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.
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.
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).
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.
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.