Can You Afford to Get a Pet?

by Jessica Sommerfield · 4 comments

expensive chihuahua
Pets are an important part of many people’s lives — a source of comfort, companionship, entertainment, and lessons in patience. True pet lovers would never put a price on these special members of their family, but the reality is that taking care of pets can be expensive. Even if you adopt a stray or answer a ‘free to good home’ ad in the paper, pets are never “free.” To begin with, they represent basic costs for food, treats, litter, grooming, and gifts. Taking on responsibility for an animal isn’t a light manner, and like any decision that involves money and time, should involve serious thought. Before you add a furry friend to your family, consider these hidden expenses of having a pet and make sure your budget will allow you to enjoy the advantages without regretting the costs.

Boarding Fees

You’ll need to pay for pet care if you’re someone who travels for a living, or just enjoys frequent weekends away from home (unless you’re fortunate enough to have an animal-loving neighbor who will feed and love on them for free). Pet boarding runs as low as $20 and as high as $100 a night, depending on the location and services in your area. Surveys show that heavy travelers pay an average of $275 a year just for boarding expenses. Either plan this into your budget so you’re not caught off guard when doggie daycare begins to add up, or avoid getting a pet if your current lifestyle isn’t suited to it.

Pet Deposits

Most apartment complexes now charge a higher monthly rate to pet owners or require an additional deposit, which averages $200. If you’re a renter already paying a premium for housing, this fact could make or break the decision to get a pet. Of course, it never hurts to check if pets like fish, birds, lizards, or other ‘contained’ animals qualify for a lower fee (or no fee at all).

Damage Expenses

Young pets are naturally unpredictable and tend to be destructive. If you have expensive furniture or other possessions, consider what it might cost to replace them if an energetic fluff-ball mistakes them for a chew toy or claw-sharpening surface. You might need additional accidental damage pet insurance if you’re renting and considering a young pet since not all renter’s insurance covers pets, and often excludes certain breeds. In any case, you’ll pay more for renter’s insurance with pets. Pet damage insurance runs anywhere from $20 for cats to upwards of $65 a month for larger dogs.

Vet Bills

Even young animals need shots, neutering or spaying, and get seriously ill from time to time — all of which require veterinary care. Unless you open a pet insurance policy, most of these hefty bills will be out-of-pocket. Some types of pet insurance cover both damage done by your pet to personal or others’ property and injury or illnesses, while some policies only cover one or the other.

Cost vs. Companionship…Is it Worth It?

If having pets is truly important to you, you’ll make it a priority in your budget. At the same time, it’s crucial to know what the privilege of pets will cost, and prepare for it. Taking on responsibility for an animal you can’t care for properly or are forced to take to the pound is also selfish and inhumane, so be sure you’ve accounted for these costs beforehand and make the best decision for your lifestyle and finances.

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  • Adele says:

    Another option if you cannot afford a pet is to volunteer for two hours a week at a local animal shelter. It’s not always easy but the feeling you get from making the day of the dogs you have walked, played with, given an extra meal to, or the cats you have mentally stimulated makes it worth the effort. And, you won’t have to pay those bills.

    Another option, one that I am learning, is how much cheaper it is to have one dog versus two. I really dote over my dog, give him the best vet care possible, and he stays at a house run as a doggy day care when I go away. Recently my second, older, and very infiorm dog died and I have made a decision not to get a second dog for at least two to three years, to catch up. The older dog’s final vet bills, over some seven months, were pretty high. So something has to give. It’s one dog for me for the time being, no matter how many I want to save.

    Fostering is a terrific option, and it is hard to see them go to their forever home, but again, you have contributed to their life being saved and made room for another dog in a shelter that would otherwise get put down.

    Thank you for posting this column.

  • Amy says:

    Pet costs without a doubt adds up quickly. But the companionship they offer is priceless. We found a nonprofit vetranarian in our area that is 50% cheaper. We stock up on better quality dog food when it goes on sale plus coupons help. We found a responsible college age neighbor who is more then happy to stay here when we go away. She’s happy with the small amount we pay her and our pets are happy to stay home. We do all there grooming ourselves, which can get more expensive then dog food. Owning multiple pets requires organization and planning, but can be done. The unconditional love a pet provides is worth the extra expenses.

  • Jordan says:

    Great points here. It’s important to make sure you can afford a pet before getting one – not just food costs, but possibly for vet visits as well. Pets are commitments, and getting one should not be something someone does lightly!

  • Vicki says:

    My daughter loves cats, but is not ready to commit to having a pet of her own. Recently she has fostered two different kitties though. She gets the joy of caring for and bonding with these animals while the owners can not care for them temporarily due to their living arrangements. The best part for her is that the expenses are not out of her pocket, they are the owner’s responsibility. For her the only downside is that eventually they go home, but of course they are also happy to see her when she visits. It is pretty much a win-win.

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