Pet Expenses Guide: How to Prepare Financially for a New Pet

Pet Expenses Guide: How to Prepare Financially for a New Pet

Adopting a new cat or dog is a big responsibility and there are many pet expenses to consider. Here’s how to prepare and save money as a pet owner.

Pet ownership is plenty of fun, but it’s also a lot of responsibility. Many people adopt a cat or dog without realizing the cost of having a pet. Pet expenses go far beyond just buying a bag of dog food or a can of cat food.

It’s important to understand the cost of owning a cat or dog before you decide to adopt. Here, we explore common pet expenses, as well as some less-common but possible fees to prepare for, and how to save money as a pet owner.

Common Pet Expenses

There are some standard costs that come with owning a pet. These pet expenses will likely be a part of your budget regardless of age, species, or breed. This includes:

  • Adoption fees
  • Vaccinations
  • Pet food
  • Healthcare for your pet
  • Pet accessories

Adoption Fees

If you choose to adopt a dog or cat from a rescue organization or shelter (which we recommend because mutts make awesome companions), there will likely be associated fees. A shelter will rarely give away kittens, puppies, or even adult pets for free.

These fees can range from as little as $35 to adopt a cat and as much as $650 to adopt a dog. Many adoption fees usually include spay/neuter if necessary, microchipping, and some vaccinations. Some may also have other services and accessories, such as deworming medication, a trial of pet insurance, or a bag of pet food. Include adoption fees when budgeting for a new pet and contact your local rescue organization to see how much they typically charge.

Vaccinations and Preventative Medication

If you adopt a puppy or a kitten, there will be several vaccinations you’ll need to get to ensure your animal is safe around other pets and people. For dogs, this will include vaccinations against distemper, rabies, and parvovirus, as well as medications to prevent heartworm, fleas, and ticks. Kittens will need the core FVRCP vaccine, which protects against several common viruses in cats, and possibly vaccines for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia.

There might be other vaccines recommended for your pet, depending on your location and your pet’s breed and health. Vaccines typically cost about $100 for puppies and a little less for cats, but this varies widely across the U.S.

While the costs of vaccines and deworming are often included in adoption fees, that’s not always the case. One of the best ways to plan for pet expenses is by talking to a local veterinarian. This will be an important relationship once you have a pet, and a veterinarian can help you understand how much this early type of pet healthcare will cost.

bucket of dog food

Another Mouth to Feed: Pet Food Costs

One of the biggest and most consistent pet expenses will be food. Of course, the cost of this will depend on several factors: your animal’s size, appetite, and activity level, as well as the type of cat or dog diet you create for your pet. If you find out your pet has specific dietary restrictions such as allergies, or a health condition that requires a special diet, you’ll likely spend more.

For dogs, pet food can cost as little as $20 a month and as much as $700 a year. Cats tend to eat less, but their food also tends to be more expensive, so the annual pet expenses for cat food run between $100 and $500.

Healthcare Costs for Pets

At the very least, your pet needs to visit the veterinarian once a year for a check-up. Estimate routine medical care for cats to be about $150 annually. For dogs, it’s typically closer to $300. This is assuming your animal doesn’t need any kind of urgent care for an injury or illness. Remember what they say: hope for the best, prepare for the worst!

In the first year of your pet’s life, one guaranteed healthcare cost is going to be a spay or neuter operation for your puppy or kitten. If you are adopting from a shelter, this cost may be included in the adoption fee. If not, you can often find community organizations and even mobile clinics that will spay or neuter your pet for a low cost or for free. Otherwise, this surgery can cost as much as $400 at a typical veterinarian’s office.

Toys and Accessories

This category can vary wildly depending on where you live, your lifestyle, and the type of activities you want to do with your new furry friend. All pets should have a collar with some sort of identification in case they get lost. The cheapest option? Write your phone number in sharpie on the fabric of the collar. At the other end of the spectrum, you can get your pet microchipped for about $45 (if it wasn’t included in an adoption fee from a shelter).

Note: Be sure you register your pet’s microchip number with the national registry and always keep your contact information updated, especially if you move or change phone numbers.

If you have an indoor cat, which will increase your kitty’s lifespan, you will also need to add regular purchases of cat litter to your monthly pet expenses.

If you live in a place with super snowy winters, you might need to factor in some winter gear, so your dog has booties and jackets for outdoor play during the colder months.

All cats and dogs will need some sort of mental stimulation, and this is often provided through toys. Your toy budget can be flexible, but your animal will certainly need some things to play with at times. Other accessories might include a crate, a pet bed, leashes, and other miscellaneous supplies like a doggie backpack or a cat tree.

Less Common Pet Expenses You Might Need

Several incidental pet expenses might not happen every year or might not happen at all. It’s still wise to create a buffer in your budget and prepare for possibilities like:

  • A medical emergency
  • Professional cleaning services and damage costs
  • Boarding or pet sitting expenses

dog having paw inspected by vet

Emergency Medical Care

Petplan, a pet insurance company, reports that the average cost for unexpected, emergency health care for cats and dogs can be as much as $1500. Dramatic health events in your pet’s life can really derail your finances if you’re not careful. It’s advisable to have a $1000 to $2000 safety net saved up if your pet experiences a medical emergency.

Another thing to consider is some conditions can become chronic, adding to your consistent annual costs for pet healthcare. For example, your pet may have a recurring infection like a UTI or injures their leg and needs constant physical therapy or pain management.

Some people tackle their worry about emergency vet bills by purchasing pet insurance. This will add to your monthly expenses but could relieve financial pressure if your pet experiences a medical emergency. Purchasing pet insurance is not an easy decision and requires extensive research and shopping.

Professional Cleaning Services and Damage

We love our dogs and cats, but pets can be messy and even inflict damage on our homes. Whether it’s a dog that chews everything or a cat that won’t stop clawing your furniture, you might want to budget for some furniture replacement and possibly professional cleaning services. And if you rent, check with your landlord or management company, as many places charge pet fees and even monthly increases if you have a pet.

Boarding or Pet-sitting Expenses

Perhaps you don’t go on a vacation every year, or you plan to take your pet with you every time you go. While this is a great plan, there might come a time that you need to board your pet or hire a pet sitter. Maybe you have to visit your aunt who has a severe pet allergy, or you win a free trip to a resort that doesn’t allow pets. For whatever reason, you should prepare to spend money on your pet’s care at some point when you are out of town.

Boarding your cat or dog can cost between $25 and $60 a night and does not include pet food. In-home pet sitting, when a pet sitter stays at your house to care for your pet, is typically more expensive, while having someone just come in daily to exercise and feed your pet can cost a little less.

How to Save Money as a Pet Owner

Pet ownership is a costly undertaking, but there are some ways to save money. You can lessen your pet expenses by:

  • Joining loyalty programs and hunting for coupons
  • Buying in bulk
  • Setting a budget
  • Keeping your pet healthy
  • Embracing DIY

Coupons and Loyalty Programs

Many pet stores have loyalty programs that can earn you discounts on pet food and accessories. You can also look out for coupons and sales to save money on your pet expenses.

Buy in Bulk

Consider purchasing these regular items in bulk rather than buying dog food and cat food with your weekly or monthly groceries. There are often significant savings when you buy larger bags of pet food or set up a consistent subscription service. As long as you store your pet’s food properly, it can remain shelf-stable for a long time.

Setting a Strict Budget for Non-Essentials

Some pet owners might find out the hard way that it’s easy to blow their budget with all the cute pet accessories that abound at stores like Target. While it might feel like your cat needs that animatronic squirrel toy, they aren’t going to be disappointed if you come home without it. You can probably save some cash by setting a strict budget for toys and other non-essential pet expenses.

Keeping Your Pet Healthy

One of the most obvious ways to avoid expensive medical visits is by keeping your dog or cat healthy with a consistent daily wellness routine. By feeding them a high-quality diet, ensuring they get plenty of mental and physical exercise, and staying on top of regular wellness check-ups, you can avoid some of the more expensive parts of pet ownership. Ask your veterinarian if they offer annual care plans, including annual visits, vaccines, and recommended lab work for a flat or reduced fee. This can really help you plan and stick to your pet care budget.

Be Creative

One of the easiest ways to save money on your pet is by being crafty and resourceful. A dog bed doesn’t have to be a fancy, costly item – it can simply be a comfy blanket or a couch cushion. Rather than buying that expensive bag of cat treats, make your own at home – they’ll probably even be healthier for your pet!

Pet Expenses Add Up – But So Does the Love

Most people would argue you can’t put a price tag on the love of a pet, but it’s still important to consider pet expenses when you adopt a new best friend. By knowing the cost of owning a cat or dog, you can better prepare to give your beloved animal the care it deserves without breaking the bank.