This Cost of Owning a Pet guest post was written by Hannah Spurrier, founder of Just Our Two Sense, a website educating readers about personal finance, entrepreneurship, marketing and more. As one part of the Just Our Two Sense couple, Hannah brings her digital marketing expertise and desire for financial freedom to the table alongside her boyfriend Brian’s experience in real estate, sales, stocks, and other money-making endeavors. They live in Maryland with their two energetic dogs.
The Real Cost of Owning a Pet (Plus 8 Ways to Save!)
Growing up, I always wanted a dog. I would give my parents sales pitches begging them to get me one. “I will walk him, I will feed him!” I promised. But could I afford him?
Nine-year-old Hannah certainly wasn’t aware of the true costs of owning a pet. Now that I’m an adult and have experience with not just one dog, but two, I know exactly how much we spend a year making sure they are happy, healthy and comfortable. And trust me: it’s a lot.
Brian and I have two amazing dogs, Bruce and Mowgli. Bruce is our four-year-old English Lab who loves people and belly rubs. Mowgli is our crazy (and extremely smart) toddler, a one-year-old German Shepherd. They both keep our hands full and budgets tight.
If you’re in the market for adding a new furry (or scaly!) friend to your life, it’s important to know the real cost of owning a pet. In the guide below, I cover the real breakdown of what we spend a year on our dogs, along with estimates for these types of expenses for cats and other types of pets like hamsters and reptiles. I’ll also share some stellar ways to save on pets that you might not have thought of yet!
Cost of Dogs, America’s Favorite Pet
Vet – up to $500 a year*
Because we got Mowgli when he was only 8-weeks old, there were some extra vet visits required. If you are considering getting a puppy as well, be prepared to spend more upfront to make sure they are growing properly and getting the required vaccinations. Bruce doesn’t require as many visits, if any.
Here are a few of our Vet costs:
- 8-week new patient visit, including vaccinations – $100
- 3-month shot follow-up visit – $100
- 6-month checkup – $75
- Neutering – $200
*We don’t have pet insurance so these costs are out-of-pocket.
Medicine – around $150 a year
Depending on your pet’s health situation, this price can vary. Both Bruce and Mowgli are healthy dogs but did require some unexpected medical bills from a watery eye and hot spots over the summer. The eye drops and antiseptic mousse ran us about $75 total. Fingers crossed that those are the only medical bills we have to cover this year. We also have to pay for monthly heartworm and flea/tick medicine, which is around $25 a month per dog.
Toys – up to $100 a year
Toys are an important part of your pet’s entertainment! While you go to work for the day, they should have plenty of toys to keep them busy. However, we know Mowgli destroys any new toys we give him in a matter of hours, so we buy new ones sparingly in order to not completely blow our budget. They don’t call them “German Shredders” for nothing.
Training classes – up to $200
If you have a puppy, training classes are an important aspect of socialization and training. It’s also important for older dogs to learn proper etiquette too! I enrolled Mowgli in two, 6-week training sessions at PetSmart, which cost around $150 total. This is definitely an optional expense, but still an important one to consider.
Household needs – up to $200
In addition to toys, all pets need basic necessities like a bed, water and food bowl, and pet clean-up supplies. These are mostly one-time expenses, but they will have to be replaced occasionally. Items like a metal dog crate can cost around $100 each.
Food – up to $50 a month
Together, our dogs eat at least a bag a month which equals almost $600 a year. Granted, this is for two large dogs who probably eat more than the average pet.
Pet sitting – up to $400 a year
When we go on vacation, we need someone to watch our dogs. Instead of taking them to a kennel, we use Rover to house sit. This costs an average of $40 a day for two dogs. We expect to take around 10 days off this year, which brings our pet sitting total to around $400.
This amount can definitely be cheaper if you only have one pet (and cats or hamsters are typically less expensive to care for) or if you find another mode of pet sitting.
Damage – up to $200
Ugh. This is my least favorite category. Puppies can cause some serious damage to your house and belongings if you’re not careful. When we started to leave Mowgli alone while we were at work, the damage began to roll in.
First, he chewed up our side table in the living room. It was a hand-me-down from my parents so I technically didn’t lose money, but it’s still unfortunate. He also got into our closet and ate almost $200 worth of my shoes.
One of the funniest damage stories is when he got into Brian’s grass seed and spilled it all over our living room carpet, staining it green (okay, maybe that’s not so funny).
Initial Cost: $350-$2000
Annual Cost of Ownership: $1000-$2000
This is an average of my totals. Costs will vary depending on the size and breed of the dog you get!
Cost of Cats
The total annual cost of a cat is around the same for a dog. Of course, this number can change depending on the age and breed of your feline friend. Typical initial expenses for a cat include the adoption or breeder fee ($50 to over $1000), vet visits and vaccinations ($50 – 600), spaying and neutering ($0 – $200), food ($20 a month), and necessities such as a bed, scratching post, toys ($200). This brings your total upfront cost between $350 and over $2000.
Annually, these numbers don’t change much. Studies show check-ups and vaccines for cats can cost around $200 annually. Cat food can also cost over $100 a year if you choose to buy premium cat food for better digestion. You also have to consider expenses like pet sitting ($0 – $400), replacement toys ($50), grooming ($0 – $300), and cleaning supplies ($50), bringing your annual total to over $1000.
Initial Cost: $350-$2000
Annual Cost of Ownership: $500-$1000
Cost of Hamsters, Gerbils, and other small furry animals
Compared to cats and dogs, hamsters and gerbils are relatively cheap to own. There are some initial upfront costs to keep in mind such as a cage ($50), toys ($50), hamster wheel ($20), vet visit ($100), and food ($10). You can expect to pay over $200 upfront, with this number increasing for more exotic critters like ferrets.
Recurring annual costs for small animals include fresh litter/bedding ($200), food ($100 – $200), and vet visits ($100 – $200), bringing the total annual cost between $300 and $600.
Initial Cost: $200-500
Annual Cost of Ownership: $300-$600
Cost of Fish
Looking to add Nemo to your family? Fish are one of the cheapest kinds of pet to get. Like with the other pets, this price can vary depending on the type of fish you get (exotic or standard goldfish) and how complex the fish tank you get.
Some typical initial expenses for a pet fish include the actual fish ($70), a tank ($100), tank equipment like a heater, light, filter, gravel, and plants ($150), and fish food ($10). These totals bring an initial cost of around $330 but can go much higher if you get more than one fish or a larger tank.
The annual cost of a pet fish includes expenses such as food ($100), filter replacements ($35), replacement bulbs ($20), tank maintenance ($50 -$250), and potentially new fish ($70 each). You can expect to pay $210 to over $400 a year for a pet fish.
Initial Cost: $330-500
Annual Cost of Ownership: $210-400+
Cost of Reptiles and Amphibians
Snakes, lizards, and iguanas have increased in popularity over the years. This annual cost may vary depending on which type of reptile or amphibian you choose to get, however, there are necessities upfront that you need to keep in mind. These expenses include a cage or tank with a heater ($120), food ($50), water bowls and other needs ($30), and vet visits ($100). The adoption costs for these types of pets range from $50 for common snakes or iguanas to over $600 for more exotic species. Be prepared to spend upwards of $1000 upfront if you go the more exotic route.
Annually, you can expect to pay between $300 to over $1000 for vet visits (you may need a specialist if you have an exotic pet), heating bulb replacements ($50 – $300), and food ($200 – $500).
Initial Cost: $350-1000
Annual Cost of Ownership: $350-$1800
Okay, but how do you save money on owning a pet?
If these annual cost of pets estimates didn’t scare you, you must be really ready to have a pet of your own. That’s awesome! Below are some great savings tips that we’ve learned over the years.
Savings tip #1: Resist the BarkBox urge.
BarkBox is a monthly subscription service that sends your dog treats and toys every month. It’s also a complete waste of money starting at $22 per month. Instead of spending over $250 a year on this service, buy toys that go on sale at pet stores (or even Marshalls!) and spoil your dogs throughout the year.
Savings tip #2: Ask friends or family to pet sit.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a friend or family member who lives close to you, this is a great alternative to hiring a formal pet sitter. Like I mentioned above, we could spend almost $400 a year on pet sitting services. If only my parents or sister lived closer for free care!
Savings tip #3: Buy supplies in bulk.
When you buy bags in bulk, you typically save more money (a lot of pet stores like Petco offer free shipping over $50, which can help save money too). I also recommend buying as much as you can store when food goes on sale. Simply stock the extra food in your basement or closet and you’ll be prepared for months.
Savings tip #4: Buy necessities secondhand or at discount stores.
Instead of heading to boutique pet stores or the big-name brands, check out places like Facebook Marketplace or eBay to find leashes, cages, and tanks gently used. Marshalls or TJ Maxx even have a robust pet section with toys and treats under $10!
Savings tip #5: Adopt, don’t buy.
We got Bruce and Mowgli from reputable breeders, so our cost was significantly higher than if we adopted. However, if you choose to adopt, you are not only saving a life from a shelter, but you are saving a ton of money. Buying a pet from a breeder can cost anywhere from $800 to over $2,000. But adopting from a shelter can be under $100.
Savings tip #6: Groom at home.
Some breeds require regular grooming like haircuts, which can cost upwards of $100 each visit. If you can, save your money and bathe them at home.
Savings tip #7: Consider pet insurance.
Emergency surgeries, procedures, and meds can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars unexpectedly. If you have an older pet or one that is especially needy health-wise, especially if it is a cat or a dog, consider pet insurance. One of my friends recently posted on Facebook that her sweet 4-year-old dog Chloe had an intestinal blockage from eating the stuffing in her bed, and she died in her son’s arms because they couldn’t afford the surgery. It broke my heart! Embrace pet insurance is the gold standard and they have excellent reviews on their website for claims being handled quickly and being able to use preferred veterinarians. You can also get a free quote on your pet instantly. Get a free quote from Embrace Pet Insurance.
Savings tip #8: Wait until you’re financially ready to own a pet.
Here are some great alternatives to get your pet fix while saving (or making!) money:
- Become a dog walker or pet sitter on sites like Rover or Wag. You can get quality time with pets while earning money!
- Volunteer at your local animal shelter. You can enjoy belly rubs with a furry friend and give back to the community.
- Hang at the dog park. Enjoy the company of everyone else’s dogs without the responsibility.
Bottom line: having a pet is expensive and you shouldn’t commit to raising one until you’re financially able to take good care of them. While all of these estimates vary based on your pet type, breed, and location, the cost of owning a pet can be significant and you can expect to spend a good chunk of money every year on being a pet owner. However, for most pet owners, these costs are well worth it because in return you’ll get a companion who will love you and bring you joy for his or her entire life!
Are you thinking about getting a pet? If you already have one, do you know how much it is costing you to keep your pet happy and healthy every year? Let us know in the comments!