Realistic Pet Ownership Costs
Free to good home! Sounds good right? But just like everything else in life – nothing is ever free. Pet ownership is not a cheap endeavor. From beginning supplies (like food/water bowls, leash, carrier, crate, litterbox) to repeated items (like food, vet care and dog license), it can quickly add up to a couple hundred dollars a year. Obviously, the costs can vary due to many variables: where you live, the size of the pet (breed and this includes if your pet is overweight – obesity costs more), age and a lot of other expenses you might not have thought about. Today’s blog will hopefully help you make the best decision for you, your family, current and future pets, and your wallet.
Before getting any pet, you should check with: your local and state laws (certain animals are illegal to own in certain municipalities), your landlord, and with your home insurance company.
BIRDS AND FISH
The types of birds or fish that you can get will greatly determine your expenses. Your experience level with ownership should also play a role in your decision making. Tropical (saltwater) fish and parrots are not a good choice for beginners. Small birds like parakeets, finches, canaries, and cockatiels are a better choice for novice bird owners. Not including the price to purchase a small bird, it can cost you approximately $400 for the first year. Their lifespan can range from 5 to 14 years, so you can easily accumulate $1,510 to $4,228 over a bird’s life time. Keep in mind, your bird should have annual vet exams and you may need to go to a specific veterinary hospital that examines birds. To get the proper equipment and supplies for fresh water fish for the first year can run you at least $230.
Don’t think having a small caged animal (rabbits, Guinea Pig, Ferret, etc.) is going to be much cheaper than owning a dog or cat. There are going to be variables as to how much you are going to spend on these different pets. Besides food pellets, water bottle and a cage, these pets should have yearly veterinarian checkups. In addition, many of the pocket pets will require hay, vitamin supplements, toys and chewing products. According to the ASPCA, the first year is going to roughly cost you: $800+ for a rabbit, $400+ for a Guinea Pig, and $600+ for a ferret. Then think about how long of a lifespan each animal has and when you multiply that with annual cost to properly care for them, this is an estimate of your total cost for the life of a pocket pet:
Rabbits average lifespan is 8-12 years = $3,704 to $5,556.
Guinea Pigs average around 5 years totaling approximately $1,450.
Ferrets average lifespan in 6-10 years = $3,600 to $6,000.
DOGS AND CATS
Not to detract from breeders and pet stores, but shelters and rescue groups always have pets in need of a home. They do have purebreeds and young ones. You can find what you’re looking for if you’re willing to be patient for the right pet to come along. Any pet can have any number of health or behavior issues but remember; purebred dogs and cats are more susceptible to certain medical / health issues that will cost you more to take care of during their entire lifetime. For example, Bulldogs are prone to skin infections due to their skinfolds and they have eye issues. Persian cats are prone to kidney, liver, bladder and heart issues.
I think cats are the number 1 type of animal that you will see the “free” sign attached to, and trust me, if you are going to care for them properly, they are not free. I’ve heard it too many times about how cats are more costly than what the owner thought they would be. Indoor only cats can live 13-17 years, with some of them living to be more than 20 years old! The average lifetime expenses for a 15 year old cat is approximately $10,424.
“Man’s Best Friend” comes in all sizes, shapes and hair coats. All of these wonderful traits will cost the owner different amounts of money. Breeds like Shih Tzus and Poodles will require regular grooming that breeds like the Boxer will not. Smaller dogs tend to live longer. Larger breed dogs don’t live as long but due to their size, they require more food and have higher medical costs. A small dog’s average lifespan is around 15 years. Medium size dog’s lifespan is around 11.5 years. Large breeds have an average lifespan of around 9 years. Again, depending on several variables, having a dog can cost you between $10,000 to $23,00+ in their lifetime.
Just like with having children, at some point in your pet’s life, they will get sick and have an emergency that will add an additional cost just starting at $1,000. There are pet insurance companies out there – I would recommend doing your homework to see what works for your lifestyle. A lot of medical facilities in both human and animal hospitals now accept Care Credit.
There is a great worksheet that can help you budget for a pet.
Pets can be a wonderful addition to your home and can provide you with years of enjoyment – just remember you are making a lifelong commitment to care for another living creature and are responsible for their health and happiness. Make sure you are able to financially able to do that for their life.