How Much Does Owning a Pet Cost?
Wed, April 21, 2021

How Much Does Owning a Pet Cost?


David Weliver wrote on personal finance website Money Under 30 that he moved into his first “real” apartment with his then-girlfriend-now-wife Lauren when he was 24 years old. The couple could barely afford rent and being young and overwhelmed, they adopted two kittens from a local animal shelter. A decade later, one of the cats died. They also have a tortoise calico named Moose, which is still with them. David and Lauren spent thousands on food and veterinary care, including surgery that cost more than $2,000.

Despite this, they did not regret having pets and they have now even adopted a dog. However, they were blind to the potential and costs of pet ownership when they were younger.

If you want to bring a dog (or a cat) to your household, are you aware of the financial costs of being a pet owner? While you might have friends, who moved out and got a pet like David, you have to open your eyes to the average cost of pet ownership that might vary depending on certain factors.


Owning a Pet Is a Costly Experience

UK-based People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) found that pet owners underestimate the cost of owning a dog, cat, or any other pet over its lifetime, cited Zack Guzman of CNBC, a business and real-time finance website. In fact, 98% of pet owners surveyed by the PDSA underestimated the lifetime cost of ownership while 12% expected to pay only $644. Most of the respondents thought costs would not exceed $6,445.  



For example, owning a rabbit will likely have a lifetime cost of $12,893 to $19,338. Owning a cat will set owners back about $21,917 to $30,942 while dog ownership will cost them between $27,074 and $42,545. For cats, there is the added cost of cat litter and pet insurance that amount to about $25 every month. Dog ownership costs depend on the breed of the animal as well as the initial costs of spaying or neutering and vaccination. The amount also includes the costs of food, grooming, and toys.

While the respondents underestimated the costs, many of them admitted that pet ownership evoked a sense of satisfaction. Of 4,000 pet owners polled by the PDSA, 93% reported that deciding to own a pet has made them happier.


American Pet Owners Are Big Spenders

The American Pet Products Association (APPA), a not-for-profit industry association, published its 2018 report on pet spending, showing that Americans spent a whopping $72.56 billion in 2018. The figure was an increase of more than $3 billion in 2017 when they spent $69.51 billion for their pets, which in turn was an almost $3 billion increase from the $66.75 billion spent in 2016. In 1996, Americans only spent a “relatively paltry” sum of $21 billion on their pets.

The 2018 spending covered money spent on over-the-counter (OTC) medications, food, supplies, veterinary care, live animal purchases, and other services. Americans spent the biggest portion of their hard-earned money on pet food, amounting to $29.07 billion. Premium dog food was the most popular choice, followed by generic and natural pet food.

Rising prices and sales of more expensive, high-quality food may contribute to the ongoing growth of this category. Veterinary care constituted the second-highest category of spending ($18.11 billion), growing at 6.1%. This was attributed to reduced prices of veterinary care, making it more accessible to more pet owners.

A total of $15.11 billion was spent on supplies and OTC medications, including pet-tech products, leashes, toys, beds—up 6% from 2017. The report highlighted that millennials remained to be the largest pet-owning demographics, noted APPA President and CEO Bob Vetere. He added, “We know this generation is willing to pay more for quality products and services to improve the health and well-being of their pets.”



How Much Does It Cost to Own a Pet?

If you’re adopting, a pet dog can cost $0 to $660. For cats, it can reach $270. Food for dogs and cats cost $30 to $50 and $100 to $200, respectively. Start-up supplies can set you back $50 to $300. Veterinary care can amount to $50 to $300 for dogs and $100 to $200 for cats. Preventative medical fees are priced at around $50 to $100. Spaying or neutering your pet can be between $20 and $300. Licensing your dog or cat can be around $10 to $20 and $0 to $20, respectively. Microchips cost $50.

For budding dog owners, the total one-time costs can be around $260 to $1,780. On the other hand, the one-time total costs for cats are between $370 and $1,440. Do note that some specialty breeds may cost thousands of dollars. However, there are a lot of dogs and cats that need a loving home for a more modest adoption charge. There are organizations that let you adopt a pet free of charge. Adoption may also cover heart-worm treatment, initial veterinary exams, spay/neuter costs, and more.


How Much Do I Have to Spend Every Year for Owning a Pet?

Food for dogs and cats cost around $250 to $750 and $100 to $200. Annual medical exams can be around $50 to $100. Vaccinations are priced between $10 and $100. Preventative medical treatments set you back $50 to $100. For cat owners, litter is estimated to cost around $200 to $250. Toys and miscellaneous supplies cost $20 to $100. Licensing fees can be free of charge or priced at $20.

For dogs, the total annual cost is estimated to be around $380 to $1,170. Annual costs for cats can be between $430 and $870. The estimated costs can vary depending on the circumstances. For example, larger dogs need larger quantities of food, which can be costlier for you. Other factors you should consider are the brands you prefer and the health of your pet.


3 Tips for Wannabe Pet Owners

1. Find Out How Your Monthly Expenses Will Affect Your Pet Budget

Ask yourself if you are overspending in some areas where you can cut back such as dining at restaurants. If you’re not willing to save on that particular area, then you are not prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to keep your pet happy and healthy.

2. Set an Emergency Fund for Your Pet

Emergencies can happen anytime. To prepare for the unexpected, consider setting aside around $1,000 to $2,000 for your pet’s emergency fund, suggested Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. You can try getting pet insurance if you think you can’t afford your pet’s vet bills.

3. Find or Create a Pet Budget Worksheet

You can download a pet budget worksheet or create your own to help you estimate the costs of pet ownership.

Owning a pet is not cheap as it entails a huge responsibility and cost for pet owners. This is why pets are a lifelong investment. Costs can border on the thousands depending on your pet’s breed and your preferences. If you want to bring home a pooch or feline, be sure you are prepared mentally and financially.