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New Pet Preparation: How Much Does it Cost to Own a Pet?

Holding a puppy


Getting a new pet is something many people do, but that doesn't mean you should do it on a whim. Welcoming a dog or cat into your home comes with a lot of responsibilities and takes up a lot of your time. But what about the financial side of pet ownership? Exactly how much is the cost of a dog or a cat?

The average one-time cost of getting a pet is between $260 and $1,800. However, owning a pet costs more than just the initial upfront fees. You need to account for food, grooming, toys, dishes, vet care, boarding fees, vaccines, and other supplies. Annually, you can spend between $350 and $1,200 for one pet. 

Of course, what you will actually pay will depend on the choices you make for your pet. For example, will you feed your pal simple pet food, or will you opt for some organic name-brand food that comes with a higher price tag? Will you groom your furry friend yourself or have a professional groomer on speed dial?


Breaking Down the Cost of a Dog or Cat

First, you can look at your pet costs as two broad categories. You will have the initial one-time costs when you first add Fido or Fifi to the family. These costs include things like an adoption fee (or purchase price if buying from a breeder), initial vaccines, spaying or neutering your pet, microchipping, licensing, and startup items.

Then, once your faithful friend becomes a member of the family, you'll have yearly costs. Annual, ongoing expenses include things like vet visits, food, grooming, and a contingency for things like boarding or unexpected medical issues. 

Although the costs to own a dog vary slightly from a cat, they're relatively similar. Basically, a dog typically costs about 20% to 30% more than a cat. Whether you want a pup or a kitty, it's essential to understand the average expected costs so you can take care of your new furry friend properly. 

Initial One-Time Costs of Getting a Pet

Here's a quick snapshot of what you can expect to pay upfront for a pet. The exact amount depends on things like the breed, where you live, what brands you buy, etc. However, this can give you a ballpark idea to gauge whether pet ownership is affordable for you.

  • Adoption Fee—$0 to $600+
  • Supplies—(bed, food and water dishes, toys, leash, crate, litter scoop and litter box, etc.) $50 to $300+
  • Initial Vet Visit and Vaccinations—$50 to $200
  • Spay or Neuter—$20 to $300+
  • Food—$30 to $100+
  • Microchip—$0 to $50
  • Licensing—$10 to $20

You can offset some of these costs by having supplies donated. Also, some shelters offer special adoption rates that include initial vaccines, a microchip, and spaying or neutering. Some shelters even feature "name-your-own-price" adoption events.

Average Annual Expenses of Pet Ownership 

Once you have your new pal, you'll need to add a line item to your budget for your pet. When you determine this amount, consider what people spend annually, on average, to be a pet parent.

  • Food and Treats—$200 to $700+
  • Annual Vet Visits—$80 to $200
  • Vaccinations—$30 to $100
  • Heartworm, Flea, Tick Prevention—$50 to $200
  • Litter—$200 to $250
  • License—$0 to $20
  • Grooming—$50 to $500+
  • Toys and Supplies—$20 to $100+
  • Other Medical (dental care, occasional problems)—$100 to $400

Extra Expenses of Pet Ownership 

Besides your annual expenses, you will likely have extra costs associated with your pet. These can include things like boarding fees, pet deposits if you rent, cleaning fees, and more. When you're a pet parent, you need to think about these extra fees whenever you travel, rent an apartment, or do similar things. 

It's a good idea to include these "miscellaneous items" in your pet budget to account for these types of things. You should base it on how often you travel, etc.

Puppy playing with toy

Plan for the Unexpected and Expect Surprises

Okay, so it’s understandable if you're not into the whole budgeting thing. Budgets can sometimes feel a bit boring and restrictive. But, they also have a purposeto help you decide if you can afford something.

A good part of any financial plan is to account for unexpected events that can cause a lot of money stress if you're not prepared. When it comes to your pets, not planning for these types of situations could end up having a massive impact on your pet's health. 

For example, if you're barely squeaking by with your pet budget, what happens when your dog needs unexpected knee surgery? Or, your cat gets in a brawl with a stray and needs stitches? Or, even worse, your pet needs a life-saving surgery?

Unexpected events can range from minor (a couple of hundred dollars) to severe (thousands). Having a contingency fund for your pet can make a big difference. Keep in mind that this is for emergencies and out-of-the-ordinary costs, not usual medical expenses and other typical expenses. Aim to put at least $25 to $30 a month into this fund. 

This amount gives you about $300 to $360 a year toward the unexpected.  If you can swing it, $50 is even better. Remember, the odds are that you won't face unexpected situations every year. So, after doing this for a few years, you could have quite a sum saved up to put toward unforeseen costs.

Do Pets Cost More as They Get Older?

Keep in mind that your pet might require a bit more care as they age. However, this hinges significantly on your dog's overall health.

Certain things like annual vet visits will become more expensive as your vet will want to see your pet every 6 months instead of yearly. Also, they may perform senior blood work annually.

However, you might find your senior dog doesn't eat as much. You also might not do as many activities as you once did, like doggy day care. Plus, you have many initial costs with a younger pet you won't have with an older one. Therefore, barring any medical issues, the costs likely will even out in the long run.

How Can I Reduce the Costs of Pet Ownership?

There are some things you can do to keep pet parenting costs lower. 

  • If your pet is young, purchasing pet insurance can save you money in vet care.
  • Opting for high-quality food, but passing on one with all the brand hype is another option.
  • Teaching yourself how to groom your pet.
  • Engaging trusted friends or family to watch them when you go out of town instead of using boarding.
  • Make conscious choices that can help reduce the costs of a pet by shopping around for the best prices of various pet services locally or on
  • Many websites offer a discount of up to 20% on pet food, litter, medications, and more if you set up auto-ship.
  • Use the free microchip registry to register your pet. 
  • Most of all, plan ahead of time and understand how your money applies to your new furry housemate.

For more helpful tips on being a fantastic pet parent, check out the rest of our blog. We're always adding valuable content so you can do your very best for your pets.


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