insurance, read your policy entirely and make sure it will cover the type of treatments/conditions your pet might face. Some pet insurance plans work by reimbursing you, meaning that you will have to cover the total cost of your pet’s care at the point of service, and the insurance company will pay you back later. If you don’t have a lot of savings or credit available, those costs can be challenging to cover, so finding an insurance company that pays at the point of service might be worthwhile.
Alternatively, you can set up a designated emergency fund for your animals. Whether this is part of your regular emergency fund (check out our article on how to build your emergency fund if you don’t have one already), or its own account, you should keep it easily accessible and with enough funds to cover unexpected costs.
Grooming, training, pet walking, and boarding are all things you should consider when calculating the long-term cost of your pet. These might not be necessary for every animal, but doing your research is still important as these additional services often have options at different price points. For example, dog training can range from online obedience classes to board and train programs. Make sure to consider what works best for your time, pet and budget.
Finally, before you decide on pet ownership, sit down and review your current monthly income and expenses to plan for the above costs.
If you’ve looked over your budget and find that debt is keeping you from the future you want, it might be time to get help from a Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT). LITs are federally regulated debt professionals who help you negotiate better terms with your creditors to relieve financial stress. So, if debt is holding you back, book your free consultation and start your path to debt freedom today.