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Cost of pets

Thinking of adopting a puppy or kitten? Consider the costs of pet ownership before you commit.

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Pets can bring so much joy and love to our lives that many of us can’t imagine life without them. Furry companions can lower stress levels and offer opportunities to teach children responsibility and compassion. And as with anything worth having, there are costs associated with getting them and keeping them.

How much do pets cost?

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates the annual cost for owning a cat to average out at $809, whereas a large dog rings in at over $1,000. And these numbers exclude any initial cash output of getting your pet. The first year is typically the most expensive and costs level out afterward — other than anything unexpected.

Pet costs vary widely depending on what kind of pet you want. We’ve broken down the average cost for cats and large dogs both up front and yearly. Expect costs for small- and medium-sized dogs to factor in somewhere between.

Initial expenses

ExpenseCatLarge dog
Adoption fee$50 -$150$50-$350
Spay/neuter (if not included in adoption fee)$50 -$200$200-$250
1-year license$15 -$35$15
Microchip ID$45 -$50$45-$50
Collar$3 -$15$10-$30
Litter box$10 -$100
Leash$25-$50
Carrier/Crate$15 -$45$40-$70+
Training$15 -$100$20-$50 per 1-hour class x 6 =$120-$300
Miscellaneous$30-50$65-$100
TOTAL$233-$745$570-$1,200

Ongoing annual expenses

ExpenseCatLarge dog
Annual medical exam and vaccinations$100-$200$260-$300
Food and treats$150-$350$400-$500
License$15-$35$15-$35
Health insurance$175$200-$250
Miscellaneous$30-$50$50-$75
TOTAL$570-$910$925-$1,160

What does that add up to over my pet’s lifetime?

These costs reflect the typical expenses you can count on per year. Consider that the average lifespan of a cat is 10-20 years and a large dog ranges eight to 12 years.

That means the cost of a cat for a 10-year lifespan could total between $8,000 and $16,000+, and a large-breed dog $11,900 to $19,000 up to eight years of age.

Also consider that some of the costs are per pet, while other expenses might be shared. For example, two cats might share a litterbox, food bowl, water bowl or fountain and a large carrier, but you’ll still need roughly double the food and litter.

Unexpected costs

The figures above don’t include unexpected events such as medical emergencies and kennel costs.

For example, dental diseases such as FORLs are common in cats, and a tooth extraction can start at $300 and worst-case reach $1,300. Pet insurance can help in emergencies like these, but in the case of dental, you’ll need to make sure your plan covers dental work.

Other medical issues include accidents, bacterial and viral infections, arthritis and joint problems, cancer and numerous other problems.

And if you need to take a business trip without your furry friend, the cheapest kennel will set you back $15 to $25 daily for a cat, and upwards of $30 to $50 per night for a dog.

Pet insurance can help cover vet costs

While the unexpected costs of owning a pet can put a strain on your bank account, having a pet insurance policy can offset your total out-of-pocket costs.

Even if you’ve kept your pet in perfect health, there’s always the unfortunate possibility of an unexpected emergency or health issue that requires medical attention.

You can choose the type of pet insurance coverage that fits your needs and budget best, such as wellness, accident or comprehensive pet insurance. Some policies can cover 80-90% of your pet’s vet bills for minor services and common illnesses after you meet your deductible.

How to save on pet costs

If these prices are scaring you away from owning a pet, you can bring costs down in a few simple ways.

  • Adopt. It’s almost always cheaper, typically around $100 to $200 for a puppy or kitten and less for older or adult pets. Shelter pets have usually already been neutered or spayed, vaccinated, dewormed and gotten a vet checkup, and they often come with basic supplies and pet care coupons. You’d pay twice that for the same services at a private vet for a stray you found or a “free” pet listing. Buying a purebreed or from a pet store typically costs hundreds or thousands of dollars, and it can be difficult to find a reputable breeder.
  • Look after your pet’s health. Your pets need a good diet and plenty of exercise. Keeping your pet healthy and within an appropriate weight range will help you avoid much larger bills for preventable obesity-related issues like arthritis and joint pain.
  • Don’t neglect your pet’s teeth. Good dental hygiene is important for your pet’s overall health. If your pet will let you, you can try to brush its teeth with specialty pet toothpaste. But don’t use toothpaste meant for humans to avoid toxicity. Otherwise, you can buy food and treats specially designed to clean your pet’s teeth.
  • Keep your pet vaccinated. Keep your pet’s vaccinations updated to avoid any unnecessary costs. Ask your vet about three or five-year vaccination schedules to reduce the costs.
  • Get friendly with other pet owners. You and your pet-loving friends can agree to take turns pet-sitting for each other when one of you decides to go away.
  • Buy food in bulk. Pet food can last a long time if stored properly, and the price usually comes down the more you buy. Invest in a quality storage container and shop around for bulk deals. However, this isn’t advisable if your pet has food allergies or hasn’t been eating the same food for a while. Pets with food allergies might need to have their food recipe changed every 6 to 12 months or so, depending on what you’ve found works for them.

Compare pet insurance companies

Name Product Pets covered Seniors accepted Hereditary conditions Chronic illness
Wagmo
Wagmo
Dogs, Cats
Get 100% of your vet bill reimbursed on covered accidents, injuries and illnesses for as little as $13/month.
Pawp
Dogs, Cats
For $19/month, access 24/7 vet support and $3,000 for one pet emergency a year.
Petplan
Dogs, Cats
Cover unexpected vet bills from emergency exams, injuries, surgery and more.
Embrace
Dogs, Cats
Enjoy extra benefits with coverage for exam fees, curable conditions and wellness visit reimbursement.
Pet Assure
Dogs, Cats, Horses
Save up to 25% on all vet bills including wellness and dental visits for as little as $10/month.
Pets Best
Dogs, Cats
Get up to 90% of your vet bills reimbursed directly into your bank account. Plus, access coverage options with no annual limit.
PetFirst
Dogs, Cats
Get coverage starting at $9 per month for cats and $15 for dogs. Talk to an agent at 888-738-0683.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

Pets add so much joy to our lives, and there’s a lot to think about when giving them the best possible life with us. Whether you’re thinking of adding a cat or dog friend to the family, be cognizant of the initial and ongoing cost of having them. And pet insurance can help cover those unexpected situations that Fluffy or Fido can find themselves in.

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