How Much Does Owning a Pet Really Cost?

Can you put a dollar amount on how much you love your pet? Actually, you can — and should.

Caitlin Thornton
October 1, 2017

Can you put a dollar amount on how much you love your pet? Actually, you can — and should.

So you’ve decided to get a pet. Aside from making sure you’re responsible and emotionally prepared to give your new friend a great life — no pressure — it’s crucial to consider the logistics. This means time — and, of course, money.

Here’s what to expect in terms of expenses:

Bringing Fido home

The initial cost of getting a pet, including the necessary equipment, can range from less than $100 to several thousands, depending on the type of animal or breed. For example, a report from finds the average one-time cost of getting a dog is $838.

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But if you want a purebred puppy, you’ll pay upward of $2,000 at some breeders before going shopping for a dog bed and poop bags. Adoption is always a low-cost way to get a pet (and save a life!). At most shelters, the one-time fee ($0-$500) covers vaccines, spaying/neutering and a microchip.

Remember that dogs aren’t the only animals waiting for a forever home at shelters. “We have rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, birds, reptiles and occasionally fish available for adoption,” says Julie Bank, CEO of the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA in Pasadena, California.

Recurring expenses

Your pet’s monthly expenses also depend on its size, age, health and behavior, as well as your location and the brand and type of supplies you buy. Fish are usually the lowest maintenance, requiring only food. Be prepared to shell out a couple hundred dollars for an aquarium when you first get Nemo, though.

Nationwide Pet Insurance ReviewFor small mammals, budget for food, bedding and occasional toys or treats. This will total about $300 a year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Larger mammals, such as guinea pigs and rabbits, love lots of bedding that needs to be changed often and may cost closer to $600-$700 annually.

Cats and dogs need food, treats and toys, yearly medical checkups, flea and tick prevention, and sometimes licenses. The ASPCA estimates that caring for a cat costs $670 per year, including an annual vet visit. reports the average monthly costs of owning a dog to be $75, with a yearly checkup averaging $120. That works out to $1,020 per year.

Bump up your budget for big dogs that need (a lot) more food, animals that must be groomed often, pets that need walkers or sitters, and, depending on your animal’s health and behavior, medical bills.

Unexpected costs

With pets, accidents happen — and they could cost you thousands.

“Unexpected veterinary bills are the most surprising — and most costly — variables in dog ownership,” says Brandie Gonzales, director of corporate communications and PR for “While preventative care can go a long way, you’ll want to be prepared for any veterinary emergencies, like if a dog were to accidentally eat something he shouldn’t. Consider pet insurance, which will make unforeseeable expenses easier on your wallet.”

Of course, cats and other animals are subject to accidents and surprise vet visits, too.

Owners might also be surprised at the cost of pets with behavioral problems, including a trainer. “Another unexpected cost would be replacing any household or personal items that your pet might mistake as a toy,” Bank says.

Add pet-sitting to your vacation budget next time you plan to go out of town, and a walker if you have a pup and are gone most of the day. These services can range from around $15 for a walk to about $65 for a night of boarding.

How to save

You don’t need a $325,000 dog mansion to give your pet its best life. There are plenty of ways to save on the things you need: Buy food and treats in bulk for a discount, search your local Craigslist for hand-me-down equipment such as aquariums and cages — just be sure to sanitize before using — and check for coupons from big-box pet stores online before going shopping. You can also wash your dog at home to cut down on trips to the groomers.

Thoughtful purchases will save you money. “Buy puzzle toys to feed your dog treats instead of giving them easily consumable treats,” Gonzales says. “The toys are a great game for your dog and you’ll spend less on treats.”

Just don’t skimp on high-quality, nourishing pet food; flea and tick medication; and veterinary care. “Preventative treatments, vaccinations and dental care keep your dog healthy and help you save in the long run,” Gonzales says.

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