The Financial Implications of Fluffy: Costs to Consider Before Becoming A Pet Owner

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Animals are just plain cute and can bring so much joy to your life, but like children, they are not cheap especially if you choose to care for your pet properly.

Whether you choose to adopt or buy a pet from a store or breeder, there are several costs to consider over the life of your pet. The first one is acquisition cost. You can adopt a dog from a shelter for around $60 to over $200 depending on the shelter (this usually includes having them spayed/neutered and all their vaccines), but I have seen French Bulldog puppies through breeders for $7,000. You would want to do your research on breeds and make sure you get a healthy pet.

I have been actively looking for a furry friend but after educating myself on the time commitments and costs, I must confess, I am thinking about revisiting this when I retire and have more time.

There are so many advantages to having a pet. They can bring such unconditional love and companionship and of course all of the funny, cute things they do. The purpose of this article is not to turn you off from owning a pet but to guide you as to the resources you should have available for a long-term financial commitment.

A dog or cat can have a lifespan of over 15 years – this is almost like raising a child to college age. Many people adopt or buy animals and don’t factor this into their planning – what if I have a baby? What if my job forces me to relocate? What if I buy a condo with pet restrictions in the future? I have seen so many sad stories of new babies being allergic to pets or people losing their jobs and having to surrender pets they can no longer afford to care for.

Some costs to think about are:

Food & Toys – Food can be quite expensive especially if you have a larger animal. I have friends that cook chicken and “people food” for their dogs. This can be as expensive as feeding another human.  

Your pet may need some toys, a bed, and possibly a crate for training. If you have a cat you may need to purchase something they can scratch. A couple of toys can easily be $50, dog bed $35, cat scratching post $30 or more depending on how fancy you want to get.

Training costs and property destruction – Puppies like to chew and kittens like to scratch up the furniture. This can be frustrating and costly especially if the puppy ravages your expensive shoes. The average cost for dog training is about $50 per hour but obedience training can run from $200 to $600 per week. A private dog trainer can run up to $150 per hour.

Pet Insurance – If your pet has known health issues based on its breed it may make sense to either get pet insurance in advance or set aside cash for large vet bills. Pet insurance can range from as low as $10 per month to higher than $100 per month. Keep in mind many insurance companies will exclude “typical” conditions associated with a breed.  

General Liability Insurance – Some condo associations require you have liability insurance if you have a pet in the event it bites or destroys property. This can increase your insurance costs. A colleague informed me that her condo association requested an analysis of her dog’s poop so that the culprit can be identified if the poop is not cleaned up!

Health/Vet bills – These costs can be a wild card depending on your pet. Dogs need to be treated for heartworm, fleas, etc. periodically.

Grooming – this can cost up to $100 per visit depending on the size of the pet and your location.

Travel/Pet Sitting – If you travel frequently or work outside your home you will need to factor in the costs of someone taking care of your pet when you are away. Having a dog walker come by during the day can easily cost $20 depending on where you live. You would want to find someone you trust that will not put your pet in danger. Doggy daycare can be $25 per day and $40 for overnight. If you travel frequently these costs can add up quickly.  

Service Animals - Service animals, such as emotional support pets, come with their own fees.

Future Planning – Many people have trusts set up for their pets. Since your pet is likely part of the family, what if something happens to you? Do you have plans in place for the pet and the financial resources to provide for the pet after you are gone?