Cost of owning a pet

People have said that owning a pet before having children is a good learning experience to see if you will be able to handle the responsibility of children.  I agree with this concept and think that owning a pet is a HUGE responsibility (those of you with children are probably laughing to yourselves and thinking “boy, is she in for a treat later in life…”). So owning one pet would be a huge responsibility, right?  Well, welcome to our house or what we like to call “the Zoo.”  In our household, we have 4 adults, a Doberman, a Boxer and two adorable cats.  I turned to the ASPCA for help with what the annual and capital costs are to own a cat or dog to see how they compared in costs to each other.

My contribution to the Zoo is these two adorable cats (insert crazy cat lady joke).  I like owning cats because they are low-maintenance and can be alone for a night without an issue.  My cats are brothers and have rather different personalities.  One likes to be in your face and cuddle with you, while the other is very mellow and likes to sit at your feet.  Our monthly costs for both includes food (dry and wet food because they are spoiled), cat treats and litter.  In addition, they go to the vet about once a year for shots.

On the other hand, my boyfriend is the proud owner of the Doberman – who is a 100 pound lap dog who will stand by your leg and violently push you over until you scratch his back.  Then he will be your best friend until you are sick of petting him and he’ll walk away for 2.5 seconds and come back as if you forgot.  He is truly a happy puppy and loves playing with the cats.  Our dog costs are very similar in nature to our cat costs, but instead of the cat litter, we get them poop bags.

If you are thinking about owning a pet, it is good to break down the costs into what you would pay annually for your pet.  While people may have differing opinions on whether or not you can put a price on your pet, it is just to show you in realistic terms what you are paying to have your companion.  In addition, our costs of owning our cats and dog are slightly different than the ASPCA’s chart because we spoil them and buy them lots of toys!  Here is the ASPCA’s breakdown of the annual and capital cost of owning a cat versus owning a large dog:

ASPCA’s Pet Care Costs for Cats ASPCA’s Pet Care Costs for Large Dogs
Annual Costs Annual Costs
Food $115 Food $235
Recurring Medical $160 Recurring Medical $260
Litter $165 Toys/Treats $75
Toys/Treats $25 License $15
Health Insurance $175 Health Insurance $225
Miscellaneous $30 Miscellaneous $65
Annual Total $670 Annual Total $875
Capital Costs Capital Costs
Spay/Neuter $145 Spay/Neuter $220
Other Initial Medical $130 Other Initial Medical $70
Litter Box $25 Collar/Leash $35
Scratching Post $15 Crate $125
Carrier $40 Training Classes $110
Capital Total $355 Capital Total $560
First Year Total $1,025 First Year Total $1,435

Based on the ASPCA guidelines, the first year cost of owning a large dog is about $400 more than the costs for a cat.  I would think that the costs would be pretty similar to each other based on how much you spoil your pet.  It’s crazy to think that your pet could cost you upwards of $1400/year.  That’s about $117/month for your pet. Do you think about all the hidden costs of pet ownership when you are making your monthly budget?  If you think that the cost of owning your pet is significant, I think it should be included in your monthly budget.

Note: if you would like to see the ASCPA’s full breakdown of Pet Care Costs, please visit their website to see how they developed their amounts.

10 Responses to “Cost of owning a pet”

  1. I have two cats and 1 dog and I spend about $240/month on them.

    However, without the dog I only spend around $40/month.

    I did spend around $200 on training for the dog (puppy and intermediate obedience), he also goes to daycare 3x a week, he also needs boarding if I have to go out of town even for 1 night (the cats I will leave for up to 2 weeks by themselves).

    Also – a scratching post for $15?! I buy one of the smallest ones at Petco and it is $25. I replace it yearly. (Rather, the cats scratch it to a wooden nub yearly).

    I also don’t really spend a lot of money on the cats in terms of vaccinations. Because they’re strictly indoor I didn’t do anymore vaccinations aside from their kitten vaccines. I also don’t do flea/tick on them since they don’t go outside.

    The dog does get annual vaccines (I save monthly for that) and monthly flea/tick/heartworm. Since he goes in side I feel like protecting HIM from those things is the same as protecting the cats.

    Also, he goes through toys MUCH faster. The cats have the same toys since they were kittens. They still play with them and don’t destroy them.

    The dog will destroy a toy pretty much within 20 minutes of getting it. So he gets a new toy (I buy cheap) every other week.

    So yah, my dog is WAY more expensive than me two cats. In the 2.5 years I’ve had him I have probably spent more total than in the 7 years I’ve had the two cats. Easily.
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  2. I completely agree with you that I feel like my cats are less expensive in the long run. While we feed all of our pets expensive food, the cats really don’t eat nearly as much as the dogs! Since mine are indoor cats as well, they don’t really need many shots and the vet bills are significantly less than the dogs anyways!

  3. I hope and pray raising children will be no more expensive that raising a fur son hahaha. We have a french bulldog who is in training to be pet therapy certified, so between his breed’s tendency to be high maintenance and the related training costs, we’re spent a small fortune on him.

    We include all of the related costs, as well as a cushion for unplanned trips to the vet, in our monthly budget, so there are very few surprises. I think the ASPCA estimates are really low, especially if you’re feeding your pets high quality food. Clark is under 30lbs., eats once a day, but we spend $75/month on food.

    I would tell you how much we spend on training and other things, but surely you would banish me from the internet. In the end, the little dude made our condo feel more like a home, and he will soon be helping patients in a pet therapy program, so I really think it’s all worth it.

  4. Elizabeth, that is amazing that Clark is going to be pet therapy certified! How did you even get him into that? I agree that our pet costs don’t matter in the long run because the joy that they bring us far surpasses what we pay each month. The ASPCA costs seem low, but they are an average and people can choose to spend what they want on their pets. We spoil ours rotten so our costs are definitely higher than the norm!!

  5. I was spending upwards of $50 a week on average on my girlfriend. When you factor in larger gifts, flowers, anniversaries, and trips, I spent easily 6k in the last 12 months on a relationship that ended.

    While having a dog might be expensive, I think it’s worth the cost. You can’t put a price on seeing your puppy freak out with happiness when you walk in the house after a long day at work.

    I ran the numbers and here’s what I came up with… rough estimates of course:
    Cost of having an ex girlfriend:
    $20 – $50 a month on a gym membership to get in better shape than the next guy she dates/to land someone hotter than your ex.

    $150 a night drinking your face off when you realize she’s dating someone else. This will happen at least 4 times a month.

    Right there we’re at $1200 total… and that’s after just ONE month of drinking and the estimated cost of a year long gym membership. This doesn’t factor in cost of new clothes, start up cost of dating someone new, a dating service if that’s your thing, or the cost of heartbreak.

    There’s zero % chance of you bumping into your dog with their new owner at a bar or seeing a picture of your dog looking happy with someone else on Facebook. So I would look at the cost of owning a pet that loves you more than anything as the cost of peace of mind.

    If you take the start up cost (1500 on the high side) + annual costs over the life of the dog (we’ll say 900 x 10 years) + X Factors like surgery (we’ll estimate at $500 and estimate 4 times over the life of the dog) that equals $12,500 total. If you divide that by the dog’s life (120 months for this example) the monthly cost would be $104.

    For me, it would be totally worth it.

    Love the blog, Financialite. keep up the good work!

  6. I agree with CinemaSmash relationships are way more expensive and the payback is not unconditional. Also the cost of a pet can be offset by one simple step. Train your dog to fetch money, who reads the paper these days anyway?

  7. LOL.. save this post and read it back when you have kids. I will be worth the laugh.

  8. I loved this post! I recently fostered and now am adopting a 7 year old pug named Ralph… just getting him rehabilitated with minor issues has cost the Rescue $1,000- they tell me that the cost is like this with most rescues, and the adoption fee is only about $300-$400 for a dog with their organization.

    Having a dog has truly stressed my budget for sure- but the perks of owning a dog (he loves to cuddle, is great on walks, wonderful to hang out with during long stints of homework) is worth it.

    I appreciate this post because as an animal volunteer I know that most of our dogs are given up because families change their mind about having a pet…it costs too much time or money and they based their adoption on emotion and are too willing to “give up” the pet because they didn’t anticipate the cost (or perhaps don’t value the pet) enough to make those financial sacrifices for its care. :(

    Thanks for posting!
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  9. This are great enumeration of cost for having a pet..This give us an idea..Thanks for sharing this..
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  10. Ok, so how many different views are there about the pleasures of owning a cat!!. Guys, owning a cat is a vocation not a hobby so expect it too be hard work occasionally. This is more than made up for in the pleasure Cats give us!.

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