Pet Ownership: How Much Does It Really Cost?

There’s no doubt that owning a pet is a very rewarding, comforting, and loving activity for millions of people. I grew up as a kid in Philadelphia with a dog named King and he was a great friend and loyal companion for over 15 years. So I know how much a part of family life a pet can really claim.

Pet Ownership: How Much Does It Really Cost?

In fact here in the USA, two thirds of American households currently own a pet. That’s the good news. The bad news is that owning a pet is pretty expensive and the cost of pets is growing every year. As a result, it has become an ever increasingly bigger part of the family budget. This is especially true since the 2008 recession hit and jobs and incomes have declined. So what’s happened?

You may have noticed or probably know that there is an ever increasing population of abandoned animals around, perhaps even in your own town or your own backyard. Abandoned cats, for example, are a serious growing population in small towns and big cities, and occurs most likely because the pet owners can no longer afford to feed and care for the animal. It is further complicated when these animals reproduce and the cycle continues. The main reason for abandoning a pet today is the cost of caring and feeding for them…a situation that has become epidemic!

Cost of Pets

Which is why when you are considering a new pet, it is important to understand upfront all the costs involved. The cost of pet ownership, initially and ongoing, is very surprising. Let’s take a look at what I have discovered about the two most popular family sidekicks in America, dogs and cats.

Estimated First Year Cost of Pets
Item Dogs Cats
Adoption* $150 $150
Spay/Neuter $125 $75
Medical Exams/Vaccines $200 $150
Collar/Leash $30 $10
Litter Box/Litter N/A $100
Training $200 N/A
Scratching Post/Furniture N/A $60
Pet Carrier/Crate $90 $40
Food/Treats $250 $200
License $15 N/A
Miscellaneous $50 $50
Total First Year Costs $1,110 $835
Years 2-15 on Average $725 $680

*If you obtain your pet from a breeder, it will cost significantly more. If you obtain your pet from a shelter, it may cost less.

Besides the basic cost of pets, there are some indirect and optional costs to consider. Think about things like toys, a dog walker, dog sitter or kennel, travel costs for your pet, minor medical costs, grooming, potential damage to your home and furniture, potential for increased rent cost or insurance premium, a fenced-in yard, etc.

Other Financial Considerations

In addition to all these costs, there are some very serious matters to plan and discuss before you run out to find your new best friend.

First, how will pet ownership affect your budget? If you’re having difficulty now, there is no easy way you can handle this extra burden. You may have to wait until your finances are more stable.

Secondly, you should reserve a chunk of your emergency funds for pet emergencies such as serious illness or injury. There will probably be at least one time you will experience an unexpected and unplanned event with your pet and you don’t want that to affect your financial security.

A third consideration is perhaps the most dramatic and difficult decision you will ever have to make for your family pet. What will you do if faced with a real medical crisis that may cost a fortune and require burdensome costs to save the life of your pet? Are you prepared to put you family in serious debt to save the life of a pet who may not fully recover no matter what you do to try and save them? This decision obviously goes beyond cost and can be so traumatic to everyone involved, yet has to be thought about before you commit to having a pet.

Exotic pets are also more popular than ever before. In the south, many tropical snakes, lizards and birds are booming the populated areas in and around Florida and are now causing serious problems as many have been released by their owners because of expenses and also because they grow in some cases to a size which is unmanageable and dangerous. The novelty of owning a snake or even a baby crocodile can wear off very quickly when they become adults.

A final consideration, and an expense that I didn’t include in my list, is pet insurance. Having pet insurance can be the answer to catostrophic pet incidents and surgical costs. This is something to look into even before you get a pet to be sure you understand both how much it costs and what is covered.

Shopping for Pet Food & Supplies

Not surprisingly, as the pet population is exploding, pet supercenters arose in the 90’s and today challenges supermarkets in many areas as the industry leaders for pet food and supplies. PetSmart and Petco are 2 huge national chains with everything from grooming products to the top healthy food choices for your pet no matter which brand(s) you seek. Here in the Northeast, Pet Valu, a newer Canadian company has dug in to the market for the long haul. So far, it’s tough to pick the most reliable store to shop at since they all have a large selection, competitive prices, loyalty cards, and accept manufacturers’ coupons. Unlike the traditional supermarkets, the selection and knowledgeable staff makes the process smooth and easy! The key here is the same as when grocery shopping for you family. Read the ads, use your discounts, and get the best price.

Do you own a pet? Are you thinking of getting something friendly and furry to keep you company?  Just remember, if you are, you’re not alone in the desire, but keep in mind the responsibilities that come along with it!

Image courtesy of Unsplash at (with changes)


  1. I have always had pets. At one point as a kid we had 4 dogs and 3 cats that I took care of (long story).

    A few other things to keep in mind is the time commitment it takes to have a pet. You will need to play, walk, clean up, feed, etc after them. If you work all day and no ones home it might not be a good idea to keep a dog lock up for 8-10 hours. What will you do when you travel will the pet go with you, will someone take care of them or will you board them. (cost)

    Our dog Mushu gets a lot of love and attention around our house. I can’t think of our house without a pet, but you need to know what you are getting yourself into before taking the plunge.

  2. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank

    I love dogs. I am limiting myself with two dogs because I know that two dogs are easy to manage and to take care of. Their names are Bailey and Snowy!

  3. We have just one cat now. He misses his brother and sister and he’s very vocal about needing attention and petting. It never occurred to us when we adopted any of them that we might retire in our 50s and want to travel for a month at a time. I have a great cat sitter now, who’s become a good friend. But she’s about to relocate, and then next year we’ll move. Finding a good sitter will be hard. And paying one to come every day for a month won’t be cheap. But I won’t consider putting him in a kennel. He’d be crated most, if not all the time. My biggest concern is no matter what we do, he’ll be lonely.

  4. We also have one cat and adopted him before we started getting serious about our finances. I don’t think we fully understood the cost of pet ownership at the time, but now we make it fit in the budget. Shopping for the best deal on his food and litter every month helps save some money. Wouldn’t give up our little guy for anything!

  5. We had two dogs until February when we lost our golden at 12 to cancer. He also had a thyroid condition diagnosed at age 4, so definitely extra costs there. There were a lot of vet bills this last year and of course costs at the end. Our 11-year old lab is healthy and we hope is around for several more years. One dog is actually much easier to care for than two. My husband is adamant we are not getting a second dog. He doesn’t want to spend the money or the time to train it. We shall see!!! They are so worth it.

    My co-worker takes in rescue dogs. All of the vet and food costs are picked up by the humane society. It is a great way to have dogs in your life without the expense – except she keeps adopting them.

    1. Savvy, so sorry for your loss. I can tell that pets are a big part of your life and I understand also that your husband has some reservations about another dog, but I’m also sure that you will work it out. It’s good to know that some of the expenses can be shared with the humane society for rescue dogs. I hope others will see your comments as another tip to have dogs in your life. Thanks for your comments!

  6. Mrs. CTC

    I love how you only included he scratched furniture in the ‘cat-column’. Our cat did in fact scratch around a little when he was young, our dog however was an entirely different story. In the first year we had him we had to replace nearly all furniture, wallpaper, shoes, the post box, and so on. He is lucky to have the biggest and most beautiful brown eyes we’ve ever seen, otherwise…

    We replaced hand-me-downs with hand-me-downs by the way, just to be sure.

    Our pets have for a long time been the most important reason for us to have an emergency fund. I would be devastated if I couldn’t afford their medical care if needed.

    1. Well there’s furniture that’s meant to be scratched (i.e. a scratching post for cats) and then there’s your actual furniture, getting scratched by an over-eager pet. That is a much bigger cost and one that is hard to quantify. As an anecdote, I remember teaching my kids never to let our pets play with an old shoe because the pets can never tell the different between old and new! Good thinking about your emergency fund, certainly including your pet(s) as they are important family members.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Want to save even more?

Join our community today to get our weekly emails including blog posts, updates, saving tips, and more.