How much is that puppy in the window? And wouldn’t a gerbil be a lot cheaper? Or how about fish?
When it comes to adding a pet to your family, it’s important to make good decisions. There are lots of things to consider when buying a pet such as your living situation, the time you have to spend with a pet, and whether or not a pet is child-friendly.
But many folks overlook one key aspect: the cost of ownership of the pet.
The ASPCA has a fabulous chart that details the first year pet ownership costs of small, medium, and large dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, small mammals, small birds, and fish. For example, a large dog may cost you $1,843 in that first year, while fish would cost you about $235.
Keep in mind that this is just the first year and doesn’t include the purchase of the pet! A large dog can cost you nearly $900 a year. (Fish, just $35!)
Some pets (like fish) may only live a few years, some dogs live 15 years, and some birds can live to be 80 years old. You’ll have to budget for the feeding and veterinary care for your pet’s entire lifetime, including getting it the proper vaccinations. You will also need to make sure you have an emergency fund for pet care. This is especially important when you have dogs or cats. You never know when they will have an illness or an injury. When a pet becomes a part of your family, it can become very difficult to make decisions for care when you are juggling your heart and your wallet.
While the ASPCA chart is helpful in outlining those first year costs, it doesn’t consider costs like pet boarding or in-home care for your pets when you’re out of town. Even if you manage to convince the neighbors to feed your cat while you’re on vacation, you’ll still probably want to slide them a little cash for their time.
Pets can provide immeasurable companionship, but the cost per ounce is high. Here are a few ways you can save on the start-up costs of pet ownernship:
Adopt a pet from an animal shelter. The pets are spayed or neutered at the shelter and vaccinated before they are put up for adoption, which can mean a huge savings for you (even after the adoption fee).
Consider adopting an older pet. Many senior citizens are forced to give perfectly great pets up for adoption because they can no longer care for them. An older pet is already house-trained (less costs for cleaning supplies), and has hopefully outgrown their destructive stage (also saving you money).
Do your homework. Head to your local library or do some research on the internet on the pet you are considering adopting. Some breeds or types of pets are more prone to illness or their temperaments may not fit with your family’s lifestyle. Getting any pet is not a good plan. Getting the right pet is.
Having a pet can bring great joy to your lives, but you should be aware of all of the costs before you adopt a pet.