The True Cost of Owning a Pet

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pets

Taking care of a pet can be a very rewarding experience. Imagine having a happy dog to greet you when you walk in the door, a fluffy cat to cuddle with while you binge on your favorite TV show or a bird to sing your blues away.

As much as a pet can add to your day, they can also make your wallet lighter. Pets are a commitment of time as well as money, and that commitment varies greatly amongst pets. So how do you know which pet is right for you? We’ve compiled the average annual spend for some of the USA’s most popular pets. Which furry, feathery or scaly friend fits best into your budget? Find out by exploring the tabs below.

dog

Estimated Annual Cost: $648

Average Life Expectancy: 12 years4

Total Estimated Cost: $7,776

Due to the wide range of dog breeds, the average cost will vary significantly. Small dogs will eat less than large dogs, long-hair dogs will require grooming while short-hair simply require an occasional bath, etc.

Food + Treats
bone

One-time or rare expense (average cost annually)

  • Food/water bowls: $10 – $40
food bowl

Regularly occurring expense (average cost annually)

  • Food: $120 – $500
  • Treats: $20 – $200
  • Nutritional supplements: $0 – $100
Health
band-aid

One-time or rare expense (average cost annually)

  • Emergency pet care: $0 – $2000+
  • Spay/neutering: $ 35 ­– $200
medical bag

Regularly occurring expense (average cost annually)

  • Veterinary exams: $45 – $200
  • Preventatives: $24 – $500
  • Tests: $0 – $30
Grooming + Accessories
scissors and comb

One-time or rare expense (average cost annually)

  • Grooming tools: $20 – $250
building

Regularly occurring expense (average cost annually)

  • Professional grooming: $0 – $1,000
  • Shampoo: $5 – $50
Misc.
collar

One-time or rare expense (average cost annually)

  • Adoptions: $0 – $500
  • Training: $30 – $250
  • Leash and collar: $17 – $100
  • Crate: $20 – $250
  • Dog bed: $25 – $100
  • Fence: $0 – $2,500
dog house

Regularly occurring expense (average cost annually)

  • Pet sitting: $15 – $50/day
  • Toys: $10 ­– $200
  • Annual dog license: $10 – $20
Ways to Save
1

Choose adoption over purchasing a dog from a breeder. The majority of purebred dogs cost more than the average fee at a shelter. Not only are you saving a life, but many of the first-year medical expenses are usually covered by the shelter. Additionally, mixed-breed dogs have been shown to have significantly fewer medical issues. Purebred dogs are 42% more likely to experience hip or elbow dysplasia, cataracts, epilepsy and other ailments.6 That means less time (and money) spent at the vet.

2

Dog food is your biggest reoccurring cost as a pet owner, and pet stores know it. Avoid buying food at a pet store, because it is usually overpriced. Check other stores that carry pet food like Target or Wal-Mart. If you’re an online shopper, check out sites like Wag or PetFoodDirect that offer discounts for subscription services.

3

Check the serving size. You may think you’re saving by buying cheaper food, but your dog may require more food to get the same nutrition as with more expensive food. Some food brands suggest bigger portions than your dog needs, so consult your vet for the proper serving size for your pup.

cat

Estimated Annual Cost: $500

Average Life Expectancy: 15 years4

Total Estimated Cost: $7,500

On an annual basis, cats are far more affordable than dogs. Dogs also tend to spend more time outside and are more likely to experience the need for emergency care. On the other hand, they say cats have nine lives for a reason: the average life expectancy of a cat surpasses most dogs. So while the annual cost of a cat is cheaper, the overall lifetime cost can be higher given their longer life expectancy.

Food + Treats
cat

One-time or rare expense (average cost annually)

  • Food/water bowls: $10 – $30
food bowl

Regularly occurring expense (average cost annually)

  • Food: $120 – $500
  • Treats: $10 – $100
  • Nutritional supplements: $0 – $100
Health
band-aid

One-time or rare expense (average cost annually)

  • Emergency pet care: $0 – $2,000+
  • Spay/neutering: $0 ­– $200
medical bag

Regularly occurring expense (average cost annually)

  • Veterinary exams: $50 – $400
  • Preventatives: $60 – $150
  • Tests: $0 – $30
Grooming + Accessories
scissors and comb

One-time or rare expense (average cost annually)

  • Grooming tools: $10 – $50
building

Regularly occurring expense (average cost annually)

  • Professional grooming: $0 – $300
  • Shampoo: $5 – $50
Misc.
collar

One-time or rare expense (average cost annually)

  • Adoptions: $0 – $200
  • Collar: $7 – 10
  • Carrier: $20 – 75
  • Cat bed: $20 – 100
  • Litter box: $10 – $50
dog house

Regularly occurring expense (average cost annually)

  • Pet sitting: $20 – $100/day
  • Toys: $10 ­– $50
  • Litter: $70 ­– $150
  • Annual cat license: $5 – $10
Ways to Save
1

Avoid buying treats, especially from your vet. Veterinarians may push treats with “higher nutritional value” to defend the high costs, but your pets should be getting the nutrition they require from their food. Treats are just added on rewards. Instead, make your own cat treats at home for cheap.

2

Don’t avoid your cat’s annual checkup. Much like a car, it is cheaper to maintain versus saving up all the problems all at once. Preventative care is just as important in your cat.

3

Keep you and your kitty happy with this DIY cat scratching posts. Scratching posts are crucial to keeping your rugs and furniture intact and simple to create.

bird

Estimated Annual Cost: $100 – $1,000

Average Life Expectancy: 8 ­– 50 years

Total Estimated Cost: $800 – $50,000

Unlike cats or dogs, domestic birds are very diverse in life expectancy. For example, a small bird like a canary has a peckish appetite and only lives around 10 years. In contrast, a cockatoo requires much more food and has an average life expectancy of 50 years! Make sure to do you research and pick the bird that best suits your lifestyle.

Food + Treats
bird

One-time or rare expense (average cost annually)

  • Food/water bowls: $8 – $30
food bowl

Regularly occurring expense (average cost annually)

  • Food: $20 – $65
  • Treats: $10 – $100
  • Nutritional supplements: $0 – $100
Health
band-aid

One-time or rare expense (average cost annually)

  • Emergency pet care: $0 – $1,000+
medical bag

Regularly occurring expense (average cost annually)

  • Veterinary exams: $50 – $200
Grooming + Accessories
scissors and comb

One-time or rare expense (average cost annually)

  • Grooming tools: $10 – $50
  • Bird bath: $5 – $10
Misc.
collar

One-time or rare expense (average cost annually)

  • Bird (adopted or store purchase): $15 – $500+
  • Cage: $60 – $1,000
  • Perch: $8 – $40
dog house

Regularly occurring expense (average cost annually)

  • Pet sitting: $10 – $50/day
  • Toys: $10 ­– $50
Ways to Save
1

Check yard sales or resale shops for bird cages — they’re the biggest one-time expenditure you will probably make (aside from your bird).

2

Choose a natural perch rather than a store-bought one. A large stick or branch (washed thoroughly) is a free alternative to artificial branches found in stores. This is especially useful if your bird likes to peck at their perch and you are forced to replace it frequently.

3

Instead of expensive food or treats, do this DIY project for a two-in-one frugal option.

fish

Estimated Annual Cost: $95

Average Life Expectancy: 10 years4

Total Estimated Cost: $950

Fish are perhaps the most low-maintenance choice among popular domestic animals. Much like birds, fish vary significantly in food consumption and life expectancy. Additionally, you may choose a freshwater or a saltwater fish, each of which require different maintenance. Regardless of the fish you choose, the low annual cost is sure to make you and your fish friend happy!

Food + Treats
food bowl

Regularly occurring expense (average cost annually)

  • Food: $10 – $100
Health
medical bag

Regularly occurring expense (average cost annually)

  • Medication: $0 – $15
  • Tank chemicals: $5 – $10
Grooming + Accessories
scissors and comb

One-time or rare expense (average cost annually)

  • Algae Scraper: $5
Misc.
fish bowl

One-time or rare expense (average cost annually)

  • Fish: $1 – $100+
  • Fish bowl: $6 – $13
  • Aquarium: $50 – $100+
  • Stand: $40 – $85
  • Light: $25 – $35
  • Heater: $15
  • Filter: $40.00
  • Tank accessories: $5 – $50
  • Thermometer: $5
Ways to Save
1

Make sure you’re maintaining your aquarium or fish bowl. If left untreated, the quality of the aquarium is compromised and your fish could get sick.

2

Check local thrift stores or online resale sites for aquariums. This is often the highest initial cost of owning a fish, and buying used is a great way to minimize the expense.

3

See what they have to offer at your local dollar store. Tank accessories like decorative shrubbery tend to be marked up at pet stores. Dollar stores have similar items available, all for much cheaper.

1Petfinder. (n.d.). Annual dog care costs. Retrieved June 6, 2016, from https://www.petfinder.com/pet-adoption/dog-adoption/annual-dog-care-costs/

2Petfinder. (n.d.). Annual cat care costs. Retrieved June 6, 2016, from https://www.petfinder.com/pet-adoption/cat-adoption/annual-cat-care-costs/

3Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department. (n.d.). Cost of owning a bird: Setup, supplies, and veterinary care. Retrieved June 7, 2016, from http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=15 1794&aid=1516

4Wesley, D. (n.d.). How much our pets cost in a lifetime. Retrieved June 7, 2016, from http://visualeconomics.creditloan.com/how-much-our-pets-cost-in-a-lifetime/

5CostHelper. (n.d.). How much do fish cost? Retrieved June 7, 2016, from http://pets.costhelper.com/pet-fish.html

6Beuchat, C. (March 29, 2015). Health of purebred vs mixed breed dogs: The actual data. Retrieved June 8, 2016, from http://www.instituteofcaninebiology.org/blog/health-of-purebred-vs-mixed-breed-dogs-the-data

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About 

Babs is a content writer at Enova International, Inc. with a Bachelors in Cinema Studies and English from the University of Illinois (ILL-INI!). She loves binge watching musicals, reading in the (sporadic) Chicago sunshine and discovering great new places to eat. Accio, tacos! Find out more about her on Google+.

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