The signs for "Kittens - Free To Good Home" at the end of driveways may have been replaced by cute pictures in your social media feed, but the costs associated with a new pet after the initial adoption are still there. And, while we see fewer "pet stores" selling dogs and cats, there are now multitudes of city/county shelters, breed rescues and other non-profit pet organizations vying to catch your eye with their furry cuties needing a home. So, if you are looking to add to your family, what are some of the costs you need to know?
To be honest, the concept for this blog and story came about from two sources . . . first, as most veterinary staff can attest, at least once a day we will hear a client grumble at the costs of their "free" pet they picked up from a neighbor or close friend. Second, a recent survey over at Rover.com (a dog sitting, dog walking app) showed that a large number of people seriously underestimate the ongoing costs for keeping a pet. In short, the survey asked 1,500 adults to estimate their monthly "pet costs" and the results showed a range between $26 and $75.
In reality, the cost for keeping Fido or Fluffy living in the manner they have grown accustomed to: About $153 per month or $1800 per year! I know some of you are thinking "that's a lot of kibble." so let's break it down for you.
First, we know that costs of acquiring a new furry family member will be higher during the first few months or year. There are adoption costs (estimated to range between $50 and $500, depending on the organization) to bring the new pet home. If you are looking for a specific type and breed of pet, that first outlay will likely be even higher. Once your new friend is home, it's time to make sure he or she is healthy and up-to-date on preventive care. Again, depending on the age, type of pet or where he/she came from, much of this may be done, but it's a great conversation starter with your veterinarian. If this is a puppy or kitten, are more vaccines needed? How about neutering? Is the pet already spayed or castrated or will that service need to go into the budget plan as well?
Even beyond these first costs, there are ongoing medical costs/needs. A great example is the parasite prevention that is needed for all dogs and cats. Here in the U.S., the Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends that all pets get parasite prevention on a monthly basis ( every 30 days) all year round. This includes medications to stop heartworm disease, protect against nasty intestinal parasites, like hookworms, roundworms and whipworms, and kill those pesky external parasites, fleas and ticks. Plan on about $40 to $75 a month for these life-saving products and remember . . . if you have giant breed dogs, you will likely need multiple sizes of these products!
What food are you planning on feeding? Have you put that in your budget? Obviously, these costs will vary depending on the size of your pet, but Rover.com's survey estimated $40 - $60 per month. I think it's important to remember that trying to save money here WILL end up costing you more money. You often need MORE of those bargain basement brands of pet foods than if you spent a little more per bag. Look at your daily feeding costs and not the price of the bag of food. Your veterinarian is a great resource for helping you find the right food for your pet and your budget.
Veterinary professionals see far too much obesity in our pets and a lot of this is due to extreme sedentary lifestyles. Have you thought about how your new pet is going to get exercise and mental stimulation? A variety of toys is certainly one option, but keep in mind that some pets may grow bored with the same squeaky ball. Keeping your pet entertained with new toys might be $10 per month. In some cases, doggie day care or dog-walkers are needed to run off your dog's energy. Time to add another $200 - $600 per month for these services!
Grooming is another often forgotten expense, especially with the popularity of the "doodle" breeds (goldendoodle, labradoodle, etc.). While you may not go on a monthly basis, regular grooming is important for the overall health and appearance of your pet. Add $75-125 every 4-8 weeks for professional grooming.
Are you considering pet insurance? This line item might add $25 to $150 a month depending on your pet's breed and age.
So, when we add everything up and include some variables like treats, a pet license, expenses for the dog park, poop bags or a dog clean-up service, etc., $150 per month seems about right. Of course, you might have some additional expenses, like a pet security deposit or extra rent that you pay in order to keep your pet in your home.
Bottom line: everyone deserves an opportunity to have a pet in their family, but it is important to understand the responsibility and prepare for what this is going to cost. The GOOD NEWS is that you will definitely be repaid a thousand times over with the unconditional love and attention your pet will lavish on you.
What other expenses did I miss?