If you have considered giving a rescue or a pedigree animal a home, think first whether you can really afford to give them proper care. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the first-year spending for a dog after adoption or purchase averages $1,270; for a cat, the number is $1,070. What’s included? Vet bills, food, grooming, toys, treats, licenses and other miscellaneous items.
While bringing home a pet should first and foremost be about love, money is an increasingly important consideration. And a surprising number of factors can add to the cost. Here are some important factors to consider before you bring home a pet.
Make sure your home or rental policy allows pets: There are some insurers who might reject you or charge you considerably more for coverage if you own certain breeds of dogs. Check your coverage before you get the pet.
Research breed health: If a pet is a single or dominant breed, it makes sense to research particular health issues specific to the breed to avoid future costly care.
Watch that grocery bill: Depending on the pet and your desire to give them only the best, an annual pet food bill can cost from $250 to $700. This isn’t an argument for buying generic, but when it comes to pet food, clip coupons or check around various pet stores for discounts on your pet’s gourmet food. Confirm with your vet whether you’re giving your pet the right amount of food at the right time.
Your pet’s stuff: What stuff does a pet need? Well, a lot more than most of us expect. According to the ASPCA, the average annual bill for toys and treats for a dog is around $55. For a cat, it is around $25.
Doctor, doctor: Vet bills can be the scariest financial aspect of pet ownership, and dealing with them spurs the most debate. The basics include an annual vaccination and checkup. For more serious matters such as cancer, bills easily run into the thousands. There are pet insurance policies, but be sure to check that the premiums justify the benefits. It might make more sense to build your emergency fund instead. Be certain you are prepared so you don’t have to make the choice between your pet’s life and the mortgage payment — consider just how you would feel if this were to happen.
When looks are everything: Grooming is an important function for all pets. Talk with your vet first about what he or she believes is a proper grooming regime for your pet, and shop for a groomer based on experience and familiarity with your pet’s breed.
Day care, pet-sitting and lodging: Very few people can take time out of their workday to go home and walk and play with their pets. Likewise, many people fear taking pets on cross-country trips in cars and planes. That’s why day care and lodging services are so popular, though they are not exactly cheap. It is best to get references from local veterinary clinics and fellow pet owners you trust.
Consider the alternatives: A way to reduce the costs of pets on your budget is to consider another type of pet. Perhaps a bird or rabbit would be more affordable and easier to care for, saving you time and money.
Foster a pet: If the financial burden seems too much, consider fostering. Taking care of homeless animals until they find forever homes can be a rewarding experience. In return for caring for the pets, the organization covers the cost of veterinary care, food and supplies.