Animals

The Ultimate Guide to Pet-Cost Budgeting

Introduction

Bringing a cute puppy or kitten into your home seems like a great idea, but it’s all too easy to forget about the costs of pet ownership. Feeding and caring for a pet can cost much more than you might expect. Damage or emergencies can lead to unexpected costs. 

Whether you own a dog, cat, or another type of pet, being a responsible pet owner requires planning for ongoing costs as well as surprises. So how much do you need for a good quality of life for your pet over his/her lifetime? Use this guide to plan your budget and to make sure you can afford appropriate care.

How much does it cost to own a pet?

From ongoing costs like food and insurance to variable expenses like medical treatment, your pet budget is likely to be at least $1,000 or much more per year. On average, dog ownership tends to be more expensive than cat ownership. As an estimate, you might be spending nearly $40,000 over the course of your dog’s life.

Costs to budget for

These are the key items and categories to budget for, starting from before you bring your pet home.

1. Upfront costs

If you adopt your pet from a rescue centre or shelter, it’s likely to be cheaper, at around $500. Also, you’ll likely save hundreds on the following, which the shelter will have completed for you:

  • Desexing
  • Microchipping
  • Initial vaccinations
  • Worm and flea treatments

If you’re buying from a breeder, you might be paying thousands of dollars or more. However, costs will vary significantly depending on the breed. Generally speaking, you might be paying anywhere between $3,000 to $6,000 in upfront costs and other costs in the first year.

2. Bedding and toys

Your dog will need the following to stay warm, happy, and comfortable:

  • Bedding
  • Blankets
  • Toys
  • Winter coats

For a cat, you’ll need:

  • Carrier or crate
  • Bed
  • Litter box
  • Scratching posts

These items can add up to several hundred or more. 

If you’re buying fish or an exotic pet, you may need to spend a lot more for the following:

  • Tanks
  • Equipment
  • Special housing or caging
  • Specialty food supplies

3. Feeding supplies

For big dogs, you could be paying $60 or more for your weekly food bill. On average, depending on the size of your pet, you might be paying at least $1,250 or more a year for food and treats. 

You’ll need the following:

  • Water and food bowls
  • Specialty pet food for pets with specific dietary needs
  • Nibbles
  • Dry snacks
  • Dental cleaning bones

4. Harness and leads

On average, you could be spending anywhere between $40 to $100 for the following:

  • Collar
  • Harness
  • Leads
  • Personalised pet ID tag with name and contact phone number

5. Bathing and grooming

You might be paying around $20 or more for a bottle of quality dog shampoo. Other supplies you might need include the following:

  • Towels 
  • Bathing mats
  • Pet shower head
  • Dryer
  • Brushes
  • Pet toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Nail clippers
  • Ear cleaners

6. Check-ups and medical costs

Even puppies, kittens, and other younger animals can require unexpected medical costs. An injury or your pet eating something he/she shouldn’t have eaten can warrant a visit to the animal emergency centre. These could cost you hundreds or more, and surgery can run into thousands of dollars. Medication and supplies for recovery can add further costs to your final bill. In general, worm and flea treatments might set you back around $120 to $300 a year.

7. Pet insurance

Pet insurance is an excellent idea, especially if you don’t have a lot of money saved up and your pet is a breed prone to certain health issues. It gives you peace of mind and the flexibility to give your pet the medical care they need. Premiums could range anywhere between $200 to $4,000 a year, with an average of $35 per month, depending on your pet’s breed and other factors. 

Check the terms and conditions, especially the limits and exclusions. The earlier you take out insurance, the more likely your pet will have coverage for certain health conditions for life.

8. Council registration

You’ll likely need to pay your council an annual fee for registration, which, depending on location, might be anywhere from $30 to $100 per year. The first year could be already included when you adopt or buy. 

9. Training and socialisation classes

For a happy and well-adjusted dog, you might want to take your puppy to puppy school. This gives him/her a chance to interact with other animals, people, and the world around him/her. You might be paying around $150 or more for four or five sessions. It can be well worth the expense because your dog might be less likely to be fearful and aggressive. You could end up with a happier dog without behavioural challenges you need to deal with later down the track. 

10. Boarding, daycare, and walking

If you’re regularly away for a holiday or for work trips, who will take care of your pet? Budget for boarding costs so your pet will be taken care of by a professional you trust. Other related expenses can include walking services if you end up too busy to do it yourself, or a Kip daycare facility if your pet is at home alone all day.

Conclusion

It’s easy to overlook the costs of pet ownership in the excitement of getting a new pet. However, don’t forget you’re committing to caring for your animal family member for anywhere between 8 to 30 years or more, depending on the type of animal. Although there’s no price on the unconditional love and loyalty you can get from a pet, you’ll want to be able to provide them with the best quality of life possible, and the best way to achieve that is to be aware of ownership costs from the outset and budget carefully.

Christopher Stern

Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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