How Much Do We Really Spend on Our Pets?
Taking care of our animal friends can be a gift. They provide companionship and unconditional love, and they’re excellent listeners.
And we spend a lot of money on them.
The costs that go into caring for a pet can add up quickly. And those costs vary by type of pet. That goldfish you got at a carnival is going to have a very different overall average cost than the high-maintenance rare dog breed that only eats raw foods.
That’s all to say, it’s hard to nail down specifics on exactly what a pet will cost you. But we can get a pretty good ballpark sense of the general costs of pet ownership.
These numbers come from various sources that have aggregated pet-care costs. They’re averaged per year and dependent not only on the type of pet, but also the area in which the owner lives. And, of course, anything can happen, so these figures don’t typically account for major disasters or huge unexpected costs. Unless otherwise noted, mosts costs are based on the most common household pets, cats and dogs.
Pets may not have the ability to pay you back or accrue financial value like other investments. But, remember, the love and devotion and joy they can bring into your life is often well worth the cost.
No matter what kind of animal you purchase, you’ll incur preparation costs for your new friend. If you choose an animal like a lizard, snake, or fish, they’ll require the proper housing and environment, which can cost between $40 to $1,000 for housing and comfort basics.
When it comes to cats and dogs, the initial costs of adding your animal to your home will depend on many factors, including whether you already have accommodations for that animal (is this your second cat and you’ve already got a litter box in place?) and the age of the animal. Let’s say it’s your first cat, you’ll need to provide a litter box, the litter itself, standard food for a week or so, a poop scoop, maybe a cat scratching post, a bed, and a box of treats. A general search on Amazon for the most popular items of those basics will run you around $123 total.
Acquiring Your Pet
If you get a puppy or kitten from a breeder, the cost of the animal can range between $400 to $9,000, just for the pet itself.
If you adopt from a shelter, your costs will go down significantly. You can expect at a shelter to spend between $50 and $200 for all adoption costs. Plus, shelters help cover some of the other costs in your pet’s first year of life.
Basic Medical Set Up and Immunizations
Initial medical expenses during your pet’s first year are always more expensive than in future years. They include microchipping, which usually costs around $45, and a number of basic immunizations, which typically cost between $75 and $100.
If you adopt from a shelter, these costs are often mitigated since the adoption fee will be significantly less than what you’d pay at a breeder, and the shelters will often cover most of these initial costs, shots, and issues before you ever take your new pet to its forever home.
Because your pet will likely require not only more immunizations but also more vet visits (which can cost between $100 and $300 per visit), the average cost of a kitty or puppy in its first year of life can cost you twice as much as it likely will on average the rest of its life. The ASPCA puts the cost of a new cat around $1,174 for the first year as opposed to the $809 for the average yearly cost after that.
For a medium sized dog, the first year could cost around $1,179 with the average around $894 for subsequent adult years. Smaller dogs are a little cheaper and larger dogs are a little more expensive, on average.
Spaying and Neutering
Before you adopt from a shelter, animals will often already be spayed or neutered. But if you acquired your pet in a different way, you may need to take care of that process yourself.
Though some vets will offer “starter packages” that include immunizations, microchipping, and spaying/neutering at a discounted rate by doing them all at once, you typically can expect to pay between $45 to $175.
That cost may go up if your pet is bigger or if there are any complicating factors.
Items for Daily Life
On top of the medical expenses, if you do need to prepare for a pet, they’ll need some basics. For dogs and cats, they’ll need leashes, collars, harnesses, brushes, beds, food and water bowls, and basic materials to clean up their excrement.
Let’s say you bought all of those items – plus an animal crate – for a medium-sized dog based on the most popular items on Amazon, that cost will be around $190. Once you have all that set up, you’ll need to replace some of it regularly.
Health and Wellness
It’s one of the biggest financial investments you’ll make on a yearly basis.
Even after the initial year of life (the most expensive one, if you decide to get a baby) and excluding the older years when costs can go up due to aging issues, your animal will have ongoing vet bills throughout its life. Even the healthiest of pets need some boosters and ongoing monthly preventative treatments.
According to the ASPCA, budget savvy people will especially love caring for fish, since their average yearly medical costs are around $0. Give them some food and a safe place to swim, and they can be very economical.
Cats average about $160 per year. Dog averages range depending on the dog’s size, with smaller dogs averaging around $210 and larger dogs averaging around $260.
People often forget that cats and dogs also have dental needs, just like humans.
These costs can be brought down by ongoing care and preventative measures like getting teeth-cleaning toys or treats. But, the average cost of cleaning your dog’s teeth if and when issues do come up can range between $70 to $350. For cats, that tooth cleaning average is between $55 to $830.
Surgery or Emergency Costs
Inevitably, at some point, your pet will break something, hurt something, develop something, or eat something that can be dangerous or life threatening. When that happens, you can expect your vet bills to go way above the yearly average, since diagnostic procedures alone can start around $1,000 to $2,000.
Surgery for even basic or hereditary issues in animals can cost upwards of more than $10,000. The average cost of treating the most common medical issues in dogs ranges between $118 and $339, and between $189 and $1,959 for cats.
Because of these medical costs, many people choose to buy pet insurance. Many employers even offer to supplement pet insurance as they do medical insurance for humans.
The average cost of pet insurance for dogs is about $516 a year, and $324 annually for cats.
Depending on the coverage, that fee can help offset some of the unexpected and often financially devastating costs of an unforeseen major medical issue.
Like people, animals need to eat every day. Sometimes, two or three times per day. And, as with human food, the cost depends on the choice of food.
Once again, according to the ASPCA, fish can provide you the most economical average food costs with fish. You can expect to spend only around $12 per year on keeping them alive.
If you have a large dog, that cost is going to go up exponentially, averaging around $400. And puppies and highly active dogs tend to need to eat a lot more than the average dog, so you can expect that cost to increase even more.
A cat may cost you somewhere in the middle, with the average annual cost of food clocking in around $224.
If you choose a specific diet program for your pet that involves higher-cost food, the average will increase, just like it would if you were to choose a specific diet program for yourself.
What’s a life without treats? Certainly not one you want to give your beloved friend.
If you want to give them the most basic stock treats, a large tin of basic milk bone treats will run you around $12 for 10 lbs. Depending on your generosity (and your pet’s metabolism), that can last you a pretty long time.
If you want to go the more gourmet route, an organic, farm-raised, grain-free treat bag like Pet Science Secret’s Natural Healthy Dog Treats, which are grain-, gluten-, and chemical-free, contain flaxseed oil, and taste like peanut butter, will cost you about $14 for 10 oz.
And, of course, if you want to celebrate their birthday or your “Gotcha day” or just a random Tuesday, you could always go big and get them a specialty cake from say The Dog Bakery (or something similar in your area), which will start at around $23.
Toys and Playthings
Even the happily economical fish may enjoy getting a new addition to its tank once in a while. And for dogs and cats, providing them with toys can make life so much more fun. It’s one of the delights of pet ownership.
Depending on what you may already have around the house, a simple cat scratching post for could run you around $20 and can save your other furniture from your cat’s claws.
For dogs, there are all sorts of treat and toy combinations involved that you can subscribe to on a monthly basis that can provide lots of playtime and a lot of enjoyment for both your pet and yourself. Something like BarkBox will average around $30 for the basic monthly box delivery and can provide a couple toys per month for your pup to enjoy.
On average, expect to pay between $25 and $360 a year for your pet’s toys.
Some animals can be left alone for long periods of time without check ins. But many pets want or need some daily attention without being left alone for a long time.
If you choose to put your pet in animal daycare so he or she can get constant attention (not to mention constant play), that cost averages from $12 to $38 per day.
Dog walkers, depending on whether or not you want private attention for your dog, can cost you around $15 to $27 per day, depending on the walk’s length or if other pups will be joining in.
And if you wanted just a simple check in or someone to stay with your animal, pet sitters range from $20 to $40 per day.
If you’re going to be gone for a longer period of time and an in-home pet sitter isn’t the right option for you, you’ll need to board your pet.
There’s a lot of range when it comes to boarding your pet, depending on the type of pet and your preferences for its needs. But, generally, expect to pay anywhere between $40 and $60 per day.
If you do get an in-home sitter for an overnight stay, the cost averages around $50 to $70.
On top of daily care, your pet may need training. This is especially true for dogs.
Some will thrive with just basic obedience classes, which range from $40 to $125 per multi-week class. Other dogs, however, may need a little more work and attention with a private trainer, which averages from $30 to $100.
Depending on the type of pet, ongoing hygiene may be an easy or a difficult task. If, for instance, you get a hairless cat, their needs will be way less than the grooming needs of, say, a poodle.
Some animals, too, can get a haircut only periodically and simply get baths for long periods in between. Other animals have coats that require regular cuts and ongoing grooming. The complications of the coat mixed with the size (and sometimes temperament) of the animal can affect the overall cost of grooming sessions.
But, on average, expect to pay between $70 to $80 for basic grooming sessions.
Oh, and if you want your pet to be a fashionista, plenty of adorable and heart-meltingly cute pet outfits are available for purchase. You can either go the economical route and see what’s on sale at your local pet store, or you can have items custom made on websites like Etsy.
Let’s say you do a quick Amazon search for an adorable t-shirt for your medium sized dog. Something like a colorful rain jacket, like this one at Petsmart will cost you around $10. (It’s a small price to pay for how adorable your pup will look in it, so don’t even think twice about the purchase).
However, if you want to go fancy for the holidays and get a beautiful dog dress made just for your fur baby based on their measurements, you could always order a gorgeous green and gold one from Etsy, which will cost you around $130.
Just, you know, make sure you budget for it.
Okay, this cost obviously ranges on what you want to do with your pet. If, on the high end, you want to take your dog absolutely everywhere on a chartered airplane as you globetrot the world, that may cost you closer to the $1 million range (which is ridiculous and hyperbolic and silly, of course. But, hey, if you’ve got the money and want to spend it, it’s yours to spend how you wish).
If you just like to hang with your pet in the designated pet spots or have an animal that is perfectly fine chilling at home all day every day, that won’t cost you anything extra.
Of course, just like the adventures you opt into in your human life, you can always choose to bring an animal along. Some hotels welcome four-legged friends for free while others accept them for a small fee, which usually runs around $20 to $100 per night.
The same is true for airlines if you want to experience a totally new environment with your pet. Costs can range from $100 to $125 one way to bring your pet on board, not including the pet carrier you’ll need, which can run you between $30 to $250. Even then, there’s no guarantee due to breed and size and training restrictions.
Plus, with so much love for pets and so many pet people thinking of creative ways to stimulate and show off their animals, there are lots of really cool things you can do and invest in to make memories with your pet. You could get them involved in a fun activity that they’d enjoy. Most dog parks are free, but something like an agility course at the Zoom Room in Virginia Beach would cost you about $120 for your first four class starter pack. Dog yoga in London is a delightful way to start your weekend and bond with your pup, and will only cost you around $32.
The point is, there are at least a few more costs to keep in mind depending on the type of pet you’re getting and the amount of interest you may have in doing all sorts of playful activities with them.
Factor in the Joy
Before you worry that you can’t afford a pet now that you have a better breakdown of these costs, remember that there’s always ways of figuring out how to make it work.
Plus, you could always get them to become Instafamous and they could help pay you back financially. Or you could just accept that their payback is ongoing, judgment-free love, and bringing you happiness every day.
Related: Most Expensive Dog Breeds in the World