The costs of owning a pet

Information verified correct on December 5th, 2016

Pets bring joy to the lives of many, but how much does owning one really cost?

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Owning a pet is like having a constant companion, whether that companion be a large, furry dog or a small, scaly goldfish. Unfortunately, many simply do not consider the often large costs of owning one. To ensure that you can provide the best environment and give your new pet a great home, you must take the potential costs into consideration before adopting a pet of any kind.

You should also ask yourself if a pet will fit into your lifestyle so you can give it the attention it needs. Even small pets like lizards and fish require attention and care.

How much does it cost to own a pet?

Fulfilling the basic needs for your pets can be quite costly. They have the same basic needs as humans: food, water, shelter and companionship. Pets also come with what we can call “administrative” costs: you must register and license your pet with your municipal government.

Below, we’ve laid out some the minimum amounts of common costs (from basic costs to the more complex) of caring for a new dog or cat.

*Please note that the following costs are estimates based on RSPCA data and are not definite; costs are determined by the unique situation and what your vet charges*

ExpenseDogCat
Cost of the pet$0 - $1500$0 - $1000
Food and bowls$370$370
Toys/treats$30$30
Microchip$50$50
Council registration$40 - $150$40 - $150
LitterN/A$130
Puppy training$150N/A
Spay/Neuter$125 - $280$100 - $180
Kennel/Crate$100$50
Worm/flea treatment$100$100

Remember there are also regular grooming expenses for some pets which may fluctuate, food will need to be purchased regularly and yearly vet bills and regular worm and flea treatments will need to be factored in. The RSPCA estimates conservatively that this can cost a minimum of $650 for dogs and $720 for cats.

Note too that your new animal doesn’t qualify for Medicare like humans do, so vet bills can get very expensive depending on illnesses or accidents. Though you may think that your pet won’t get sick, you must always be prepared for what could happen and the potential cost.

Always consider the size and type of your pet. If you are adopting a goldfish over a large breed dog, then your costs will likely be much less. Typically, costs of pets increase with their size.

In regards to the most common domestic animals – cats and dogs – the breed, size, and familial history will count. Some illnesses and other problematic traits can be hereditary, like certain breeds of Rottweiler being prone to ankle fractures, so you must be prepared to pay out of pocket for any accident or illness that can occur from any situation.

You may want to look into applying for pet insurance to cover some of the potential costs of any medical emergencies that may arise. Insurance providers will usually cover upwards of 80% of certain vet bills, depending on the type of coverage you choose and the insurance provider. Buying pet insurance may be a wise decision if you have more than one animal in your household. You can read more about it below.

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How to budget for a pet

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When you’re building your monthly or annual budget, you usually give your costs a higher estimate to create a buffer zone, and you should also put this into practice when estimating the costs for your pet. Always leave a little extra in your budget in case of a pet-related emergency so that you can be prepared to give your beloved animal the love and care that they require in their time of need.

Listed below are some great tips to help you budget properly so that you can give your pet a great life, and prevent against costly illnesses and accidents:

  • Buy high-quality food Consult a vet before you even adopt your pet; they will be able to give you a list of trusted pet food brands so that you can find high-quality food to keep your new animal addition healthy, happy, and feeling great. Buying low-quality food can cause costly health issues in the future.
  • Make your home pet-friendly You can also ask your vet how you can make your home more pet-friendly, but you can easily do some online research on this, too. It’s common knowledge that dogs cannot have chocolate or garlic, and that poinsettias are poisonous to all animals, but you should become familiar with what you can and cannot feed your new pet. If you have children, educate them on cleaning up after themselves, especially after a meal, so that you can avoid a trip to the vet with a vomiting animal.
  • Save on medications Some medications, like those which repel fleas or ticks or treat heartworm or ringworm, can be found through some online stores. Vets tend to charge premium prices for medications, as well as some pet supply stores, so always compare prices. If buying online, make sure that you’re getting your medication from a reputable provider.
  • Shop around Much like you do when buying your own supplies and groceries, shop around and find the most cost-effective, quality items to fulfill your pet’s needs.
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Pet insurance

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Pet insurance is always a good idea, especially if you have more than one animal in your household. Taking out insurance can safeguard you against any unexpected expenses for one of the most important members of your family. It’s no secret how expensive vet bills can be, so finding suitable pet insurance can save you a significant amount at the vet’s office.

You love your pet and would do anything for them, so taking out insurance on them is much like having a private health policy for yourself; it protects you, and offers you reassurance that you will be well taken care of when you are most in need of medical attention.

Though the similarities between pet insurance and our own health insurance are apparent, taking out insurance on your pet is considered a form of property insurance, as your pet, humanlike as they may be, are considered your personal property. You will have to pay upfront for the cost – unless your vet is a preferred partner of the insurance company and can direct bill – and then receive compensation after you submit your claim.

Basic pet insurance will typically cover up to 80% of medical expenses for illnesses or accidents. Some insurance providers will have limits on what their basic premiums will cover, so it’s best to compare your coverage options from the same provider and its competitors.

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Pros and cons of pet insurance

Pros

  • Save money Even though you have to pay a monthly or annual premium, you will save money on emergency costs and other potential pet-related medical expenses. You should shop around and compare quotes from different providers to get the most for your money.
  • Coverage options You can select from several different coverage options and providers to find the coverage that will work best for your budget.
  • Potential discounts You can qualify for discounts if you have multiple pets to insure, much like you would when getting a multi-car discount on your car insurance.

Cons

  • Coverage limitations Certain pre-existing ailments are typically not covered by insurance and if they are, can cause your premiums to get quite high. There may also be limitations to the amount reimbursed for accidents, and some conditions that affect certain breeds, like our Rottweiler example, may not be covered.
  • No reimbursements Sometimes you may not require your insurance coverage over the span of a year. However, just like car insurance, you cannot be reimbursed for what you have paid in premiums if you do not make a claim.
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Things to consider before you get a pet

You should always make sure that your lifestyle fits around the type of pet that you covet. Consider some of the following questions:

    • Are you away from home much of the time?
    • Do you live in a small apartment or a house with a large backyard?
    • Do you have small children that may cause conflict with the pets?
    • What kind of insurance can you afford?
    • Can I give my pet the commitment and love that it needs?
    • Most importantly: Can you afford it?
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These types of questions are crucial in helping you to make the final decision to adopt your pet. If you are considering getting a dog, even a small breed, you should make sure that you have a yard to be able to train them not to go to the toilet in the house, and if you are considering a cat, you should be able to afford a scratching post, toys, and cat treats. You should always make sure that you can afford, and be willing to, reciprocate you pet’s love.

Marc Terrano

A passionate publisher who loves to tell a story. Learning and teaching personal finance is his main lot at finder.com.au. Talk to him to find out more about home loans.

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