Now more than ever, people are realizing how wonderful the companionship of a pet can be. But before you head to your local shelter, take the time to look at your budget. Doing this now can prevent any unfortunate situations in the future and empower you to make the best choice for you and your family.

Here’s what you need to know about the yearly cost of a dog (or cat) — and ways to save:


How Much Should I Budget For a Dog or Cat?

Adopting pets saves lives and the emotional reward can be huge. (Who doesn’t want a built-in best friend to hang out on Zoom meetings with?) But, pet ownership does come with costs, especially in the first year.


Pet Adoptions

Most rescue organizations and shelters charge a pet adoption fee, which costs up to a few hundred dollars depending on where you go. This fee helps offset some of the shelter’s expenses, but can also help offset yours! Adoption fees often cover initial costs like:

  • Spay or neutering
  • Initial veterinary wellness exam
  • Vaccinations
  • Initial flea and tick treatments
  • Deworming
  • Microchipping

According to Petfinder, by choosing to adopt, not shop, you could save $425 to $800 off the initial cost of pet ownership.


Initial Medical Fees

If your adoption fee does not cover initial medical bills, prepare to spay or neuter your pet, make a few visits to your veterinarian for vaccination boosters and wellness checks, and to pay for preventative medicine like heartworm, flee, and tick prevention. It might be tempting to skip on some preventative care at the beginning, but it’s never recommended. An $100 expense paid now could save you thousands of veterinary bills should your pet get sick .


Yearly Cost of a Dog or Cat: The First Year Is the Most Expensive

Keep in mind, the first year is often one of the more expensive, especially if this is your first pet. You’ll have necessary purchases to make in order to give your new fur friend a comfortable home like:

  • Food and water bowls
  • A bed or kennel
  • Leash
  • Toys
  • ID tags
  • Dog or cat food

In most circumstances, you won’t need to buy all of this at once, but when you first bring your pet home, you might find the cost a bit higher than you expected. On average, pet owners spent $2008.31 for a large dog and $1,174 for a cat in the first year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Those totals include everything from adoption fees to veterinary bills to food.


The Cost of Time

Once your fur baby is cozy in their new home, consider the cost of time. Will you have to hire a professional dog walker, or will you be able to manage walks on your own? Does your schedule allow you the time for necessary training, keeping in mind that potty training can take up to a month of solid effort? If not, expect to pay around $15 to $20 per hour for dog walking, and anywhere from $50 per hour for basic training, or up to $1,250 per week for pricier boot camps.


Consider your lifestyle

If you travel often and will need to pay for travel or boarding for your pet, do some research to see what the average cost is and include that in your budget. While the cost varies widely by area, a few nights a month can add up quickly.


Have an emergency fund

Like with humans, unexpected things happen with pets, and they aren’t immune to trips to the ER. Dr. Louise Murray, vice-president of the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City told Kiplinger:

“Owners will likely incur at least one $2,000 – $4,000 bill for emergency care at some point during their pet’s lifetime.”

You don’t have to save that all in one go, but it is a good idea to start setting money aside when you can.


Ways to Save

  1. Train your pet yourself. Nowadays, many of us are already working in more remote settings than before. Animals are smart—with consistency and patience you can teach them obedience and potty training without needing to pay a trainer—but it does take time.

  2. Groom your pet at home. Though it is a undeniably messier, giving your pet at-home baths and nail trims can save you up to $600 a year when you consider the recommendation to groom your pet at least once a month. If your dog is too big for baths, throw on a bathing suit and jump in the shower. You might even find they enjoy the extra pets.

  3. Consider pet insurance. If purchased when the pet is young, pet insurance could cost as low as $10 a month, which can end up saving you thousands if they get sick or need emergency medical attention. However, before you buy, weigh the costs with your vet who can tell if you pet insurance may be beneficial to your specific pet.

  4. Make friends with other fur-parents. And consider volunteering to dog or cat sit if they go out town. Boarding pets when you’re headed out of town can be expensive. Help out your neighbor and chances are they’ll return the favor when you need it. Plus, your pet will love having a weekend friend.

Yearly Cost of a Dog (or Cat): Breaking Down the Numbers

There are a lot of small — and some larger — costs to consider before becoming a pet parent. Here’s how to break down the math, according to the ASPCA:

  • First Year Total Costs for Dogs: $1,471 to $2,008.31
  • Total One-time Costs for Cats:  $1,174
  • Average cost per year for dogs: $737 to $1,040.31
  • Average cost per year for cats: $809

Ongoing expenses for dogs:

  • Food: $212 to $400.31
  • Annual medical exams: $210 to $260
  • Toys and miscellaneous supplies: $40 to $75
  • License: $15

Ongoing expenses for cats:

  • Food: $224
  • Annual medical exams: $70
  • Cat Litter: $165
  • Toys and miscellaneous supplies: $25
  • License: $0


Adopting a pet can be one of the most rewarding things you do, and there’s nothing better than coming home to a friend who truly loves you unconditionally. Set a budget before you set out on your search so you can make the best financial decisions for your new lifestyle. This planning will allow you to enter pet parenthood stress free!


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