Money Tips

How to budget for pet ownership

Woman sitting outside of her house and petting her dog

Owning a pet is one of the greatest joys in many people’s lives. Bringing love and laughter into our homes, owning a pet can be seriously fun. But pet ownership is also a serious commitment: many pets can live for more than 10 years, leaving some pet lovers unprepared for the price tag attached to owning and caring for an animal in a responsible manner.

Here, we break down what to expect and how to best budget for pet ownership.

What to expect

Basic pet care costs

Regardless of where you live, the cost of getting a new pet is significant. If you purchase your pet from a reputable breeder, you can expect to spend anywhere between several hundred and several thousand dollars, while adoption fees from a shelter can range from zero to several hundred dollars. But regardless of that upfront cost, the cost of ongoing care for your new pet is even more important to consider.

Of course, you’ll need to feed your pet. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) 2021–2022 National Pet Owners Survey, feeding a cat can cost on average $4.88 per week, and it increases to $5.52 a week for a dog. Additionally, you’ll likely want enrichment tools like toys and treats, as well as beds, leashes, and crates.

Veterinary visits

Medical care is another guaranteed expense. Four-legged friends need basic medical care to prevent future problems, and even fish get sick. For dogs and cats, a yearly checkup is routine maintenance. According to the APPA survey, the average American spends about $583 in medical expenses per dog each year; medical expenses for cats are estimated to be about $343 per year, although most cat owners have more than one.

Just like humans, taking your pet for their routine checkups is critical to staying ahead of any health issues, and in turn, unexpected expenses. It’s much more expensive—and risky—to treat illnesses than to protect against them. It’s also a good idea to shop veterinary practices by comparing fees for preventative care.

Spaying or neutering your pet can also save a lot of money by preventing serious health problems, including cancers. Many local shelters provide resources for low- or no-cost spay/neuter surgeries.

Other considerations

Beyond the basic costs, many pet owners also need to open their wallets to pay for expenses such as grooming and boarding. If you take your pet with you on your travels, most hotels and airlines will charge hefty fees to accommodate Rover or Fluffy. Additional costs can also come in the form of pet sitting while you’re at work, as some pets can’t be left alone for long periods. Lastly, it’s important to note that as your pets age, their needs may change. They may require specialized diets, more regular veterinary care, or a daily pet sitter, all of which equals more money. Keep all these things in mind as you start the budgeting process.

Budgeting for a pet

Overall, pet spending has increased over the last few years. Many pet owners have demonstrated an increase in spending in the past 12 months, with food as a top expense, regardless of pet type owned. Veterinarian care is also a greater expense for pet owners. That said, there are still ways for you to save some cash while properly caring for your pet.

Review and update your budget

We know you’re already a rockstar with a budget. Adding a new pet adds a new category of expenses, which means it’s time for another budget review. You may want to reserve a set amount each month to cover all anticipated expenses, like a bag of food, so that when it’s time to restock, you’ll already have money allocated for that purpose. And if you want to splurge for a special treat, you can check your budget and make sure there’s money available.

After your first year of pet ownership, consider setting aside at least $80 every month for your cat or $200 for your dog.

Pet insurance

To cope with the medical costs, an increasing number of pet owners are turning to insurance policies. Some employers offer pet insurance programs, but others can be purchased independently. Pet insurance functions more like property insurance than health insurance. Unlike health insurance, the policyholder must pay for their pet’s healthcare directly, then be reimbursed by the insurance provider.

Pet insurance never covers preexisting conditions. While insurance can be helpful in an emergency, be sure to read the fine print and make sure that you understand applicable spending caps, deductibles, and coverage limitations.

Pad your emergency fund

Ideally, the money you set for routine pet expenses will cover everything your new companion will ever need. However, accidents can happen, and an emergency vet visit can cost as much as $5,000—and sometimes even more!

Every pet parent should have an emergency fund for unexpected expenses. Your emergency fund can cover everything from a surprise surgery to a flat tire. Consider opening a Money Market account for your emergency fund, so your money can grow while it sits.

Key takeaways

  • Many pets live for more than 10 years, so it is important to be fully aware of the costs of owning a pet.
  • Annual costs of owning a pet can range from several hundred to several thousands of dollars, with food being the biggest cost, along with vet bills.
  • Pet insurance is one way to manage the medical part of the expense of caring for a pet. You may also want to add to your emergency fund for potential emergencies.

Overall, owning a pet is not cheap but is so worth it. Their unconditional love brings so much happiness into people’s lives. April 11th is National Pet Day, and we want to celebrate all the wonderful pets out there. And if you’re considering adding a new member to your fur family, be sure to consider the above factors before committing.

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